By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

SITUATION BRIEFING. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. presides over a situation briefing with concerned government agencies and local government units in Agusan del Sur on Friday (Feb. 16, 2024). The briefing focused on the effects of the trough of the low pressure area in the Caraga region. (Photo courtesy of the Presidential Photojournalists Association)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Friday directed the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to prioritize repairing the damaged roads and Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) building in Caraga.

Marcos gave the directive, after he was briefed about the damage to infrastructure following the recent flooding and earthquake in the region.

In a situation briefing on the effects of the trough of the low pressure area (LPA) in the Caraga region, Surigao del Sur Governor Alexander Pimentel lamented that school buildings, roads and bridges destroyed following the magnitude 7.4 earthquake in December 2023 are still unutilized.

Pimentel raised his concern, as he reported that Surigao del Sur has so far experienced around 10,000 aftershocks since the strong quake rocked the province.

Marcos said the DPWH will take a look into the issues raised by Pimentel once the situation in the province improves.

“Basta medyo mas maganda na ang weather at tapos na ang pagbaha, puwede na talagang matignan nila ng mabuti kung ano ang naging damage sa kalsada, ‘yung mga erosion, ‘yung mga footing ng tulay (Once the weather improves and the flooding is over, they can really take a closer look at the damage to the road, the erosion, the bridge footings). All of these things, they will have to be assess properly tapos bibigyan tayo ng recommendation kung ano ang dapat gawin (then they will give recommendations on what to do),” he said.

“The Department of Public Works will look of course and we will as usual prioritize those thoroughfares that are not passable going to na-isolate na barangays,” Marcos added.

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel also told Marcos that the PAGASA building in Hinatuan town was damaged by the earthquake, affecting the agency’s Doppler radar that monitors weather disturbances.

Pimentel said he had already informed the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) but until now, “there is no action.”

Marcos instructed the DPWH to conduct a structural assessment on the PAGASA building which houses the Doppler radar that serves as an important instrument in weather forecasting for the region.

“Have a look at it kasi (because it is) very important ‘yan for the forecasting. Para at least may (So we will at least have a warning when these things happen. Mayroon tayong warning na may parating na (There will be a warning if there is incoming) heavy rains, low pressure area,” Marcos told DPWH Secretary Manuel Bonoan, who was also present during the situation briefing.

“That’s why forecasting has even become more important than it always was. That’s why tama ‘yung concern na kung mayroon talagang Doppler radar doon na ginagamit (the concern is correct that if there is really a Doppler radar used) for the forecasting, that should be operational,” he added.

Marcos also ordered Bonoan to ensure close coordination with the local government about the issue.

Marcos visited Agusan del Sur on Friday to meet with concerned government officials and discuss the effects of the trough of the LPA which caused heavy rains in Mindanao from Jan. 29 to Feb. 3, resulting in massive flooding and landslide incidents.

Continued assistance

Marcos ensured that the government will continue to provide assistance to affected families in Caraga, as he emphasized the importance of having access to medicines and potable water.

He also underscored the need to provide a “more extended solution” to address the limited source of potable water to areas still submerged in flood.

Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa Jr. said the Department of Health has already distributed medicines to calamity victims, while Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. noted that there are still 15 remaining units of water purification machines that can be lent to Caraga as some of its units are currently deployed in the Davao Region.

Marcos told local officials to coordinate with the concerned government agencies to ensure immediate response to the affected areas.

“I think the immediate response, we are doing all right,” he said. “What we need from the LGUs is that you must tell us what it is you need. Hangga’t maaari, dadalhin namin sa inyo (As much as possible, we will provide).”

After the situation briefing, Marcos also led the turnover of assistance from the Office of the President to local governments affected by the typhoon and earthquake. (PNA)