Duterte vows speedy aid to storm-battered central Philippines



Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed on Monday a speedy aid and repair of bridges and roads destroyed by tropical storm Kai-Tak that barrelled the central Philippines during the weekend.

Duterte and some members of his cabinet flew to Naval, a town in the island province of Biliran, one of the provinces hardly hit by the storm.

"There is a continuous assistance (especially) the agriculture sector. We are ready to assist you anytime. We promise you that we will rebuild immediately the infrastructure, especially the bridges and restore the causes of the connectivity of people," he told local officials in the province.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also assure the victims in the Eastern Visayas region that more assistance are on the way.

"As I speak now, there is a ship coming from (nearby) Cebu, it's carrying relief goods. I think it will be arriving sometime today," said Lorenzana in a press briefing in Biliran.

Lorenzana, also the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management chairman, said equipment from the Department of Public Works and Highways will also be shipped to help in the clearing operations and rehabilitation works.

"We will assign our engineering brigades here to help...The military will be here to assist you," said Lorenzana.

Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, the Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, said the Army, Navy and Air Force units are helping in the ongoing relief operations.

"We have Air Force assets ready to transport resources, relief goods, here from Manila and from Cebu and other areas in Visayas," Guerrero said.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte had held dialogue with the local officials in Biliran.

"He of course condoled with the victims and pledged that government will do everything it can to help Biliran rise again," Roque said.

Roque said Duterte ordered the government officials to monitor the prices of food supplies, and make sure that the government finishes the two damaged bridges in Naval town in less than 30 days.

At least 31 people have so far died in the storm and at least 49 more missing, according to Roque.