Siargao grappling with water and food scarcity

GENERAL LUNA, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews / 22 Dec) – Days after Super Typhoon “Odette” wreaked havoc along its path, Siargao Island is grappling with water and food scarcity.

The port of Del Carmen municipality in Siargao Island photographed on Wednesday (22 December 2021), showing a few boats out of water, apparently blown by the winds and waves of “Odette.” Photo courtesy of Janos Andanar of Surigao Photo Club

“Uhaw pa kami sa camel diri (We’re more thirsty than the camel),” said Rodrigo Podadera, a resident in Poblacion 1.

Foreign residents in the island were seen distributing potable water along the highway Wednesday afternoon.

“I pity the people here because it’s been days that they don’t have enough water,” said a local Good Samaritan who has been giving out water to villages in this municipality.

Meanwhile, a refilling station in Barangay Catangnan sells water at P50 per five-gallon container, which used to sell at P25 to P30 before the pandemic. A worker who asked not to be identified said it is because of the high prices of petroleum products, more so after “Odette.”

Unleaded gasoline here was selling at P63 per liter, usually sold in Coca Cola bottles. Prices soared to P70 after “Odett,” and even as much as P80 in remote areas.

“This crisis is even worse than the pandemic,” said Prudencio Meras III, a local surfing instructor whose house situated in Barangay Poblacion 3 was destroyed. “We don’t have anything left, we almost have nothing to eat,” he added.

Surigao del Norte first district Rep. Jose Francisco Matugas Jr., who came home to check on his constituents on Tuesday, acknowledged the difficulty the government is facing in distributing relief goods.

He dismissed reports that they are holding the release of relief items from the government and those donated by private institutions.

“We already started giving out relief efforts to different areas across the island,” he told MindaNews in an interview at the Sayak Airport in Del Carmen municipality. “It’s just that the damage is way too much. Our local manpower, logistics, resources are limited,” he added.

Matugas said their family business shelled out money to buy relief goods for his constituents.

On Wednesday, local and foreign tourists continue to troop to Sayak Airport to get mercy flights to Manila.

“A lot of people want to go out because of this dire situation,” said Josepina Nuñez, local manager of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.

Lelita Monterde, a resident of Barangay Sta. Cruz here, said she needs to go out of the island.

“Life is so difficult here. No water and living quarters because our evacuation center was damaged, too,” she said.

Before the typhoon, Siargao Island was famous around the world as the “Surfing Capital of the Philippines.” Although COVID-19 hampered efforts to increase tourism activities, it was recovering fast from the pandemic starting at the end of September as the number of cases plummeted.

The island had four flights every day since the start of the vaccination drive, and tourism seemed to be alive again just like pre-pandemic times. But when the typhoon hit last December 16, the tourism capital of Caraga Region has been completely decimated. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)