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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A TOTAL of 24 persons were killed and almost P130-million worth of properties was damaged in 745 fire incidents in Western Visayas since January, this year.

Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) regional office records show that Negros Occidental had the most number of fires with 372, Iloilo 286, Guimaras 29, Aklan 23, Capiz 19 and Antique 16.

The biggest single fire to hit the region was in Bacolod City last November 2 which killed 17 persons, mostly children.

Defective electrical wiring is the most common cause of fires in the region, the BFP said.

Yesterday, two fires occurred in Iloilo City. The first incident happened around 3am when a blaze razed a barber shop and beauty salon in Yulo Street in the City Proper district. A faulty electrical wire is believed to be the cause of the fire which started in the ceiling of the barber shop, initial BFP reports said. Around 9am also yesterday, a fire also blamed to a faulty electrical wiring burned a house on 7th Street, Lawaan Village, at Brgy. Balantang, Jaro district. Damage was placed at P100,000

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

RESIDENTS of five villages in San Remigio, Antique must be relocated least they will be buried alive in a landslide.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued the recommendation following the occurrences of cracks and landslides in the said area.

In a report, the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said Brgys. Panpanan I, Panpanan II, Sumaray, Walker, and Insubuan are considered landslide prone areas.

The MGB evaluated the villages upon request of San Remigio Mayor Elizabeth C. Coloso.

Residents in the said barangays observed mass movements (cracks and landslides) and artificial damming at the headwaters of Maninila River after a landslide.

Landslides had occurred in the area in September to early October at the headwaters of Maninila River. The landslide was 70 meters long with about 7,000 cubic meters of debris deposited at the narrow river channel below, creating an artificial dam.  

“The rain water was accumulated by the artificial dam upstream and when the artificial dam broke up the accumulated debris flowed downstream and although it did not cause flooding, water had subsided within the severely weathered rocks. This action had softened the rocks and caused a mass movement,” the MGB said.

The MGB recommended that residents and structures such as elementary schools and houses at Panpanan I and Sitio Libudon in Insubuan must be relocated to areas with flat to gently slopin terrain.

Residents must also avoid relocating near creeks, rivers and mountain foot slopes.

“These residents and structures, if not relocated, are facing real danger of landslides,” the DENR-MGB report said.

MGB geologists also advised communities along Maninila, Sibalom, Tipulu-an Rivers and other large creeks to be wary of the situation and prepare for evacuation during heavy rains or storms.

“The local officials of San Remigio must conduct continuous disaster preparedness training for barangay officials and residents to avoid victims of landslides in the future,” the agency said.

Brgy. Panpanan I and surrounding villages have rugged and mountainous topography with a steep slope angle, almost vertical to the headwaters of the Maninila River. The river is also the headwaters of other rivers and large creeks with waterfalls within the barangay.

The danger zone is also located 4 kilometers away from the West Panay Fault which is a major cause of earthquakes in Panay Island. If an earthquake occurs, the villages are at risk of disastrous landslides.

“At the time of evaluation, it was observed that there are several large landslides at the headwaters of Maninila River,” the MGB said.

The MGB evaluation also showed that majority of San Remigio town lies on the Antique Ophiolite Complex and late Oligocene and early Miocene bedrock.

This bedrock is composed of basalt with intercalated sandstone, siltstone, mudstone and conglomerate and other stone formation with cracks that could be penetrated by water thereby making it soft and prone to erosion and landslides.

“At the headwaters of Maninila River, the main rock types consist of severely weathered and highly jointed basalt-sandstone, siltstone-mudstone conglomerate called Panpanan Formation that is also prone to erosion,” MGB added.

It was observed that during heavy rains, rainwater and accumulated groundwater seeped through numerous joints/cracks of the severely weathered rocks. These rocks are made up of broken fragments, cemented particles of sand, silt, mud and loose soil.

“The presence of large volume of water separates these rocks/soil into its individual particles or fragments that makes it highly susceptible to mass movement. A mass of broken rocks and soil oversaturated with water located at the steep slopes will just naturally move or flow downward causing landslides.”

