MORE than a week after typhoon Odette, with international name Rai, swept through central and southern parts of the Philippines, the estimated toll on lives, livelihood and infrastructure continues to climb with reported deaths at 389 and at least P22 billion worth of damage, based on government data as of Monday.

The number of those who died increased by 11 from 378 on Sunday, while 64 were reported missing and 1,146 injured, according to the Dec. 27 update from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Displaced persons reached almost 571,000, with more than 50% staying in 1,179 evacuation centers across the affected areas. There were 167,077 totally destroyed houses while almost 340,000 were partially damaged, with an estimated cost of about P28 million.

NDRRMC’s running tally of public infrastructure damage hit P16.7 billion, including roads and bridges, government buildings, schools, and utility service facilities.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte last week declared a state of calamity in six regions affected, namely: Mimaropa, composed of the provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan; Western, Central, and Eastern Visayas; Northern Mindanao; and Caraga, which covers the hard-hit areas of Siargao, Dinagat Islands, and Surigao City.

More than 330 affected cities and municipalities have also made localized state of calamity declarations, paving the way for the release of emergency funds under the annual budget.

Government and humanitarian agencies have been working to deliver emergency needs, but officials say the transport and distribution of relief goods, repairs, and restoration of utility and communication services are hampered by logistical challenges, especially in the islands and remote areas.

AGRICULTURE
Agricultural damage stood at P5.32 billion, based on the NDRRMC tally, but the Agriculture department still had a lower count at P4.3 billion as of Monday.

The typhoon, the 15th and strongest to hit the country this year, affected over 70,177 hectares of farmland and 61,581 farmers and fishermen, according to data from the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Production volume loss was estimated at 104,561 metric tons (MT).

“Farmers and fisherfolk are the most vulnerable sector during calamities. It is worth mentioning however that they are the most resilient also. With the right interventions from the government, we will see them back on their feet again,” Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources National Director Eduardo B. Gongona said in a Viber message.

Of the total, 19,701 fisherfolk were affected, with losses estimated at P1.8 billion, including production, fishing boats and gears, and fishnets.

“Right after the onslaught of the typhoon, we have activated our Operation Bangon: DA-BFAR Relief and Rehab Efforts for the Typhoon-Odette Fishing Communities. We have deployed our floating assets to deliver relief goods and initial boat building materials. The recovery of the affected fishing communities is our utmost priority,” Mr. Gongona said.

Farm losses were reported in the regions of Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao, SOCCSKSARGEN, and the Caraga region.

“We expect to have the comprehensive damage report once the assessment is fully completed. Right now our teams are on the ground trying to cover the affected fishing communities including those with transportation challenges. Good thing we have our floating assets that allow us to reach those areas,” Mr. Gongona said.

For future programs, BFAR is looking into distributing bigger boats that can better withstand inclement weather and allow municipal fisherfolk to go further offshore. 

“We are already heading towards the direction of capacitating our fisherfolk to become more resilient in facing the negative effects of calamities and extreme weather condition,” he said.

BFAR has also collaborated with partner agencies for a more effective alert system during typhoons.

POWER
On power supply, NDRRMC said service has been restored in 154 out of the 284 affected cities and municipalities.

The Department of Energy said they are looking into restoring 50% of power in Bohol by Dec. 31.

As of Dec. 27, the Bohol power barge 104 can provide 32 megawatts (MW) of supply and is expected to add 22 MW more this week, reaching a total 54% power capacity for the province’s 90MW daily demand.

“Please take note that it is a target, not a promise,” Energy Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella said during a virtual press conference.

In Cebu, Aboitiz Power Corp.’s Visayan Electric Co. said on Monday that it is targeting to restore 80% of power to over 98,000 customers within its franchise, mainly in the Metro Cebu area in the central part of the province, by Jan. 10, 2022.

“As of noon on Dec. 27, 21% or 98,321 of the 474,182 affected customers in its franchise service area were already reenergized,” the company said in a statement on Monday.

Aboitiz Power is also targeting 100% completion of service for hospitals and 80% of water pumping stations by Dec. 31.

The Cebu provincial government said four electric utilities have restored service mostly in the northern and central parts of the island. “Much of the south, which was considered the worst hit, continues to have no electricity,” it said.

In a related development, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate warned that the government might use a recently-signed executive order to take control of electric cooperatives in typhoon-affected areas.

Executive Order 156, signed by the President on Dec. 10, requires the Energy department to identify inadequately served areas within the franchise areas of distribution utilities.

The lawmaker noted that although the mandate seems harmless and is meant to help unserved or underserved remote areas, it could just be used to take advantage of electric co-ops.

“It may just be a disguised scheme to take over then sell to private power players the electric cooperatives especially with the devastation caused by Odette,” Mr. Zarate said in a statement.

The DoE brushed off such claim. “The statement of Cong. Zarate is speculative,” Energy Assistant Secretary Gerardo D. Erguiza, Jr. told BusinessWorld in a Viber message. “It is not aligned with the rationale and intent of EO 156.”— Marifi S. Jara, Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson, Marielle C. Lucenio, and Jaspearl Emerald G. Tan