Philippine Red Cross humanitarian response to affected areas in Palawan (Photo from Catherine Larracas, PRC)

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) deployed its humanitarian caravan to Palawan on New Year’s Day, with the goal of delivering relief aid to 3,000 families affected by Typhoon Odette in the province’s northern half.

PRC Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Reporting manager Catherine Larracas said Sunday, January 2, that the humanitarian caravan from Metro Manila targets to help families in the towns of Roxas, Araceli, and Dumaran.

She explained that the PRC had previously assisted Taytay and families in Puerto Princesa’s northern barangays, and is now assessing whether it can also extend assistance to San Vicente town.

Philippine Red Cross humanitarian response to affected areas in Palawan. (Video from Catherine Larracas, PRC)

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After docking at San Fernando Port in El Nido, the team moved to Roxas town as its base camp.

Larracas claimed that their caravan is equipped with a water filter machine capable of offering residents safe drinking water.

The PRC’s water tanker will travel to several places to deliver them to residents. She said they have already distributed drinking water containers to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases.

“Meron tayong kapabilidad sa caravan na may ambulance na kasama. Dahil isa ang potable water sa nakita natin na need sa area,‘yong water filtration unit na may capability na magbuga ng tubig na mainit na inumin, i-process siya–gawin siyang potable para sa mga barangay natin na nangangailangan ng tubig inumin,” she said.

Additionally, the caravan will deliver hot meals via the PRC food truck and emotional support to people who have been traumatized by Odette’s unanticipated extent of the destruction.

The crew consisted of 26 members, half of whom came from the main office. They also brought non-food items such as kitchen sets, hygiene kits, and housing repair toolboxes.

Larracas stated that 1,000 families received food rations, with 400 from Roxas and 600 from Araceli.

“Sa ngayon, itong mga bago naming dating na mga support from Manila office na kayang magbigay pa ng karagdagang tulong at an estimate of around 500 to 1,000 families pa. Bukod pa sa another round of food ration namin for another 1,000 families pa. Lumalabas na around 3,000 families ang maaaring benepisyaryo ng suporta mula sa Philippine Red Cross,” she said.

“Bukod doon, dire-diretso ang debriefing sessions natin o psychosocial support, hindi pa ‘yan kasama sa ayudang nabanggit ko. At ‘yong hot meals during sa kasagsagan ng typhoon Odette, immediately after the impact. Nakapagbigay na rin tayo ng pagkain, prepared, ready to eat sa 4,000 indibidwal na nasa evacuation center immediately after typhoon Odette (impact) sa lungsod ng Puerto Princesa,” she added.

(Photo from Catherine Larracas, PRC)

The humanitarian caravan is typically deployed for 15 days, but Larracas explained that based on their experience, it is sometimes extended to a month, especially if the area is really devastated.

PRC is still seeking extra funding from donors and sponsors to continue providing aid, notably in the areas of shelter and livelihood.

Challenges in extending assistance
Logistics is one of the issues facing the PRC, particularly during this time of year when the northeast monsoon dominates, resulting in increased wave heights and strong winds, she said.

“In fact, ilang attempts tayo sa Philippine Coast Guard na maitawid sana agad-agad ‘yong mga pagkain natin para sa bayan ng Araceli, bayan ng Roxas pero hindi nag-materialize ‘yon. Buti na lang, ‘yong na-damage nating bridges ay kahit papaano natambakan at na-allow tayo na by land mag-transport ng ating relief items from Puerto Princesa,” she said.

In Puerto Princesa, Larracas said the PRC is still unable to reach the farthest Batak community in the northern part due to road access being obstructed by a landslide.

(Photo from Catherine Larracas, PRC)

Owing to the fact that power and telecommunications have not been fully restored, she stated that they constitute a barrier to their humanitarian operations due to reporting issues in the field.

“Napakahirap din ng pag-assess sa damages, mukhang kailangan na natin—ang mag-conduct ng trainings kung paano isinasagawa ang pagri-report at paggawa ng rapid damage and needs assessment kasi siguro kailangan na magkaroon ng capacity development ang ating mga lokal na pamahalaan,” she said.

“Hindi rin namin maalis sa kanila dahil marami sa local officials ay affected din, nasira ang kanilang mga kabahayan kaya ‘yong focus ng kanilang suporta ay nahahati, ang hirap ng ganong sitwasyon. Iniintindi mo ‘yong pamilya mo, kabuhayan mo, at the same time, may sinumpaan kang tungkulin sa iyong constituents na kailangan mor in suportahan,” she added.

Based on her experience as a member of the PRC, the impact felt in northern Puerto Princesa and several communities in northern Palawan may be the most severe after 15 to 20 years on the mainland.

Larracas, who was formerly based in the province before being transferred to the PRC’s central office, cited the devastation inflicted by Typhoon Yolanda in the Calamianes Group of Islands.

(Photo from Catherine Larracas, PRC)

“Isa sa recent kasi natin ay ang typhoon Yolanda pero ito ay sa Calamianes Group of Island kasi dito nag-exit, sila naman ang apektado non. Dito sa mainland, ito na siguro ‘yong isa sa pinaka-worst na na-experience ko kasi dito naman ako talaga nag-o-operate bago ako nalipat sa Kamaynilaan since 1998,” she said.

She recalled that years ago, a fallen bridge in Roxas town had affected one of their biggest operations in Palawan, where relief efforts needed to be transported through the air.

“Ang pinagpapasalamat na lang natin na hindi siya galing sa karagatan kasi kung ‘yan ay sea surge, talagang aasahan na napakarami. Libo siguro ang maaaring namatay nating kababayan, ‘yon na lang din ‘yong maganda na gusto natin makita sa naranasan natin sa Typhoon Odette,” she said.

PRC’s commitment to help
The caravan members spent the new year in the province, away from their families, she explained, in order to fulfill their commitment to help.

The PRC is open to all donations, whether in kind or cash, but prefers the latter due to logistical challenges. PRC’s help is designed for completely destroyed homes.

“Ang nakakatuwa sa lugar ng mga apektado sa pag-ikot namin, nandoon pa rin ‘yong espiritu ng resiliency. Nakangiti ang mga tao kahit na nahihirapan, nakikita mo na sa effort ng bayanihan, nagtutulong-tulong—dito, tayo-tayo ang nagtutulong-tulong,” she said.

“Marami kasing nawalan but others must understand na ang Red Cross ay limited resources din, nag-a-avoid kami ng duplication that’s why we are working very closely with the local government unit and the respective DRRMO offices—para ma-spread out natin ang tulong natin sa iba’t ibang lugar. Equally, makatanggap sila ng mga ayuda,” she said.

Interested donors may visit the PRC Palawan Chapter’s official Facebook page to view the chapter’s official bank accounts and assure the security of their donations. Donors may also pay a visit to their Mendoza Park office, she noted.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.