MGB Regional Director Leo Van Juguan said these conditions pose danger to communities below the mountain slopes, thus the local government should act at the earliest possible time. 

Juguan said residents of the five barangays must monitor their areas and immediately report ground movements to the MGB-DENR.

DENR Regional Director Benjamin T. Tumaliuan urged provincial and municipal government officials to review the geo-hazard maps provided by the MGB-DENR for inclusion in their disaster preparedness plans.

“The experience of flooding and landslides in Quezon and Leyte were the awakeners for all of us and it would be futile to blame any agency in case of disaster because of our unconcerned attitude to the havocs of nature,” Tumaliuan said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Guimaras issued a preliminary injunction against an order of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) banning passenger pumpboats from plying their route when Public Storm Warning Signal No. 1 is hoisted.

In a writ of preliminary injunction issued October 21, 2009, Judge Merlyn Deloria of Guimaras RTC Branch 65 ordered the PCG to stop the implementation of Paragraph 6(a) of Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 01-09.

Issued in February 5, 2009, the PCG circular prohibited vessels of 1,000 gross tons or below, such as passenger pumpboats, from sailing when Storm Signal No. 1 is hoisted “within the point of origin or route or point of destination.”

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Guimaras headed by Atty. John Edward Gando filed a petition for declaratory relief against the PCG policy.

The petitioners claimed that the circular stranded more than 1,000 passengers and affected the economy of the island province when a typhoon struck last June 24-25.

IBP-Guimaras said MC 01-09 also “brazenly violated the due process requirement, right to property, the liberty to travel and equal protection of the law under the Constitution.”

The writ of preliminary injunction also ordered the commander of PCG-Iloilo City station to exercise “sound discretion” if pumpboats can travel despite the storm signal No.1 raised in the departure and destination points.

The RTC also ordered the PCG-Iloilo City station to coordinate with weather bureau PAGASA as regards the forecast position, radius of wind and route of the storm subject of PSWS No. 1.

The PCG must also coordinate with the motor banca association on the responsibility of the crew when sailing during typhoons.

The court, however, required the petitioners to post a P100,000 bond before the writ is enforced.

“The order means that the PCG can allow passenger pumpboats can sail despite a storm signal No. 1 if the sea is clear and the wind is calm. If the weather is very rough despite the absence of a storm signal, the PCG can prohibit boats with 1,000 gross tons or below from plying their route. The PCG is trained on sea navigation thus they are experts in determining the situation,” Gando said in a telephone interview.

Gando said the preliminary injunction will take effect while the court discusses the constitutionality of the PCG memorandum circular which is the main issue raised by IBP-Guimaras in its petition.

“If the court sees that the circular violates our constitutional rights, it can issue an injunction against the MC No. 01-09,” he added.

As regards the P100,000 bond, Gando said he will meet with Guimaras Gov. Felipe Hilan Nava on how to raise cash for the said bond.

Gando said Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, PCG commandant, had promised Guimaras Rep. JC Rahman Nava to issue a new memorandum circular that will address the case of the island-resort “but it has yet to be realized.”

“If that circular is issued, we will withdraw the petition as the case will be considered moot and academic,” Gando said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

RESIDENTS of more than 40 houses damaged by a tornado in Pototan, Iloilo the other day are appealing for help from the local government and private sector.

Reports from the Iloilo Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC) said the twister destroyed 44 houses in Barangay Pajo in Pototan, Iloilo 3:30pm Wednesday.

A total of 16 houses were totally destroyed while 28 were partially damaged.

The tornado, which struck for 20 minutes, also destroyed electric distribution lines, streetlights and farms.

Two minors were among those injured during the twister attack.

According to radio reports, the residents heard a whirring sound before the tornado struck. They were surprised when the roofs of their houses were dismantled by an invisible force.

Jerry Bionat, executive officer of the PDCC, said tornadoes have occurred in the towns of Pototan, Leganes and Estancia before.

“These areas are prone to tornado strikes,” he added.

Pototan town officials are verifying the number of residents affected by the twister before declaring the area a state of calamity and provide aid to the victims.

