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71BURIED ALIVE, 51 MISSING IN DAVAO DE ORO LANDSLIDES; Bulacan church balcony falls; 1 dead, 52 others are injured

By ALFRED GABOT and CLAIRE MORALES TRUE

Editor in Chief and Managing Editor

DAVAO CITY /SAN JOSE DEL MONTE CITY – Deadly landslides triggered by heavy rains and floods killed hit the gold-mining town of Maco, Davao de Oro last Tuesday, burying at least 71 people while 51 others are still reportedly missing.

In San Jose City, Bulacan, meanwhile, disaster hit a Roman Catholic Church when a second wooden floor balcony of the building fell down, hitting several churchgoers, one fatally while 52 others suffered injuries.

Saint Peter the Apostle Church Parish priest Fr. Romulo Perez said that church officials did not  expect the second floor balcony to collapse as they started Lenten rites.

The second floor collapsed as people lined up to mark on their foreheads, said the priest.

San Jose del Monte, Bulacan Mayor Arthur Robles identified the person who died in the incident as 80-year-old Luneta Morales.

Malolos Bishop Dennis Villarojo immediately ordered the inspection of all churches in Bulacan.

In Davao de Oro, hundreds of rescuers reportedly used their bare hands, shovels and heavy earth-moving equipment for nearly a week looking for those buried when last Tuesday’s landslide hit the mountainous village as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr ordered government agencies to help in the search, rescue and assistance operations.

The US government shipped nearly P70 million (US$1.25 million) in humanitarian aid to Davao de Oro and other areas in Mindanao affected by mass floods.

Ambassador MaryKay Carlson of the US Embassy in the Philippines said new funding would provide emergency food, shelter, water, sanitation, and essential hygiene items to support disaster-affected communities in Davao de Oro, Davao del Norte, and Davao City.

Last week, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered with the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development and the International Organization for Migration to provide emergency shelter for more than 5,000 affected individuals.

President Marcos Jr. has thanked the United States (US) government for extending emergency assistance to communities affected by flooding and landslides in Mindanao.
 Marcos relayed his expression of gratitude when US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson paid him a visit at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Tuesday.

“Carlson told President Marcos that Washington is pleased to bring two C-130s from Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), although it is not the cheapest or the easiest way to deliver foreign assistance,” Malacanang said.

During her courtesy call on Marcos at Malacañan, Carlson said the US government has also extended US$1.25 million in emergency support, in addition to the aid delivered by two US C-130s.

Marcos cited the importance of Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites for disaster relief and response and encouraged Carlson to make full use of those facilities.

Two United States Marine Corps (USMC) KC-130J Hercules aircraft will be used to help in the delivery of supplies to the victims of the landslide in Maco, Davao de Oro, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said. 

In a statement, the AFP said the two USMC aircraft are now stationed at Villamor Air Base while the processing, weighing, and loading of supplies for transport.

“The U.S. Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Force will assist with the ongoing disaster relief mission with troops from the Marine Air Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing delivering essential supplies for distribution,” the AFP said.

In another development, the Department of Social Welfare and Development announced that it has released over P200 million worth of assistance and a total of 282,561 family food packs (FFPs) to families affected by recent disasters in the Davao Region, including the deadly landslide that hit Maco, Davao de Oro last week.t

According to the DSWD statement, Davao del Norte received the majority of the assistance: P85 million in aid and 129,168 FFPs.

The Western Command (Wescom) has dispatched a ship loaded with personnel and relief goods to provide humanitarian assistance to families displaced by a series of flash floods in Davao de Oro.

Capt. Ariel Joseph Coloma, spokesperson for Wescom, told reporters that the BRP Davao Del Sur (LD602) initially sailed to Manila to pick up about 40,000 boxes of food from the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) head office before journeying south to the calamity area.
Meanwhile, the Davao City government is set to extend financial assistance to 15 local government units in the Davao and Caraga regions placed under a state of calamity due to the recent occurrences of natural disasters.

Alfredo Baloran, City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) head, said they have secured the needed documents and respective declarations of state of calamity from the areas where they will extend financial aid.

On Feb. 6, the Sangguniang Panlungsod approved P6.1 million from the city’s Quick Response Fund to extend financial assistance for two Davao provinces, one city, and 12 municipalities.

In Davao Region, the provinces that are set to receive aid of P1 million each are Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro while P500,000 will be given to Tagum City in Davao del Norte.

The municipalities that will receive P300,000 each include Kapalong, New Corella, Sto. Tomas, Carmen, and Braulio E. Dujali in Davao del Norte; Lupon, Cateel, and Tarragona in Davao Oriental.

In Caraga, the towns that will receive help from this city include Santa Josefa, Veruela, Loreto, and Bunawan in Agusan del Sur.