VICE President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo urged local and municipal government units to implement proper protocol in conducting relief operations, barring the challenges in providing aid to victims of the quake-hit Batanes during her visit on Wednesday.

Robredo was in Itbayat to distribute relief goods and inspect the damage of the twin earthquakes that hit the municipality last Saturday.

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Vice President Maria Leonor ‘Leni’ Robredo visits the survivors and families of victims of the deadly earthquakes in Itbayat, Batanes. Robredo also gave the affected residents relief supplies, mostly donated by the private partners of her office’s flagship program Angat Buhay. OVP PHOTO

“Iyong sa akin talaga, dapat mayroon na…protocols. Na kapag may nangyayari dito, paano iyong pagdala ng tulong. Kasi naaalala ko, in 2016, noong Typhoon Ferdie, nandito din ako, eh. Nandito din ako sa Itbayat, same problem (There must be protocols on how to provide aid when calamity strikes in the area. I remember when I was here in 2016 when the province was hit by Typhoon Ferdie, Itbayat had the same problem),” she told reporters in a chance interview.

“Iyong pinaka-problema talaga, kahit may sasakyan, mahaba talaga iyong travel time, eh. So siguro iyong kailangang i-consider din, magkaroon na ng naka-store na provisions — provisions lalo na sa pagkain, na may naka-store na dito (The main problem is, even if there were vehicles, the travel time is long. So, the government should also consider provisions in giving out food that were already stored here),” Robredo added.

Robredo provided medicines for the Itbayat District Hospital and talked to the victims in Barangay Santa Maria and San Rafael whose houses were heavily destroyed by the quake.

She also raised concerns on the lack of medical equipment and the urgent need to build temporary shelters in the area, as well as food and other basic services.

“Iyong pagkain, challenge. Iyong construction materials, challenge, dahil sa layo ng lugar. Mayroong mga barko na pumupunta, pero it takes a while bago makarating. Gaya noong dala namin, three days pa siya bago makarating (The distribution of food remains a challenge as well as the construction materials due to the location of the area. There are boats that usually arrive but it takes a while before they reach the citizens. Like the ones we provided earlier, it took three days before they reached the victims),”Robredo said.

Robredo said her office would coordinate with the private sector in assisting the victims and in rebuilding the traditional stone houses the province is known for.

In coordination with private groups, Robredo’s office turned over 900 food packs and 1,000 straw mats from the Latter-Day Saints Charities; 500 units of 5-gallon bottled water from Manila Water Foundation; 142 kilos of assorted medicines from Amir Abad and Friends of Itbayat and Dr. Anton Lim of the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation; and a portable Electrocardiogram (ECG) machine.

As of 7 a.m. Wednesday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) recorded 299 aftershocks, with 47 plotted or confirmed by instruments and 21 felt by people since a magnitude 5.9 quake hit the island and took 9 lives, injured more than 100 people, and damaged several homes and infrastructure on Saturday.

Batanes is currently under a state of calamity, with the Department of Public Works and Highways estimating P282 million in damages.

Phivolcs seismology research analyst Julius Galdiano said aftershocks have slowed down but could possibly last for several weeks to several months, which usually occur for such a moderate to strong earthquake.

“Nakakaapekto pa rin ‘yung mga aftershocks especially ‘yung mga building is weakened na ng major events during the past days, so since weakened na ‘yung mga buildings. So, may mga aftershocks na at least Intensity 4 siguro na pwede pa ring mag-collapse ‘yung mga structures doon (Aftershocks continue to affect the area, especially those buildings weakened by major events during the past days. They could collapse if at least Intensity 4 aftershocks occur),” Galdiano said.

Galdiano advised residents to stay out of houses with cracks, especially those made of stones and without metal foundation.

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