Weather bureau PAGASA observed the spiking number of tornadoes in the country due to easy communication and reporting of the incidents.

PAGASA also observed that tornadoes that struck the country had intensities of F1 and F2 on the Fujita scale which is used to rate the intensity of a tornado by examining the damage it causes after passing over man-made structures.

F1 is a “moderate tornado” with wind speeds reaching between 117 and 180 kilometers per hour. This means the tornado can peel the surface off roofs and push cars off roads.

F2 means it is a “significant tornado” with wind speeds reaching from 181 to 252 kilometers per hour. This means it can tear off roofs from house frames, snap or uproot large trees and generate light objects as missiles.

The National Severe Storms Laboratory, a division under the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said tornadoes usually accompany tropical cyclones.

Before thunderstorms develop, a change in wind direction and an increase in wind speed produce a horizontal spinning column of air in the lower atmosphere.

When the thunderstorm comes, rising air within the system tilts the rotating air from a horizontal to a vertical position, forming a tornado.

PAGASA describes tornadoes as “small weather systems,” which could be unpredictable and could form and vanish quickly. They can also be accompanied by lightning, thunder and hale.

Defensor says fund for infrastructures damaged by Typhoon Frank

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

PANAY Island will get a least P2 billion from the supplemental budget passed by Congress to rehabilitate areas devastated by three typhoons.

House Majority Floor Leader Arthur D. Defensor Sr. said part of the P12-billion supplemental budget will go to repair and replacement of infrastructures in Panay that were damaged by Typhoon Frank last year.

Defensor said he will push for the increase of the allocation for Panay from P2 billion to P3 billion.

“P2 billion is not enough to repair and replace infrastructures that were destroyed at the height of typhoon Frank. I will push for additional funds under the supplemental budget,” Defensor said.

Defensor said the National Disaster Coordinating Council will set the guidelines for the disbursement of the supplemental budget.

“But the local disaster coordinating councils will submit their respective reports and request for funding of priority projects,” he added.

Defensor earlier threatened to block the passage of the supplemental budget in the House of Representatives if Panay was excluded from the allocation.

The House has approved the Paglaum Fund for the post-Typhoon Frank rehabilitation efforts. But the revenue source of the fund – the Simplified Net Income Taxation Scheme – is still pending in the Senate.  

Both the House and Senate passed the supplemental budget by approving a joint resolution authorizing the executive department to spend P12 billion for immediate relief of the victims of Typhoons Frank, Ondoy and Pepeng.

The additional allocation will be drawn from the “unprogrammed funds” in the 2009 budget, particularly the proceeds of the national government share in the Malampaya natural gas extraction.

The government’s share from the Malampaya operations is around P14 billion.

The supplemental budget is on top of the P5 billion in donations and grants from foreign governments.

Government financial institutions – GSIS, SSS and Pag-IBIG – set aside a total of P11 billion in lending facility to their respective members.

Defensor: Panay rehab must be included in P10-B supplemental fund

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

HOUSE Majority Floor Leader Arthur D. Defensor Sr. said he will insist that Panay will be included in the resolution allowing President Gloria Arroyo to look for funds for the rehabilitation of areas devastated by the series of typhoons.

Defensor said he will push for the allocation of funds for the post-Typhoon Frank rehabilitation of Panay, particularly his home province of Iloilo.

The House of Representatives is planning to pass a P10-billion supplemental budget to be used for the rehabilitation of areas devastated by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had declared the national government’s calamity fund has been depleted and there are no available funds for the P10-billion additional allocation.

The House is pushing for the approval of a joint resolution with the Senate to allow President Arroyo to realign unprogrammed government funds for the supplemental budget.

Defensor said he will block the joint resolution and P10-billion supplemental budget if Panay is not included in the measures.

“We have suffered for more than 1 year since Typhoon Frank hit (Panay) and many damaged bridges, roads and other infrastructure have yet to be replaced or repaired. If Panay is included, I will work hard to pass the resolution and supplemental budget in the House,” Defensor said.

