State of Calamity in CALABARZON: What You Need to Know

Following the Taal volcano eruption, President Duterte put the entire Region IV-A region under a state of calamity, signing Proclamation No. 906 on February 21. But what exactly does this declaration mean? What are its implications on the provinces involved?

Here, we break down everything you need to know about the recent state of calamity announcement for CALABARZON:

It’s Prompted by Widespread Damage

According to the Official Gazette, an area is placed under a state of calamity when it’s severely affected by a natural and/or man-induced disaster. In the case of Region IV-A, the volcanic eruption resulted in disruption in many aspects of social life, from maintaining livelihoods to using infrastructures to securing the public.

In the president’s proclamation, as cited in Manila Times, it was noted that Taal’s unrest brought about significant destruction to properties and made people living near Taal vulnerable to safety and health risks. It went on saying that more than 120,000 families in Batangas, Quezon, Laguna, and Cavite were affected. 

Although the Taal alert status went down already, the president’s declaration said that the stream-driven explosions, earthquakes, ashfall, and gas expulsions can still happen and make the region unsafe.

According to the latest statistics cited by the Philippine News Agency (PNA), the number of properties damaged by the eruption reached more than 3,000, and the number of families affected is now at over 150,000 or half a million individuals.

It’s Supposed to Improve Relief Efforts

Among other things, the goal of the state of calamity declaration is to strengthen the local government units (LGUs) in their disaster response efforts. The president’s order permits the use of appropriate funds for the rescue, recovery, relief, and rehabilitation of the areas affected in Taal and near it. 

Based on the Official Gazette, the Quick Response Fund (QRF) from the National or Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (N/LDRRMF) is typically used to improve the situation and living conditions of people affected by the calamity.

To hasten the recovery process, the president urged Congress to pass the P30-billion supplemental budget. Although solons haven’t acted on it yet, there were some who expressed support for it. The House of Representatives, in particular, vowed to fast-track the passage, even considering increasing it to P50 billion.

It’s in Effect for a Year

The state of calamity in CALABARZON will last for a year, as stated in the proclamation. However, according to the Official Gazette, it may continue on in case the disaster is recurring or extended. On the flip side, it may be lifted by the president through NDRRM Council’s recommendation.

However long the duration may be, the LGUs of the CALABARZON region are mandated by the law to submit monthly reports to the Office of Civil Defense regional headquarters, giving copies to the NDRRMC, from the beginning of the declaration up to the time it’s lifted.

It Helps Stabilize Situations

The declaration of the state of calamity also aims to put order in the disaster-stricken areas in many ways. For one, it sanctions the imposition of a price ceiling on basic necessities and prime commodities, protecting the public from undue price increases. This is in compliance with the Republic Act No. 7581 or the Price Act. Aside from prohibitions against overpricing, the declaration also permits the ban on hoarding commodities, especially medicines and petroleum products. 

Prior to the president’s proclamation, the Department of Health (DOH) already ordered a price freeze on medicines and medical supplies. It covered analgesics, antibiotics, antibacterial, respiratory tract, and anti-asthma drugs, as well as N95 and surgical masks.

Financial institutions of the government may likewise be mandated to grant no-interest loans to people who are most affected by the disaster. This is done through people’s cooperatives. 

As for the infrastructures, funds can be allocated or re-allocated to its repair and upgrade for the purpose of restoring normal operations in the disaster-stricken area.

Last February 26, Taal released a steam of about 300 meters high. Classified as moderate, Phivolcs maintains its alert status at level 2. Even though there were no earthquakes, or even signs of ash or lava from the volcano, the government agency is still on round-the-clock monitoring, releasing regular bulletins about the condition of Taal and the literal state of calamity.

Sources: Manila Times, PNA, CNN Philippines, GMA Network, Official Gazette
Photo by Vernon Raineil Cenzon on Unsplash

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