CEBU Gov. Hilario Davide III asked for the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) permission to “continue providing humanitarian assistance” to farmers and their families affected by El Niño.

In an interview, Cebu Election Supervisor Eliseo Labaria said that if Comelec approves the distribution, relief items would have to be handed out by the Red Cross or the social welfare office.

Politicians who distribute relief goods during the official campaign period will be charged with an election offense.

In a letter to Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim, the governor said, “The recent incident in Kidapawan City is attributed to the ill effects of El Niño, which not only damaged the environment, but also social relations between the citizens and the government.”

Lim oversees campaign finance.

Davide and Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale said they were amenable to Comelec’s condition that politicians stay away from the distribution. Both are seeking reelection against One Cebu’s lawyer Winston Davide and former congresswoman Nerissa Soon-Ruiz.

Meanwhile, Talisay City Mayor Johnny de los Reyes said he ordered the City to deliver water to mountain barangays whose supplies are running low after months with no rain.

De los Reyes told Sun.Star Cebu that the City has started sending water trucks to Barangays Manipis, Camp 4, Maghaway, Tapul and Jaclupan.

He also ordered the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office to assess the damage that the dry conditions have caused in mountain barangays.

“Our water supply here is no longer normal,” said Barangay Lagtang Chief Marc Ferdinand Bas, who added that there isn’t enough for all the residents.

Barangay Tapul Chief Mary Ann Nolasco said that some residents recently harvested tilapia and observed that the fish supply was still enough, but farmers are already suffering.

Pwerteng inita lagi. Among mang-uuma luoy kaayo. Hinay gyod kaayo ang tubig diri (It’s very hot. I pity our farmers. The water supply here is very low).”

Relief

Barangay Maghaway Chief Victor Cabatas said that the community’s coconuts were still doing well, but their water supply is getting scarce.

Ang problema diri ang tubig ra gyud. (Our only problem here is our water supply),” he said.

Davide said that the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) will prepare El Niño relief packages. These will include water pumps; storage and transport equipment; 5,000 sacks of rice; vegetable seeds and fruit seedlings for 25,000 affected farmers; and school supplies for 25,000 children.

“The province is open to the Commission’s assistance and monitoring during distribution,” the governor said in his letter to the Comelec.

Attached to it were copies of the Provincial Board (PB) resolution declaring Cebu Province under a state of calamity, as well as the Capitol’s El Niño Emergency Response Preparedness Plan.

“Most of the towns now nagrasyon og tubig (are rationing water),” said Magpale, who recently visited the Camotes Group of Islands.

Prepared

In a separate interview, PB Member Alex Binghay said that the PDRRMO should have been more ready for El Niño, considering that the dry spell started last year yet.

The PB passed last Monday Binghay’s resolution asking the Capitol to help farmers in the parched mountain barangays of Cebu’s third district.

He said he inquired with the PDRRMO last week but learned there were no longer relief items available.

PDRRMO Head Baltazar Tribunalo Jr., however, told Sun.Star Cebu that all the items to mitigate El Niño’s effects were already used up.

He added that Balamban received more than P1 million worth of assistance last year, after local officials sent their requests.

Cebu Province had P30 million in calamity funds last year and has P33 million this year.

The PB has invited Tribunalo to their April 18 session to account for how last year’s calamity funds were spent and to update officials on El Niño’s damage so far this year. Vaña Ferre C. Abella, USJ-R Intern