Congress is working to pass the resolution and supplemental budget before it goes on recess October 16. There were also proposals to hold special sessions to fast track the passage of the said measures. 

Right after Typhoon Frank hit Panay, Congress passed the P8-billion supplemental budget, dubbed as Paglaum Fund, for the island’s rehabilitation. But the budget’s accompanying revenue measure, the Simplified Net Income Taxation System (SNITS), is still pending in the Senate reason why the national government has yet to release the funds.

The SNITS is seen to raise some P11 billion, most of which will be set aside for the Paglaum Fund.

So far, the national government has released P481 million for the dredging of the Iloilo and Aklan Rivers and repair of 13 destroyed bridges, roads and other government infrastructures in Panay.

Ilonggo leaders last July asked for another P900 million from Malacañang for Panay.

The DBM Secretary Rolando Andaya had said that out of the P2 billion allocated this year, the calamity fund is now down to P100 million.

The national government now plans to increase the budget of agencies that deal with calamities.

The DBM is also considering a proposal to use collections from the Road User’s Tax to fund relief and rehabilitation efforts.

The Philippines usually racks up P15 billion in calamity costs every year from its average of 20 tropical storms yearly.

Andaya said the government can easily replenish the calamity fund of the various agencies involved in disaster relief and management.

In 2007 and 2008, the government spent more than the money allocated for calamities. In 2008, for instance, it spent around P4 billion.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

FLOODS continue to hound President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo even in Iloilo City.

Portions of Jaro district went under water Wednesday morning after the Jaro River overflowed due to heavy rains in Iloilo province since Tuesday evening.

The water level of the Jaro River peaked at 5.5 meters past 8am yesterday, enough to inundate Brgys. San Isidro, Tacas and Tabuc Suba in Jaro.

The Iloilo City Crisis Management (ICCM) team sent a flood alarm around Jaro district by dispatching fire trucks blaring horns.

Engr. Jose Papa, ICCM head, said heavy rains in the towns of Maasin and Alimodian raised the water level of the Jaro River which serves as the outlet of the Tigum and Aganan Rivers.

The flood occurred when Mrs. Arroyo left the flooded Metro Manila area for Iloilo City to attend the start of the canonization process of Mother Rosario Arroyo de la Visitacion in Molo Catholic church.

The President and her husband, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, attended a mass officiated by Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo and five other priests.

Mother Rosario Arroyo de la Visitacion is a great-grand aunt of the First Gentleman and the Foundress of the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary in the Philippines.

The Central Philippine University and elementary and high schools in the flooded villages cancelled their classes as flood waters rose.

The flood receded around noon when the President went back to Metro Manila.

During her visit to Iloilo last July, President Arroyo experienced the so-called “abortion roads” in the second congressional district under the jurisdiction of Rep. Judy Syjuco.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

SOME 1,000 persons were airlifted from two barangays in Tubungan, Iloilo that were covered with mud and earth after a landslide Saturday evening.

Two helicopters of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) rescued residents of Brgys Igtuble and Molina and transferred them to Tubungan gymnasium in the town proper and the neighboring Brgy. Bantayanan.

Mayor Victor Tabaquirao of Tubungan said they estimate more or less 1,000 persons will be evacuated as mud and rocks continue to roll down the two villages starting 7pm Saturday due to continuous rain.

As of yesterday afternoon, the Municipal Disaster and Coordinating Council of Tubungan said 926 persons from 214 households were affected by the landslide.

A total of 156 households including 677 persons were evacuated to Tubungan gymnasium while 239 persons were evacuated to Brgy. Bantayanan.

No casualties or injuries were reported.

The PAF prioritized the elderly and children in the airlift operations. The two barangays are inaccessible due to the massive landslide.

Based on accounts from PAF, the landslide covered more or less 150 to 200 hectares of the two barangays.

Tabaquirao said they have provided relief assistance to the evacuees, particularly food and clothing.

“They left their homes and belongings in a huff for fear of their lives. Some of them haven’t eaten since Sunday. There are still others left in the villages to watch after their livestock and belonging but we will evacuate them because the situation is still dangerous,” Tabaquirao said.

