[PHOTO -TWISTED steel and bare beams are all that are left of the public transportation terminal in Compostela town, which was one of the areas hardest hit by Typhoon “Pablo.” Residents are at a loss as to where to get the next day’s food as aid comes in trickles. GERMELINA LACORTE]

MANILA, DECEMBER 10, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Jason Gutierrez Agence France-Presse - Desperate families begged for food Sunday, days after a typhoon brought death and destruction to parts of a southern Philippine island, as the storm returned to the north of the country.

Northern areas escaped with heavy rain after the storm weakened. But scenes of hardship were everywhere in southern areas that last week felt the full fury of the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year.

Officials said 548 people are confirmed dead, most of them in the southern island of Mindanao.

Civil defense chief Benito Ramos said the number of missing had shot up to 827 from previous figures of 500 unaccounted for, after reports of more missing fishermen came in.

In the Mindanao mountain town of New Bataan, which took the brunt of the typhoon, families lined the roads holding signs begging for food.

“Have mercy on us, please donate,” read one sign held by a group of ragged kids.

“We need food,” read another sign displayed by a group standing amid ruined banana plantations.

Farmer’s wife Madeline Blanco, 36, said her family was trying to make do while sheltering in a tent on a basketball court.

“We were given rations but it was not enough. Just rice, bread and noodles. It is not enough for me and my four children,” she told AFP.

“All we can do is wait for donations. There are cars passing by and sometimes drivers give us something,” she said.

Another farmer’s wife, Emma Toledo, 59, complained that the relief supplies from the national government had yet to arrive.

“We have not been given anything yet. Only the local government and the village officials gave us something, just some rice, noodles and dried fish,” said the mother of three.

Drivers of private vehicles also handed out donations but the lack of coordination led to more confusion.

When a truck from a local power company arrived to distribute relief supplies, it was mobbed by hungry villagers and many children were almost trampled in the chaos.

“I’ve been here for a long time. I am hungry and my children need food,” one angry woman yelled as she pushed her way to the front.

Regional civil defense operations officer Antonio Cloma said many relief agencies, both government and non-government, were entering the area with supplies for typhoon victims.

“The government is doing its best to support the requirements for these victims,” he insisted.

In the northern Philippines, the once-deadly typhoon had weakened to a tropical storm and brought downpours. But there were no reports of any floods.

“Pablo” (international code: Bopha), which once packed 210-kilometer (130-mile) per hour winds and heavy rain, had weakened with gusts of only 120 kilometres per hour, the government weather station said.

It had been headed out to the South China Sea when it made a U-turn towards the north this weekend, inititally raising fears of another disaster.


In Pablo’s wake, a slew of proposals By Maricel Cruz | Posted on Dec. 09, 2012 at 12:01am

Lawmakers on Saturday stressed the need for the government to come up with a swifter and more organized response in providing medical and humanitarian aid to those devastated by typhoon Pablo.

One of them, Rep. Senen Sarmiento of Western Samar, sought the construction of at least one 100-bed hospital ship for dispatch to areas where medical facilities are wanting but needed the most.

For his part, Rep. Juan Angara of Aurora, sought to regulate the use of government ambulances to prevent their misuse and ensure that these emergency vehicles are available at any time.

Sarmiento, vice chair of the committee on national defense, said the tragedy in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley should be an eye-opener for the government to give priority toward the acquisition of a hospital ship which should be a perfect complement for the increasing accuracy of weathermen in forecasting weather conditions.

“What we need now is the capability to quickly deploy humanitarian and medical aid even in the remotest barangay in case of calamities. Our experience with Pablo should already raise the urgency for us to get a hospital ship,” he said.

Typhoon Pablo with international name Bopha was the strongest typhoon that hit Mindanao in the past 20 years.

It pounded Surigao del Norte, Siargao Island, Surigao del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Samal Islands, Compostela Valley, Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental and Camiguin, leaving nearly 600 fatalities and more than 500 missing individuals in a matter of three days.

Sarmiento said that even without disaster situations, this hospital ship can be used to provide regular medical care to remote island barangays, most of which does not even have a small clinic and would need to travel for hours just to reach the nearest hospital only to find out the it is also ill-equipped.

For a country like the Philippines which has more that 7,000 islands, a hospital ship should be a necessity,” he said.

Angara, meanwhile, denounced the misuse or abuse of government ambulances, saying that the sight of these vehicles in recreation areas and other place where they are not supposed to be is becoming usual and tolerated.

“Worse, there are instances where fees are collected for the their uses, or their use is refused for political considerations or other reasons that defeat the purpose of their acquisition,” he said.

If the Angara bill is enacted, it would impose a penalty from suspension to perpetual disqualification from public service of the violators.

Kasangga party-list Rep. Teodorico Haresco appealed to his colleagues to donate a portion of their pork barrel funds for the rebuilding and rehabilitation of the storm-ravaged provinces of Visayas and Mindanao.

On top of the P5,000 donation from the salary of congressmen, Haresco encouraged his colleagues to allocate a portion of their pork barrel funds for the storm victims.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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