Duterte pledges up to P100M aid for typhoon-stricken farmers

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Pili, Camarines Sur (CNN Philippines) — Camarines Sur is under a state of calamity and reeling from a staggering amount of damage.

Local government officials say damage to agriculture amounts to more than P1 billion — and they still have to tally the significant damage to infrastructure.

President Rodrigo Duterte, during his visit to the typhoon-stricken province on Tuesday, pledged P50 million, and if the budget will allow, up to P100 million worth of aid to help farmers and residents.

"I have the money for corn (and) rice, and it is about 50-million to give you. Titingnan ko lang (Let me check) if needed, I might add something to it," the President said in his remarks to residents in the provincial capital of Pili.

He also added he released P1 billion for medicines of indigents with prescription.

The President arrived in Pili after his visit to Virac in Catanduanes, another province under a state of calamity. Catanduanes was where typhoon Nina made landfall on Christmas Eve.

Duterte said that he had wanted to travel to Bicol the day after Typhoon Nina battered the region. But he had to visit victims of a church bombing in Midsayap in North Cotabato. The bombing occurred also on Christmas Eve.

"I wanted to be here the day after but may problema sa Mindanao. Paputok ng simbahan doon. While priest was lecturing about extrajudicial killings, hinagisan siya tuloy ng granada," Duterte said.

[Translation: I wanted to be here the day after but there was a problem in Mindanao. There was an explosion at a church. While the priest was lecturing about extrajudicial killings, a grenade was thrown at him.]

The suspects behind the Midsayap bombing are still unknown. In his remarks Tuesday, Duterte mentioned the Maute Group which he accused of being involved in narco-terrorism. Members of the Maute Group have been charged with a deadly bombing in Davao City in September, and a siege of a town in Lanao Del Sur this month.

According to Duterte, the Maute group is driven by shabu, using money from the trade in this highly addictive illegal drug to support their operations.

Duterte skipped the ceremonial distribution of goods to victims there to fly to Davao City for an engagement with local government officials there.

Also read: Relief ongoing for victims of Typhoon Nina

Where's Leni?

Meanwhile, the Office of the Vice President responded to scathing criticism over Leni Robredo's absence as Typhoon Nina battered her hometown, Naga City, adjacent to Pili.

In a statement, the Vice-President's office said Robredo directed relief operations for the victims of typhoon Nina even as she spent Christmas holidays in the United States with her family.

Filipinos took to social media to express their disappointment with Robredo's absence amid news on the typhoon devastating Bicol.

Robredo ordered the distribution of 1,005 food packs in devastated barangays in Naga City, her office said Tuesday. Packing of relief goods is taking place in her home there, it added.

"Robredo directed OVP's preparations even before the typhoon struck," her spokesperson, Georgina Hernandez, told CNN Philippines.

Robredo's travel to the U.S. was planned more than a year ago, Hernandez said, adding that the Vice President will try to catch a flight back to the Philippines soon. But if not, she will be back in January and head straight to Bicol.

Also read: 1 dead, 18 still missing as Typhoon Nina sinks ferry