Shirley Escalante in Manila, wires, 09 Dec 2012, 3:19 AM UTC
Philippines declares calamity after typhoon
A state of national calamity has been declared in the Philippines following typhoon Bopha. President Benigno Aquino has declared a state of national calamity to speed up the release of funds for rescue and retrieval operations. It will also allow money to be found for repairing damaged infrastructure in more than 20 provinces. He previously allocated $US200 million and is hoping to release additional funds. Damage to infrastructure and agriculture is estimated at almost $100 million. Under a state of national calamity, a price freeze on commodities is imposed and interest-free loans are granted for affected cities and provinces. Regional military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lyndon Paniza told AFP the region's armed forces had retrieved 506 bodies on the east coast of the southern island of Mindanao and around the southern town of New Bataan. The civil defence office in Manila said 23 other people were killed elsewhere in Mindanao, along with 11 in the central Visayan islands. The number of survivors who have sought refuge at government shelters has grown to more than 306,000. Social welfare secretary Corazon Soliman said people who had lost their homes and livelihoods were flocking in droves to the crowded camps for food and shelter.