Tuesday, February 7, 2012
MEMBERS of the Association of Southeast Nations (Asean) may rush aid to victims of strong earthquake that struck provinces in Central Philippines even as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it has yet to receive official communication on the matter.
Asean secretary-general Dr. Surin Pitsuwan has broached the idea on Monday after learning the destruction caused by the magnitude-6.9 quake, which claimed at least 15 lives, based on available data from the Philippines’ National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
“Asean stands ready to rush assistance to the Philippines. We are closely monitoring the situation, and I’m sure all our fellow Asean Member States, as well as our dialogue partners, are ready to assist if necessary,” Dr. Surin, who is also Asean Humanitarian Assistance coordinator, said.
Expressing concern for the residents living around the affected areas, Dr. Surin said that Manila is still busy with the ongoing recovery efforts in light of last December’s devastating storm that killed over 1,200 people in Northern Mindanao.
Reached for comment, DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said in a text message: “We have not received official communication on this yet.”
At present, some 2,000 family packs will be distributed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to affected families especially in hardest-hit Negros Oriental, where aftershocks are reportedly hampering rescue operations.
Public works personnel have also conducted clearing and re-routing operations in roads and bridges rendered impassable while the Department of Energy said it will try to restore power to affected areas as soon as possible.
Agencies such as the NDRRMC, Office of Civil Defense (OCD), PCG, and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) and their corresponding regional offices were tasked by
Malacañang vows to continue to monitor the situation and disseminate public advisories and bulletins. The advisories are expected to be aimed at coastal communities in Negros Oriental and Cebu that need to be watchful of sea level changes due to aftershocks.
The quake has centered off the coast of Negros Oriental, and jolted nearby areas such as Negros Occidental, Panay Island, Cebu, Bicol Region, and even the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Pagadian in Mindanao.
Aquino won’t visit quake victims for now
Meantime, President Benigno Aquino III assured that all concerned government agencies are on the ground to provide necessary assistance and aid to the victims.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the President has been constantly getting updates from the concerned Cabinet secretaries with regard to relief and rescue operations.
“The President is deeply concerned about our countrymen in the affected areas. He is focused on ensuring that services resume at the soonest possible time,” she said.
“The President is concentrating on making sure that the concerned agencies are giving the responses that are needed… We have already seen that our different agencies are already on the ground, are already providing assistance to the local government units,” she said, adding that the
President is busy with several meetings in Malacañang.
Valte said Aquino “appeals to everyone to remain calm and cooperate with the authorities as they work to bring these areas back to normality”.
At Tuesday noon, the quake’s death toll has already reached 15 and 73 others remain missing. Fifty-two people were also transported to hospitals for various injuries, the NDRRMC said.
Other reports, however, said that more than 40 people are feared to be dead.
Asked about the discrepancies in the number of fatalities, Valte said, “We make sure that we classify the numbers properly and they are included in the official casualty count as soon as we get verification.” (Virgil Lopez/Jill Beltran/Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 08, 2012.