Duterte urged to act after typhoon wreaks havoc

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Relief operations continue for flood victims in Cagayan Valley. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard)
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Relief operations continue for flood victims in Cagayan Valley. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard)
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Relief operations continue for flood victims in Cagayan Valley. (Photo/video courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard)
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Updated 17 November 2020

Duterte urged to act after typhoon wreaks havoc

  • President says illegal mining, logging added to massive flooding in Philippines

MANILA: Philippine authorities on Monday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to place Luzon island under a state of calamity after three typhoons caused widespread devastation in the area.

About 110 people were killed after Typhoons Molave, Goni and Vamco cut through Manila, Bicol, the Cagayan Valley and other parts of Luzon in recent weeks.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said it had convened an emergency meeting on Monday to address the impacts of the three typhoons, which caused billions of pesos in damage.

“It was agreed during the meeting to convene a technical working group of the joint prevention, mitigation and preparedness clusters of the NDRRMC,” the council said in a statement.

NDRRMC Chairman and Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who chaired the meeting, instructed the state weather bureau to revisit its historical data to “strengthen typhoon warnings beforehand.”

On Sunday, Duterte ordered Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to examine illegal mining and logging activities in the Cagayan Valley in northern Luzon, following intense flooding in the Isabela and Cagayan provinces.

Days of heavy rain brought by Typhoon Vamco and the monsoon-inundated Cagayan Valley in the northern Philippines turned parts of the region into an “ocean.”

There was a pause in rescue efforts for flood victims on Monday after the floodwaters subsided, but relief operations continued.

The president emphasized the need to control illegal mining activities as it “causes holes that loosen the soil,” placing residents in the area at risk.

“It props up every now and then. I will direct Cimatu to look into the illegal mining, especially where people are building their shelters downwards,” Duterte said during a briefing on the impact of Vamco on Cagayan.

“If it’s not possible for them to stop, at least Cimatu should devise a way where they can place their houses above rolling stones, if they come,” he added.

Cimatu, in response, said authorities had already issued a cease-and-desist order against illegal small-scale mining operations following the intense flooding in Cagayan. He added that the 10 people killed by landslides in the region were in illegal mining sites.

“There’s no mining area given permit. These areas where people died are used for illegal mining. So we have filed cases already and a cease-and-desist order,” said Cimatu.

In the same briefing, Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba expressed hope that the government would lead greening schemes in Sierra Madre and Cordillera to help conserve the mountains and reduce the effects of devastating typhoons.

Earlier, Duterte had assured the public that the government was “doing its best to prevent a repeat of the disaster.”

Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano told the president that he and Cimatu already had plans for a tree-planting initiative to provide a long-term approach to minimize severe flooding in the country.

“So we are 110 million Filipinos. If we can plant 100 million per every six months, that’s 200 million a year. So we are planning and can start in January,” said Ano.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade also recommended continuing and improving reforestation programs in the country, along with conducting dredging activities in the Cagayan River.

The Cagayan province has been the worst-hit region in the country.

“If you come to Cagayan now, it’s like an ocean — you won’t see the river,” Gov. Mamba said on Saturday.

“This is the first time for so many years that we have experienced this kind of flooding,” he said, adding that floodwater “would normally reach up to 11 meters” in the province, but this time “it went as high as 13.1 meters.”

Cagayan is one of five provinces that constitute the region. While not directly hit by Vamco, the Cagayan Valley accounted for 20, or more than half of the deaths following the typhoon.

Mamba cited multiple factors for the flooding in the province, including the “denudation of forests due to illegal logging, saturation of soil caused by recent storms and the release of water from the Magat Dam.”

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported that a total of 265,339 people were rescued through operations in provinces affected by Typhoon Vamco.

“Government forces saved 1,078 lives from dangerous flooding in northern Luzon, including the Cagayan province, while 263,444 individuals were rescued in southern Luzon following the wrath of Typhoon Ulysses,” said Navy Capt. Jonathan Zata, AFP public affairs office chief.


Indian farmers defiant against reform as Modi tries to calm anger

Updated 17 min 58 sec ago

Indian farmers defiant against reform as Modi tries to calm anger

  • The government on Saturday invited farmers’ union leaders for talks on new legislation to deregulate agriculture
  • Small growers worry they will be left vulnerable to big business

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Indian farmers, angry over reform of the agriculture sector, held a third day of protests on the outskirts of the capital on Sunday, blocking roads into the city and defying a government appeal to move to a designated site.
The government on Saturday invited farmers’ union leaders for talks on new legislation to deregulate agriculture but that has not calmed farmers’ anger over what many see “anti-farm laws,” and their action appeared to be spreading.
“We will stay put here today,” said Rakesh Tikait, spokesman of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, one of more than 30 protesting unions, as he and his members blocked a road on the eastern approaches to Delhi.
The farmers object to legislation introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in September that would let farmers sell their produce anywhere, including to big corporate buyers like Walmart, not just at government-regulated wholesale markets where growers are assured of a minimum price.
Small growers worry they will be left vulnerable to big business and could eventually lose price support for staples such as wheat and rice.
Modi sought to allay farmers’ concerns on Sunday.
“From these reforms, farmers will get new rights and opportunities,” he said in his monthly radio address.
But one farm union leader said many protesters were demanding that the government withdraw the laws.
“The farmers’ leaders will meet later on Sunday to decide their response to the government,” he said, referring to the government’s call for talks.
The protests began with farmers from the northern states of Haryana and Punjab on the outskirts of New Delhi on Friday, when police fired tear gas and water cannon in a bid to disperse them.
But instead farmers from the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh joined in over the weekend, blocking roads to the east of the capital.
Media reported protests by farmers in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala on Saturday.
Prices of fresh produce prices at wholesale markets in the city began to tick up and commuters have faced travel disruption. (Reporting by Manoj Kumar; Editing by Euan Rocha, Robert Birsel)