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With all hotels damaged, Coron recovery may take up to a year - mayor

At least 90 percent of the houses and hotels in a major tourism destination in Palawan were either damaged or destroyed during the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda, according to Coron Mayor Clara Reyes on Monday.

“The earliest we could bring back normalcy in Coron would be from six months to one year. Kabuhayan dito ay tourism. Eh, lahat ng hotel na-damage,” she said.

Of the 1,000 registered pump boats used for tourism, only 10 remain, the mayor said.
She said two villages were totally wiped out, including their barangay halls and day-care centers.
“Sa Malawig, ubos lahat ng bahay. Sa Banuang Daan, lahat ng bahay (nawala), natira lang yung school building nila,” Reyes said in a phone interview with GMA News Online.
Banuang Daan is a barangay inhabited by indigenous Tagbanua communities in the island of Coron, a popular tourist destination famous for its serene lakes and white sand beaches.

Northern Palawan was one of the areas hardest hit by Yolanda, which made landfall in Eastern Samar with peak winds of more than 300 kph before rampaging across the central Visayas and exiting the country through the Calamianes islands, where Coron is located.

Around 80 to 90 percent of the power lines in the municipality are still down. Reyes said the telecommunication companies reported that it would take a month or two before services can be fully restored.
“Thankful ako sa mga kababayan ko sa Coron na they heeded my call na lumikas. Kung hindi sila lumikas, baka mas marami ang casualties,” she added.

At least 11,000 people were affected by the typhoon in Coron, one of the two municipalities in the island of Busuanga.
As of 11 a.m. Monday, there were nine reported dead in Coron, many of whom were men who watched over their houses and other property when Yolanda swept across the town.

Of the fatalities, three were children; two were pinned down when their house collapsed, and one was killed in a landslide.
The chief engineer of a boat docked in Coron was still missing, said Reyes.
First typhoon to hit Coron
She said most residents were reluctant to evacuate because typhoon rarely pass through the island municipality.
“Nahirapan kami kumbinsihin sila na lumikas dahil ito ang unang bagyo na dumating sa amin in 100 years. Tinatanong ko nga 'yung mga matatanda, hindi pa daw sila nakakaranas ng ganoong bagyo,” Reyes said.
She said it was a good thing that Coron is located in a sheltered part of northern Palawan, so no storm surge affected them.
“Masuwerte pa rin kami kasi wala pang high tide nung tumama si Yolanda. Palaki pa lang yung tubig,” she added.
Reyes said an inventory of their food supply showed that their rice and canned goods would last for only six days.
Taking it one day at a time
The mayor admitted that it will be hard to bring back Coron to its former state, but they will take it “one day at a time.”
She said the town will start with the relocation of constituents who lost their homes in the coastal area.
“We will relocate these people to areas where they will be safe, na hindi na mangyayari sa kanila ito,” she said.
The mayor said that as of 11 a.m. Monday, they were able to bring relief goods to all 23 barangays--including the nine that were earlier isolated--through the help of a private chopper and a helicopter from the Philippine Air Force.
At least 8,000 packs of relief goods have been distributed to the affected residents.
She said Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez was able to talk with the National Food Authority (NFA) to provide rice to the municipality.
“There will be two barges of rice, coming from Batangas and San Jose in Mindoro. Hopefully, pagdating ng mga bigas maayos na ang supply namin,” she said.
She added that they have also coordinated with water concessionaires, which promised to ration water to the Poblacion.
Reyes said the declaration of a state of calamity in the municipality a day after the onslaught of Yolanda allowed the local government to use all its resources to help the residents.

Stranded tourists
She said they were also able to protect the tourists who were stranded in Coron, as she has ordered the police and military to beef up security in all resorts and hotels two days before typhoon Yolanda hit the municipality.
Of the 444 tourists stranded in the town, 148 were ferried out Monday morning and 72 left in the afternoon.
“For the remaining tourists, by tomorrow (Tuesday) we pray that everybody will able to fly out of Coron,” she said.

Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have resumed flights to Coron, which had been cut off earlier after the airport in Busuanga was damaged by Yolanda.
“Alam ko na kaming mga taga-Coron ay very resilient. Yung aming landmark sa Mt. Tapyas, bumagsak. Pero alam ko na maitatayo namin ulit yun, maibabangon muli ang Coron,” Reyes said.

Donations for Coron may be coursed through their Manila coordinator Wilma Leogogo, through mobile numbers 0917-5636-363 and 0919-4043-841, according to the mayor's office. — JDS/YA, GMA News