Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go distributed grocery packs and financial aid on Monday, November 4, at the towns that were hit hardest by the subsequent 6.6- and 6.5-magnitude earthquakes that rocked North Cotabato and other parts of Mindanao on October 29 and 31, respectively.
An earlier strong quake with a magnitude of 6.3 first hit the same areas last October 16.
Straight from Thailand where he accompanied President Rodrigo Duterte for the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, Go first visited victims in Kidapawan City who are temporarily staying at the evacuation center in Brgy. Ilomavis before riding a motorcycle and proceeding to Makilala, North Cotabato to likewise provide various forms of assistance.
“Kahit saang sulok po ng Pilipinas, pupuntahan ko po kayo para magbigay ng tulong at mag-iwan ng ngiti sa oras ng inyong pagdadalamhati. Gusto ko marinig ang inyong hinaing at mabigyan ng solusyon ang pang-araw araw ninyong problema,” Go said.
In Kidapawan and Makilala, Go commiserated with the victims, saying that his office is always open to help them and listen to their concerns.
“Narito po tayo para makapagbigay ng kaunting tulong at solusyon sa mga suliranin nila. Nais ko din pong marinig ang kanilang mga hinaing na gusto nilang iparating sa national government,” Go said in the interview adding “patuloy po akong magiging tulay ninyo sa Pangulo at sa inyong gobyerno.”
The senator was also accompanied by representatives from concerned government agencies to provide additional assistance to the disaster-stricken Filipinos. Private entities also sent their assistance through Go’s office.
As for their housing needs, Go said that he has coordinated with the National Housing Authority (NHA) for the rebuilding and repair of the houses of the victims. He urged the NHA to provide a long-term housing plan for victims of natural disasters.
“Nakipag-ugnayan na po tayo sa NHA para mabigyan ng assistance ang mga biktima ng lindol,” he said.
He also encouraged the residents, especially those who are injured or in need of medical attention, to go to the nearest Malasakit Center so they can avail of government assistance for their healthcare needs.
“Sa mga nasaktan o nangangailangan ng tulong medikal, lumapit lamang po tayo sa pinakamalapit na Malasakit Center. Mayroon din pong designated na express lanes para sa mga senior citizens at PWDs,” he said.
There are existing Malasakit Centers in Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City; Sultan Kudarat Provincial Hospital in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat; and Cotabato Regional Medical Center in Cotabato City. Malasakit Centers in the provinces of South Cotabato and North Cotabato will be established soon.
In a November 3 report by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), authorities said that at least 22 casualties have been confirmed from the disasters. Sixteen are from Cotabato, three in Davao del Sur, two in South Cotabato, and one in Sultan Kudarat.
Wary of fake news in times of calamities, Go advised the public to rely on legitimate sources of information when sharing news on social media.
“Huwag po tayong magkalat ng fake news, lalo na sa ganitong panahon ng kalamidad,” Go said, urging the public to instead be of help to the victims.
“Tumulong na lang po tayo sa ating kapwa Pilipino imbes na dumagdag sa kanilang problema,” he added.
As to reports that the continuous earthquakes have damaged many structures, Go said that government agencies should be strict in implementing the law, particularly the National Building Code which the Senator plans to revisit and propose necessary amendments to ensure safety amid recurring natural disasters, such as earthquakes.
“It is high time na amyendahan ang National Building Code. Matagal na ito, saka andaming nakakalusot. Huwag nang hintayin na may gumuhong gusali. Dapat maging istrikto,” he said.
The National Building Code was promulgated in 1977 when then president Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1096. Senator Go recognizes that there may be a need to amend the law and make it updated with the demands of the 21st century and with the increase in strength and frequency of natural calamities, such as earthquakes and typhoons.
Go also said that he will talk to the Department of Health to install portalets in evacuation centers and ensure proper sanitation in the temporary shelters. This will prevent outbreaks of diseases in cramped areas.
The Senator also called on the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) to heighten its information drive and make essential information, such as location of fault lines scattered around the country, more available to the general public. Go said that he will talk to PHIVOLCS officials on how to further enhance their capabilities in fulfilling their mandate.