(UPDATE) President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is set to fly to areas affected by the Abra earthquake to assess the damage, Malacañang said Wednesday.
The chief executive is currently in coordination with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and local officials for the immediate dispatch of rescue and relief teams to Abra, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said in a press conference before noon.
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He asked telcos to provide free communication in areas affected by the earthquake to keep communication channels open, she added.
"He will immediately fly to the area as soon as the all clear is given," Angeles said, without mentioning the date and time.
"Right now nakatutok siya dito sa ating disaster relief and response," she also said, adding that Marcos and his first family were unharmed.In an afternoon press conference, Marcos said he would "stay away" from visiting affected areas so as not to impede the ongoing operations of the local government heads there.
"It has been my experience as governor, it has been my experience in Yolanda that when the national officers come to the affected areas immediately, ginugulo lang namin yung trabaho ng mga local," he said.
"So I said let them do their work. Let us wait for them to tell us what the true situation is, and maybe I can schedule a trip perhaps tomorrow as soon as possible," he added.
Marcos assured that the government will provide shelter and food to the earthquake victims while ensuring that existing homes are from free damages that will further endanger the situation of the residents.
"We cannot allow people to return to their homes yet because it's dangerous.... We have to explain to them na kailangan munang mainspeksyon ang kanilang mga bahay at bukod pa doon, kailangan muna natin antayin na medyo matapos na yung mga aftershocks," he said.
"In the meantime, it is up to us in the government to provide shelter for them, to feed them while they are in the shelters and to inspect their residences, their places of business para makita natin kung pwede na silang bumalik," he added.
The president said there is no need to declare a state of national calamity for now, as it can be made when three regions suffered significant damage.
"So far we can say it's Region 1 and CAR. So I don't think it's necessary right to declare a national emergency. However, depending on the information that comes back... baka mangyari yun. I hope not kasi sana limited na nga dito sa Abra hanggang sa Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union," Marcos said.
A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Tayum, Abra at 8:43 a.m. on Wednesday, with the tremor also felt in parts of Metro Manila and even as far as Quezon province.
Photos coming from provinces in northern Luzon showed the extent of the damage of the earthquake as houses fell and structures crumbled.
The Phivolcs warned that aftershocks may occur following the initial earthquake.