By Joyce Pangco Panares - Malacanang has described the year about to end as “the best year for the Philippines for a long time,” but for the people devastated by Typhoon Pablo in Mindanao, it should be the worst in living memory as a result of the number of people it killed, affected and sent missing and the damage it inflicted.

Malacañang on Thursday described 2012 as one of the best for the country after it posted the highest third-quarter growth in Southeast Asia and the Aquino administration signed a historic framework agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The Aquino administration’s ousting of Chief Justice Renato Corona and placement of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo under hospital arrest also contributed to this year’s success, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

“This year we saw the full effect of political will used correctly and for the right purposes, knowing that power is merely lent by the people to their leaders to ultimately serve the country’s best interests,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

“While these past two-and-a-half years have been a period of continued renewal for the country, 2012 in particular has been a year of rebuilding and restoration.”

The Philippines posted a 7.1-percent growth in its gross domestic product in the third quarter, and the government expects its fourth-quarter growth to be as robust.

The Philippine Stock Exchange index also soared above expectations and breached the 5,800 mark, while the peso appreciated by as much as 6 percent against the dollar this year.

“These positive indicators are underpinned by an administration that has maintained fiscal discipline, initiated reforms to ramp up quality public spending, and invested heavily in both social and physical infrastructure,” Lacierda said.

He said 2012 was also “a time for celebration and pride for the reclaimed standing of our country as we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other rising nations of the world.”

“In 2012 we turned the corner, fixed the damage wrought by the crooked ways of the past, and established further that the straight path is the only way forward,” Lacierda said.

He cited Corona’s ouster and Arroyo’s imprisonment as some of the judicial-reform accomplishments of the administration.

“The message is clear: If a Chief Justice can be impeached—and a former President put under hospital arrest for alleged plunder and electoral sabotage—then so can anyone; a crime is a crime, regardless of wealth or status in society,” Lacierda said.

He also cited the important legislative measures signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III, including the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act and the Sin Tax Reform Act, and the passage of the controversial Responsible Parenthood bill.

“As the administration embarks on 2013, there is all the more reason for Filipinos to travel on the straight path under the leadership of President Aquino and the adherents to his noble cause,” Lacierda said.

But the year 2012 has turned out to be the worst for the victims of Typhoon Bopha that struck Mindanao on Dec. 4, and so far there is nothing to look forward to in the coming year.

“My parents and my one-year-old baby died when our house collapsed on them and they were buried under the debris,” a United Nations report quoted Richee Antulan as saying outside the remains of her home in Baganga, a municipality now viewed by many as “ground zero.”

Antulan is among the 6.2 million people affected by Pablo, the most powerful to hit the country in 2012. On Dec. 7 President Aquino declared a state of national calamity.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Counci, 1,050 people were killed, over 2,000 were injured, and more than 800 are missing.

Of the 168,227 homes damaged, over 65,500 were totally destroyed, and he estimated value of the property damage is $839 million.

Close to 12,000 people are still in 43 evacuation centers.

“The devastation was total,” Disaster Council head Benito Ramos said.

Many public buildings that were designated areas for evacuation centres were severely damaged, mostly with roofs blown away.

“We urgently need tents and tarpaulins,” Ramos said earlier.

“We have gone as far as gathering tarpaulins from old advertising billboards in Manila to bring down to the affected areas. We want the survivors to have some kind of shelter before Christmas.”

In Baganga, where the storm first made landfall, not a single public building is usable.

“We have no evacuation centers,” said Rowena Abayon a second lieutenant in the Philippine Army who was manning a command post in Baganga.

“In Baganga all 31 schools were damaged. All the churches, too. We estimate that 95 percent of the 18 villages [in this municipality] have been totally destroyed.”

“The most immediate need now is shelter. The people need tarpaulins to at least give them shade or protect them from the rain,” said Wilson Mondal, a field delegate from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“[Without temporary shelter] the food distributions they receive will get wet. Tarps will also keep their kids from getting wet and getting sick.”

The ICRC has started distributing two tarpaulins measuring 4 by 6 feet and food and non-food items to each family in the three most affected municipalities of Baganga, Cateel and Boston. An estimated 90 percent of the affected people in the area are in need of additional assistance, Mondal says.

“The people here are resilient but will require support for quite some time to get back on their feet,” David Carden, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said from the affected area.

On Dec. 10 the government and the UN Humanitarian Country Team launched the six-month Bopha [Pablo] Action Plan for Response and Recovery, requesting $65 million to assist nearly 500,000 of the most affected people.

“Emergency shelter support is a priority, as is water and hygiene kits along with debris removal,”


Binay to Palace: Lift suspension of Gov. Garcia By Sara Susanne D. Fabunan | Posted on Dec. 29, 2012 at 12:01am

MANILA - Vice President Jejomar Binay urged Malacanang on Friday to follow the rule of law and lift the suspension of Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia because the people were aware that her ouster was poltically-motivated.

“They think people will believe them (that it’s just administrative action.). But it’s as clear as day. It’s all politics,” Binay said, who is a top contender as candidate for president of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) in presidential elections in 2016 .

He said Garcia should stay in office until the Court of Appeals has ruled on her petition to stop the six months suspension order imposed by Malacanang on December 19 for alleged abuse of authority.

Malacanang has designated Vice Governor Agnes Magpale as Acting Governor, but Garcia refused to vacate her post and lived in her office during the Christmas holidays.

The issue has divided the ruling coalition led by President Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP) in the House of Repesentatives.

Binay was a close associate of the president’s mother, the late former president Corazon Aquino.The Cebu controversy could define the vague political ties and alliances of leading politicians, including Binay.

Binay questioned the intention of Malacanang to insist in suspending Garcia despite the pending petition at the Court of Appeals.

“They said it’s not preventive suspension, it’s a penalty. Your’re already enforcing a penalty and yet you admit that there’s still a process to be undertaken. Let’s wait for the determination of the process. It is just simple logic,” Binay said.

The vice president said he would seek a meeting and talk to Aquino about the issue and “reiterate that the rule of law must prevail.”

UNA Secretary General and Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco accused Malacanang spokesman Edwin Lacierda of misleading the people by making it appear that the LP “can use the power of government, misuse the laws, to go after political opponents.”

“(They) think they have a license to politically kill its opponents because (the administration) is credible and popular,” Tiangco said.

“The people have very high expectations of the present administration. They want jobs and a better life. They are fed up with the previous regime’s lust for power. They want more governance and less politics,” he said.

Tiangco described the power grab in Cebu as a return to the discredited mindset of politics at all costs and said the presidential ambition of Inerior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas “could erode the people’s trust and confidence in the administration.”

In Cebu City, Acting Gov. Magpale said the provincial government was running out of money with only P90 million left in its general fund and bills were piling up with payables amounting to about P200 million.

She said Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre has reported that the provincial government was short of P100 million to pay unsettled expenses, including the P50 milion Christmas bonus of employees she announced days before Christmas Day.

Garcia shot back at Magpale and said the Acting Governor presented an incomplete and false financial picture because other than the P90 million general fund, the provincial government has over P200 million held in trust and P133 million monthly Internal Revenue Allotment.

“Vice Governor Magpale wants to show the public that I have been very irresponsible in leading the province. She did not realize that in her desire to put me down, she is besmirching the image of Cebu,” Garcia said. With Christine Herrera, Bart Ochea, and Joyce Pañares

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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