Senator cites need for disaster czar amid Taal Volcano crisis

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 21 2020 03:51 PM | Updated as of Jan 21 2020 04:38 PM

Evacuees from the Taal Volcano eruption settle at Alfonso Central School in Alfonso, Cavite on January 20, 2020. Members of the Makabayan bloc at the lower house reiterate calls for laws in creation of more separate evacuation centers as evacuees reside in schools and DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones calling for the resumption of classes in used schools as evacuation centers to make up for lost school days. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – Sen. Joel Villanueva on Tuesday underscored the need for a disaster czar amid government response to the eruption of the Taal Volcano, which has destroyed houses and forced thousands of residents to flee from several Batangas towns.

Displaced residents are still in various evacuation centers over a week after the volcano's steam-driven eruption as authorities warned that a hazardous one was imminent. Government agencies, the private sector and the public continue to conduct relief operations to help out evacuees.

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For the senator, having one official directing the relief effort is crucial. 

"It's important to have a disaster czar. For example, if you talk about relief goods, there are some areas na ang dami ng relief goods, bumabaha ng relief goods, may iba kaunti (that have plenty of relief goods, where relief goosd reach, while others have little)," Villanueva said on ANC's Headstart. 

The disaster czar will also be able to identify what each evacuation center needs more in terms of aid, he said. 

"Some were saying ang dami na nga pero kulang 'yung drinking water, portalets... very, very important... Kung may nagma-manage diyan, 'yung bagsakan ng relief goods systematic, we already know kung saan at sino 'yung nangangailangan, may planning na nangyayari simultaneously," he explained.

(Some were saying they were given a lot but there's a lack of drinking water, portalets... very, very important... If there was someone managing it, the distribution of relief goods will be systematic, we already know which areas and who are in need, there's planning that happens simultaneously.)

Following the Jan. 12 eruption that caused ashfall around Batangas and nearby provinces and cities, authorities ordered an evacuation in high-risk areas and placed several towns on lockdown. 

Tens of thousands have remained in evacuation centers, while other families sought refuge with relatives. 

Villanueva also said evacuees should be tapped for jobs at evacuation centers to stir economic activity in the area and give the displaced a source of income. 

Last week, the Department of Labor and Employment said it would hire some 6,000 government interns from areas in Batangas affected by the eruption of the Taal Volcano to help out within their own communities.

In the long run, Villanueva cited the need for government programs that could help those affected by the volcanic eruption recover. Among those who have lost livelihood and income are Batangas residents in the agriculture and tourism sector. 

"Ang more important, paano ba makapagbigay ng hanap-buhay, paano mabilis na makakabangon ang ating mga kababayan mula dito sa sakunang ito at makatayo sila sa sarili nilang paa," he said.

(What is more important is how to give them livelihood, how to help them recover fast from this tragedy and help them get up on their own two feet.)

Meanwhile, the senator said he would support President Rodrigo Duterte’s appeal to Congress to pass a P30 billion supplemental budget for government's response to the Taal volcano eruption.

"I would support any move in Congress to approve a supplemental budget for our kababayans in Batangas, Cavite, and those affected by the Taal volcano eruption," Villanueva said.