The day after twin earthquakes struck the islands of Itbayat in Batanes, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go accompanied President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday afternoon for an aerial inspection of the affected areas.
Together with local government officials and heads of concerned national agencies, the group assessed the effects and oversaw the extent of damage caused by two earthquakes, one measured 5.4 in magnitude at 4:16AM and an hour later, another 5.9-magnitude tremor that rocked the municipality, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS).
In a situational briefing in Basco, the President ordered authorities to ensure that supply lines remain active and no one should be left hungry in Itbayat. Duterte also committed to release 40 million pesos for the construction of a new hospital in Itbayat.
In addition, Go and the President also handed out cash assistance to families of the eight recorded casualties and those 60 injured (as of July 28 at 6PM).
“Nakikipag-coordinate na po ang Office of the President at ang aking opisina sa mga local officials at concerned national agencies para makapagbigay ng tulong na kailangan,” Go said.
The number of affected families may still rise as aftershocks still occured after the quakes. In a report, more than 2,000 Itbayat residents were advised to stay in the town plaza and not return to their homes.
“Nakakalungkot na meron na namang mga kababayan natin ang nabawian ng buhay at nasiraan ng mga ari-arian at kabuhayan,” Go added.
With the current difficult situation in the islands, Go has called on the government to improve facilities, and implement better disaster-risk and resilience programs in the country. The Senator is also pushing for the passage of one of his proposed legislative measures that seeks to create a Department of Disaster Resilience.
Senate Bill No. 205, or “Disaster Resilience Act of 2019,” which was filed by the neophyte senator earlier this month, aims to establish “an empowered, highly-specialized and responsive Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) with clear unity of command.”
The proposed department will focus on natural disasters and will concentrate on a disaster resilience framework in three key result areas namely Disaster Risk Reduction, Disaster Preparedness and Response, and ‘Recovery and Building Forward Better’.
“By establishing this department, faster government services in response to calamities and natural disasters will efficiently help alleviate the devastating effects of natural calamities to our Filipino brothers and sisters,” Go explained.
He added that currently, disaster-related responsibilities are shared among various government agencies and that there is a need for an agency that will be primarily responsible for ensuring safe, adaptive, and disaster-resilient communities.
Go also highlighted that emergency services must also be improved in areas that are hard to reach such as Batanes. The Senator is also pushing for the creation of a fast and more responsive emergency medical services system nationwide.
Senate Bill 394, or the “Emergency Medical Services System (EMSS) Act of 2019”, also filed by the Senator, seeks to establish a 24-hour emergency hotline for Filipinos nationwide. This is in support of Executive Order No. 56 which was signed by the President last year, providing for the 911 official nationwide emergency hotline.
Under this proposed bill, local government agencies are required to establish dispatch centers and a unified emergency medical service system, and ensure that there will be an adequate transport system to respond to these emergencies.
As the new Chairperson of the Committee on Health in the Senate, Go also vowed that he will address the current woes of public hospitals especially in remote areas like Batanes. The Senator targets to improve and ensure adequate medical equipment, bed capacity, supplies and medicines in all public hospitals nationwide.
“Asahan ninyo na andito ang pamahalaang Duterte na mag-aalaga sa inyo. Sisikapin nating maibsan ang inyong paghihirap, matulungan ang mga namatayan at nasaktan, at siguraduhing makabangon kayong muli sa lalong madaling panahon,” Go stated.###