Local officials said they fear that Igtuble and Molina will be erased from the map of Tubungan because of the massive landslide.

The office of Rep. Jeanette Garin and the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC) also extended relief assistance to the municipal government.

PDCC executive secretary Jerry Bionat said the relief and rescue operations were hampered by impassable roads to the affected areas.

C/Supt Isagani Cuevas, PNP regional director and Regional DCC chairman, said the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) will deploy experts to monitor the landslide areas.

Cuevas said the MGB has identified Tubungan as one of the high risk areas due to landslides and mudslides.

Barangays Igtuble, Molina, Lanag Norte, Ambarihon, Pinamakalan, Cadabdab, Bagunanay, Ayobo and Magba are landslide risk areas in Tubungan. (With reports from PNA)

Banias fears repeat of historic floods if Paglaum Fund is doomed

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ANOTHER massive flooding might devastate the city and province of Iloilo if critical infrastructure projects under the still unfunded P8-billion Paglaum Fund are not realized.

 

This was the grim scenario painted by Dr. Raul Banias, presidential assistant for Western Visayas, during the Western Visayas Regional Planning Summit at Iloilo Grand Hotel Thursday morning.

 

“It would be a disaster if the Paglaum Fund is not released before the summer season ends because critical works such as repair and replacement of bridges damaged by typhoon Frank, river and flood control projects and dredging of heavily silted rivers and creeks will be stalled. These projects are important to prevent another flash flood brought about by typhoons,” Banias said.

 

Banias said he and other Ilonggo leaders have been asking Malacañang to release at least P460million for the repair of vital bridges and dredging of major bodies of water in Panay.

 

The money, which will be released through the Department of Public Works and Highways, will be used to repair the bridges in Cabatuan and Leon, Iloilo and dredging of the rivers in Libacao, Kalibo and Iloilo City.  

 

Banias said he observed that some rivers in Panay are heavily silted which could cause flashfloods in surrounding communities.

 

“In Libacao, Aklan, we cannot see the 3-meter boulders in the rivers because these are already covered by silt. The same is true in Aklan River in Kalibo and the Iloilo River in the city and its creeks. If we don’t dredge these rivers before the rainy season, we might experience the same thing when typhoon Frank hit June last year. Half of the rain that fell during Frank’s height is enough to trigger another massive flooding,” he added.

 

The release of the Paglaum Fund, which is intended to rehabilitate areas of Panay devastated by typhoon Frank, hit a snag with the delay in the passage of the Simplified Income Taxation Scheme (Snits) bill in the Senate.

 

The bill is pending with the committee on ways and means chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson.

 

Snits bill, which is the accompanying revenue measure of the Paglaum Fund, limits the expenses that may be deducted from gross revenues earned by professionals and individuals running their own businesses to arrive at their taxable income.

 

Some P9billion is expected to be raised from the Snits bill which will fund the Panay rehabilitation efforts, according to Banias.

 

If Snits is approved next month, it would be too late as the payment of individual income tax is set April 15. If no other sources of funds are found, the Paglaum Fund will be released next year.

 

Banias said they continue to coordinate with Malacañang to look for other funding sources to start the critical projects.

 

Undersecretary Joaquin Lagonera of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office called Banias the other day to discuss the possible release of only P460million.

 

Iloilo Jerry Treñas said they asked Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Lagonera to ask President Gloria Arroyo to look for other sources.

 

Treñas said he is worried with the damaged bridges and heavily silted bodies of water which can cause another flooding.

 

“I need not go far. I will just look at the Dungon Creek behind our house and I can see that it is heavily silted. We are worried that if there are heavy rains again, the flood will rise once more,” Treñas said.

 

Treñas said he is the least concerned about the political backlash of the non-release of the Paglaum Fund “because I am graduating already.”

 

“We are more concerned about the effects of the flood on the people and properties. Among the local leaders in Panay, I was most affected because my house was inundated, my children stayed on the roof and my cars were flooded,” Treñas said.

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