UN lauds Philippines' preparedness for Typhoon 'Lando'

THE United Nations on Tuesday lauded the Philippine government's preparedness for Typhoon Lando (international name: Koppu), which minimized the number of casualties and affected communities compared to past typhoons that befell the country.

Although the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) expressed concern for children stranded in remote areas, the disaster risk reduction arm of the international organization credited the Philippine government's preparedness program for minimizing Lando's damage to life and property.

A statement from the Unicef and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said the program "paid off."

"The communication of early warnings in the Philippines has improved significantly since Typhoon Haiyan claimed over 6,000 lives in November 2013. Last December, major loss of life was averted by large-scale evacuations in the face of Typhoon Hagupit," UNISDR head Margareta Wahlstrom said.

This weekend, as Lando ravaged parts of northeastern Luzon, Wahlstrom noted that government agencies have been "successful" in reducing loss of life " through the effective communication of early warnings and organizing targeted evacuations in the areas most affected by Typhoon Koppu."

She particularly emphasized as "important" President Benigno Aquino III addressing the nation last Friday to alert the population about the typhoon, which was a category 4 hurricane in the United States.

Wahlstrom also noted the roles by weather bureau Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) in bringing regular updates to the public.

She said that the updates helped local governments, the private sector and the Red Cross in coordinating their response to the typhoon.

Aquino also expressed satisfaction with the government's response to the storm, which has killed 12 people and has affected 283,486 people in various provinces in Luzon.

“The government, I think has responded to all. Casualties, so far, hopefully will not climb," he said on Monday after visiting families affected by the typhoon at the Nueva Ecija National High School in Cabanatuan City.

"But again, we will not take any chance and we will try to ensure that we are on the side of being conservative and making sure that everybody is protected during this time,” he added.

He said the challenge remains until Lando leaves the Philippine Area of Responsibility this weekend.

Aquino also urged residents to stay at evacuation centers until such time when it is safe to return to their communities.

"It has not exited the land mass at this point in time. It has veered northeast so it really will affect a lot of these areas in Region 1 and the Cordillera area, and that is what we are trying to gear up for," the President added.

Use unspent funds for storm response

Senator Ralph Recto, for his part, asked the government to speed up release of funds for storm-stricken areas.

“Government aid should not come in trickles but in torrents just like the rain Lando dumped into Central and Northern Luzon,” Recto said.

Recto noted that the Calamity Fund has a balance of P9.6 billion, citing the latest posting by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Recto said offices involved in the release of the Calamity Fund should “quickly submit and approve the requests needed.”

The Calamity Fund is a lump sum in the budget for aid, relief, and rehabilitation of areas hit by man-made and natural calamities.

The multi-agency National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) endorses Calamity Fund requests to the Office of the President for approval, which then forwards them to the DBM, which releases the funds.

Meanwhile, Unicef is appealing for $2.8 million to replenish its supplies to respond to the needs of Lando's victims.

Even as it recognized the Philippine government's "early action" in preemptive evacuation and widespread public information that minimized the damage caused by the typhoon, Unicef also said it already activated its emergency preparedness measures days before the typhoon struck the country.

It emphasized that in any kinds of disasters, "children are the most vulnerable."

"Unicef's first priority is to ensure children are safe and protected. Following a typhoon, children face risks from contaminated water sources, lack of food, epidemics such as cholera, hypothermia, diarrhea and pneumonia,” Unicef Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander said.

Assessments will continue in the coming week to confirm numbers and the full extent of the typhoon’s impact, Unicef said.

Lando is the 12th tropical cyclone to enter the Philippines this year. Another typhoon, Champi, is not expected to enter the country.

The country usually suffers from 20 typhoons each year.

This year is predicted to bring more intense typhoons as a result of El Niño, which is characterized by unusually warm temperatures in the Pacific. (CVB/Joy Anne Enriquez/Denisse Tan/Eugene Abillar, UST interns/Sunnex)
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