PALACE officials on Monday took back President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of P2 billion in assistance to victims of the magnitude-6.7 earthquake that rocked Surigao province, saying this was money earmarked to soften the impact of the closure and suspension of some 28 mines for environmental reasons.
“I would like to clarify that. The President was saying that in the context of the mining,” said Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, after Duterte spoke of P2 billion in aid while talking to the earthquake victims in Surigao City. “He said if mining operations are closed, people will lose their jobs.”
Andanar said he also consulted with Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go.
“The P2 billion he mentioned, ‘This P2 billion, is this enough?’ This was mentioned by the President when he was talking in the context of mining problem, that when the operations are closed, people will need livelihood,” said Andanar.
“That’s how I understood it. Because that’s what the President is saying, he was talking about the mining problem all throughout, then he inserted the P2 billion,” he added.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella echoed Andanar’s statement.
“The P2 billion [President Rodrigo Duterte] talked about was for those affected by proposed mining closures that the government would provide if and when it is implemented,” he said in a text message.
Another P2 billion, he added, was for medicine for indigents and rehabilitation of drug dependents—again, not for Surigao.
“For Surigao, the government is ready to provide whatever is assessed to be needed on the ground,” Abella said.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said he would clarify the issue directly with the President.
“I think there is confusion about the P2 billion. I’m not really sure. But there was P2 billion released last year for medicine and drug rehabilitation,” Diokno told CNN Philippines.
Quake victims can use the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Quick Response Fund for the most immediate concerns, Diokno said.
Speaking in his native Bisaya in most parts of the speech Sunday, President Duterte vowed to release P2 billion in relief for victims of the powerful Feb. 10 earthquake that struck Surigao City and neighboring towns.
Major Manila dailies, including Mindanao-based news organizations, reported the President’s promise to Surigao quake victims.
A check on official transcripts translated in English provided by Malacañang showed that just before making his vow to release financial aid, the President was trying to offer a job to a resident.
“Where was that woman who gave me this seat? There she is. Don’t avoid me. Are you from here? Don’t look around you because there are no women behind you. Are you from here? Do you want a job? If you’re jobless here, go with me to Malacañang and I will make you my secretary. I’m just kidding, please don’t take me so seriously,” Duterte told a quake survivor.
The President then mentioned that he would release money for the lost lives and those who lost jobs.
“But I will release money for you so prioritize those who lost their lives and source of living. I’ll release a little. Is two billion enough for you? You won’t really be able to spend all that, will you? Why don’t we just buy them all a subdivision and house and lot,” he said to applause from the quake survivors.
Also in the same speech, Duterte warned erring mining companies to clean up their mess or face closure. He also talked about possibly resolving his feud with the communists.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council on Monday estimated some P108 million worth of damage to infrastructure in the province of Surigao del Norte following the magnitude-6.7 quake Friday night, which has already claimed eight lives.
Abella had earlier advised the media to listen to its “properly vetted” press conferences to better understand “the colorful language of the President,” who claimed that only two of five things he says are true.
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