Pampanga in state of calamity as floods continue

PAMPANGA -- The Provincial Board here on Monday declared a province-wide state of calamity after heavy rains spawned by Tropical Storm "Falcon" last week flooded 18 of its 20 towns.

The declaration will allow the Provincial Government to use its calamity funds to rehabilitate flood-hit towns.

The declaration was based on the recommendation of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) chaired by Governor Lilia Pineda.

Even as Tropical Storm Falcon exited the country last Saturday, 273 villages in 18 towns in the province have remained flooded on Monday, the PDRRMC report said.

Candaba town was among the hardest hit with 33 barangays still flooded, while Guagua has 31 villages still under water, with floodwater reaching at least four feet.

The PDRRMC reported that at least 2,029 families in the towns of Guagua, Sasmuan, Floridablanca, Bacolor, Sto. Tomas and Mexico and the City of San Fernando are still in various evacuation centers.

The report said the floods have displaced 18,795 families.

Governor Pineda initially pegged the flood's damages to infrastructures and agriculture at P300 million.

Among the damaged infrastructure in the province is the river in Caulaman, Potrero in Floridablanca town.

Pineda said the rehabilitation of the river would cost about P50 million, excluding the reconstruction of the slope protection on its downstream.

Once the funds are ready, she said, the clearing and desilting operations will start.

She said flooding persisted in some villages due to water hyacinths blocking the waterways. Heavy equipment will be deployed to remove the thick mound of water hyacinths in water tributaries, she added.

Provincial Board Member Ricardo Yabut on Monday revealed the province's plan to create "Task Force Flood-Free Pampanga", which will oversee anti-flooding measures, rehabilitation and assessment of flood mitigation projects.

Yabut, who chairs the Provincial Board's public works committee, said the proposal will be presented during Friday's scheduled flood summit at Capitol.

He said a technical working group composed of representatives from concerned agencies, local government unit executives and the private sector will be the core of the task force.

"We must be kept updated always and assessment must be done regularly to prevent wide-scale flooding like this in the future," he said.

In the regional scale, the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) said on Monday that 636 villages in Central Luzon are still underwater.

The affected families count to 201,872 or 955,794 from the provinces of Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Bataan, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija and Olongapo City.

One case each of drowning was reported in Bulacan, Olongapo City and Mexico town, while three others are still missing.

The RDRRMC reported that some 744 families have remained in evacuation center: 27 in Olongapo City, 2,029 in Pampanga, 6,507 in Bulacan, 179 in Bataan, 201 in Tarlac, and 1,770 in Nueva Ecija.

The Romulo highway at Barangay Tuac section Camiling, Tarlac is not passable to light vehicles due to knee-deep floodwater on Monday, the report said.

The national road in Barangay Bilad and Barangay Sawat sections both in Camiling, Tarlac are not passable to all types of vehicles, it added.

In Zambales, the roads in Barangays Pundakit, Angeles-Nagbayan and San Antonio provincial road are not passable to all types of vehicles.

On the other hand, the damages on Central Luzon's palay crops has now reached P93,190,681.60, according to the Damage Assessment Report of the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Monday.

The DA said affected farms have so far reached 13,287.60 hectares based on consolidated reports of provincial agriculturist from the different provinces of Central Luzon.

Half of the total number of hectares affected, or some 5,671.20 hectares, have been identified as destroyed, while 5,101 hectares have been damaged.

Some 8,799 hectares of palay fields in Magalang, Floridablanca, Guagua, Sta. Rita, Lubao, Porac, Arayat, Mexico, City of San Fernando, Sta. Ana, Apalit, Candaba, San Simon in Pampanga have been hit by flooding.

The current damage reports so far include Zambales, Pampanga and Bataan.

The DA said the damages may still go up as consolidated reports from Bataan, Nueva Ecija, Aurora and Bulacan provinces have yet to be included in the report, pending reports from respective provincial agriculturists.

The DA, in its report, said Central Luzon lost some 5,481.80 metric tons of palay.

DA Regional Director Andrew Villacorta, in an earlier phone interview, said they are monitoring the situation in other areas of Central Luzon to identify the immediate support and assistance to be given to farmers.

Meanwhile, damages to corn crops have been registered at P1,193,400 for Bataan and Pampanga provinces, with 161.40 hectares of corn fields affected in the said areas. Damage to other crops has also reached P62,500, the DA report said.

The DA also said damages to livestock have reached P379,980 for Bataan province alone. (Sun.Star Pampanga/PNA/Sunnex)

For more local stories, visit www.sunstar.com.ph

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