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Submerged houses in Cagayan province, Philippines. Submerged houses in Cagayan province, Philippines.   (AFP or licensors)

Typhoon-hit Philippine diocese appeals for clean water

Acute shortage of clean and potable water raises health fears not only for residents but more so for those in shelters and evacuation centres, amid the pandemic.

By Vatican News staff writer

A Philippine diocese has appealed for people in desperate need of clean and safe water following Typhoon Vamco.  Ilagan Diocese in Cagayan province, north of Manila, is in need of clean water after floods submerged vast areas following the release of water from a nearby dam, UCA News reported.

Clean and drinking water

Local officials in Cagayan and Isabela provinces of the Philippines consider the recent flooding in their areas as the worst they have experienced in four decades.  One of the biggest contributors to the flooding, they believe, is the discharge of water from Magat Dam, one of the largest in the country.

An official at Magat Dam said the high volume of rain brought by Typhoon Vamco forced them to open seven water gates to prevent the reservoir from overflowing and possibly breaching.  The flooding by mud waters has resulted in a drop in the clean water supply in the region.  Many residents, including Manila’s 14 million population, are being helped by a rotational water supply.

According to Father Carlito Sarte, director of the Diocesan Social Action Centre of Ilagan, access to drinking water remains a challenge for many areas in Isabela and Cagayan provinces.  “Please give us drinking water as the water available in our region is not safe to drink. We need clean water for thousands of Cagayanons [residents in the province] in evacuation centres,” he said. On Tuesday, the priest appealed to water refilling stations in his parish in Santiago City to donate bottled water.

Covid-19 and hand washing

He also expressed concern that the lack of water in evacuation centres and hospitals may help spread the coronavirus.  “There is also a health issue involved here that may arise due to a lack of access to clean and safe water, especially during this coronavirus pandemic,” the priest said.

He said frequent washing of hands is essential in containing the virus, including in shelters and evacuation centres. “The situation is still hard,” he said.  “You can manage for some days without food but not without water ... People need to maintain hygiene by washing their hands to prevent the spread of the coronavirus ... We really need water,” he said.

According to the government’s Health Department, Covid cases in the Philippines spiked due to delays in transferring test samples to medical centres due to damaged roads and power outages.

Rising food prices

Meanwhile, prices of vegetables and pork in Isabela province have reportedly soared despite a price freeze imposed by the government on areas hit by severe flooding.  Vendors say they have to buy the vegetables at a higher price from suppliers outside the region.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the government had implemented a price freeze on agriculture and fishery commodities and basic essential goods, especially in flood-stricken areas. The National Food Authority also allocated rice assistance to the affected communities.

Earlier, Caritas Philippines had launched a global appeal to aid those affected by the calamities.  It called on the government to seek international aid, saying that the country cannot do it alone.

“The nation is in quandary. It is clear that we cannot do this alone,” said Fr. Antonio Labiao, executive director of Caritas Philippines.

Pope’s closeness

Pope Francis on Sunday expressed his closeness to the people of the Philippines following a string of devastating typhoons and storms.   “I express my solidarity with the poorest families who are also the most vulnerable to this calamity,” he said, expressing his support engaged in relief work.

Six cyclones hit the Philippines in a span of just four weeks, including Vamco and Super Typhoon Goni, the world's most powerful this year.  (Source: UCA News, LiCAS.news)

20 November 2020, 14:01