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MANILA: Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he had signed an order placing the entire island of Luzon under a state of calamity.

His move, based on a recommendation by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), was aimed at helping rescue and recovery efforts in the region which has been devastated by three consecutive typhoons in recent weeks.

Since Oct. 25, five cyclones have hit the Philippines. They have included typhoons Molave, Goni — reportedly the world’s strongest storm this year — and Vamco, which have left 114 people dead and displaced tens of thousands of families in Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, Cordilleras, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, and Metro Manila.

The NDRRMC, which is chaired by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, urged Duterte to impose a state of calamity “to allow local government units in Luzon to utilize disaster funds and expedite the relief and rehabilitation efforts.”

A state of calamity allows measures to be undertaken by the national and local governments to mitigate the effects of the disaster.

These include the imposition of a price freeze on necessities and prime commodities; monitoring, prevention, and control of overpricing/profiteering and hoarding of prime commodities, medicines, and petroleum; granting of no-interest loans by government financing or lending institutions to the worst-hit sections of the population through cooperatives or people’s organizations; and the use of more efficient methods for the procurement of emergency works, goods, or services required for disaster recovery.

The accumulated effects of the weather disturbances have caused severe flooding in the Cagayan Valley where towns and cities have reportedly been turned into an “ocean.”

However, as of Wednesday, floods had subsided in a majority of the affected areas.

During a meeting with Duterte on Tuesday night, Lorenzana said that military personnel deployed in Cagayan Valley and the Bicol region were assisting residents, adding that two Navy ships and aircraft of the Philippines Air Force (PAF) had joined the relief operation.

Lorenzana added that in Metro Manila’s Marikina City, troops were also helping with clearing work.

Duterte said it was “high time” that the government prioritized the construction of “sturdy evacuation centers” to provide shelter for vulnerable members of the population during disasters.

At present, schools and public buildings are being used as evacuation centers, which the president said created an “aberration in the movement or the development of government functions and education.”

Duterte’s Tuesday address to the nation was not without controversy, with the president’s slamming of Vice President Leni Robredo — for allegedly questioning his absence during the onslaught brought about by typhoon Vamco — generating criticism on social media platforms.

Duterte accused Robredo of being “dishonest,” “incapable of truth,” and “grandstanding” during the typhoon response. 

He denied “sleeping on the job,” and said he had been monitoring the situation while attending the ASEAN Summit. “There was no need for you (Robredo) to make a very bad joke that is, ‘where were you?’”

In a series of tweets late on Tuesday, Robredo said she had “no intention to compete” with Duterte in responding to calls for help from flood victims.

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