The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has mounted initial relief operations and vowed further assistance to communities hit hard by Super Typhoon Odette.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has tasked Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns Benny D. Antiporda to assess the situation and conduct relief operations in Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte province.

“Rather than to prepare for a joyous Christmas, I have instructed our Undersecretary for Local Government Units Concerns to proceed to Siargao to assess and check the situation there. This is the instruction of the President (Rodrigo Duterte) to me,” Cimatu said during his speech at the DENR Yearend Employees’ General Assembly on December 22.

Antiporda flew to Siargao in the immediate aftermath of Super Typhoon Odette on December 19 to conduct assessment and provide first wave of aid to affected communities.

“Initially, we already sent partial relief goods for them a day after the typhoon. Our DENR-Region 11 also travelled by land to conduct relief operations,” Cimatu said.

The DENR chief also committed to provide support, particularly cash assistance, to affected communities and DENR employees in Siargao, Dinagat Islands, Cebu, Bohol, Palawan, and other typhoon-hit provinces.

“One thing that saddened me is the plight of the settlers within the shoreline that was badly hit,” Cimatu said.

He added: “With this, I will extend all my powers and privileges being the Secretary of the DENR. We will come to their rescue.”

Cimatu promised that the DENR will find a way to resettle the communities in time for the holiday celebrations.

He also instructed all concerned DENR offices for immediate response and guaranteed support to fellow Filipinos devastated by the typhoon.

“To the people of Siargao and all the other victims of Typhoon Odette, the DENR will be beside you in this problem,” Cimatu said.

Citing the initial report, Cimatu said that almost 80 percent of houses and structures and more than 50 percent of trees were felled during Odette’s onslaught in Siargao. ###