"Motorists are stranded as people walk along the Samar-Tacloban City Road to get relief goods in Tacloban City."


"What will happen to the country after PNoy’s term?"


TACLOBAN CITY, NOVEMBER 15, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated November 14, 2013 - 12:25pm 5 478 googleplus2 1

People cover their noses from the stench of dead bodies in an area affected by Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, Philippines, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms on record, slammed into six central Philippine islands on Friday, leaving a wide swath of destruction and thousands of people dead. AP/Dita Alangkara

MANILA, Philippines - A week after Super Typhoon Yolanda lashed the country, the executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) admitted that the government is unprepared for the scale of devastation left by this year's most powerful tropical cyclone.

"We have a concrete system (on typhoon preparedness and response). Ang hindi lang natin napaghandaan ay 'yung ganitong magnitude. Napakalaki," Undersecretary Eduardo del Rosario said in a televised interview with reporters on Thursday.

Compared to previous incidents such as the Zamboanga City standoff, Del Rosario said Yolanda's devastation covers a bigger scope.

"[The Zamboanga standoff] only involves five barangays. We are now talking about regions," Del Rosario said. "Itong tinamaan ni Yolanda ay basically 10 regions."

Del Rosario's reactions came after the government was criticized for allegedly being slow on its relief operations for the thousands affected by Yolanda amid destroyed towns and a death toll - now over 2,000 - that continues to rise.

But Del Rosario said such criticisms are "subjective" and that the government is addressing the gaps in the system.

"The government is doing its best," said Del Rosario, adding that the government is now conducting massive relief goods distribution and operations while utilizing national agencies as local government units have collapsed.

In a phone-patch interview on ANC's Headstart on Thursday, Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin said such criticisms against the government's relief operations are "unfair."

"The relief goods came in... Saturday, immediately after the typhoon. You call that slow?" he said.

But amid the accusations, the Philippine government was praised by Valerie Amos, undersecretary general and emergency relief coordinator of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"Ms. Amos has emphasized that she commends the Philippines Government on their relief efforts so far, under extremely challenging circumstances, and hopes the international community will give generously to the humanitarian response," said Martin Nesirky, the United Nations Spokesperson for the Secretary General.

"[I]t is obvious that this is a devastating catastrophe and many people have yet to receive assistance, which they badly need," Nesirky added. "The logistical constraints are quite considerable, but there is a tremendous effort going on both by the Philippines authorities themselves and by the international community to try to get assistance where it is needed."

According to the NDRRMC's update on Thursday, Yolanda has affected a total of 1.7 million families or over eight million people in 520 towns and 54 cities.

More than half a million people have been displaced after over 230,000 houses were damaged.

A total of 2,357 individuals have been reported dead in the wake of the typhoon while 3,853 people are injured and 77 remain missing.


People bury dead in mass grave, fearing epidemic By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Nov. 14, 2013 at 12:03am

Gruesome sights. Residents cover their noses as they pass Real Street in Tacloban City that is littered with dead bodies. Inset, a resident buries three bloated bodies also on Real Streat. Ver S. Noveno

PALO, LEYTE - People bury dead in mass grave, fearing epidemic By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Nov. 14, 2013 at 12:03am 6 THE residents of the provinces devastated by Super Typhoon “Yolanda” on Wednesday started collecting and burying their dead in mass graves out of fear those would cause an epidemic.

The residents of Palo, Leyte, collected 150 bodies and then buried them in a mass grave near a church.

In Paon village in Esancia, Iloilo, the bodies of 55 unidentified men, believed to be fishermen from Masbate, were also buried in a mass grave on Sunday.

 None of the dead had been identified before burial and more bodies were waiting to be collected and buried—including those in a funeral parlor that remained unattended because the typhoon damaged the parlor severely.

The residents in the devastated provinces have been asking the authorities to remove the bodies out of fear those would cause an outbreak of diseases.

The mass burials took place even as the Department of Health on Wednesday deployed more than a hundred doctors and nurses from Metro Manila and Luzon to the provinces in the Visayas devastated by Yolanda.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona on Wednesday said there had been no reports yet of an epidemic outbreak in any of the areas affected by the typhoon, but they were bracing for more cases of Pneumonia.

“As I said, we have no report yet about it [outbreak] but there will be more reports of pneumonia,” Ona said.

He said it was important that the people who lost their homes to the cyclone be given tents and cots where they could rest.

Pneumonia is among the respiratory diseases caused by heavy rain and flooding.

Ona made his statement even as the World Health Organization’s representative to the Philippines said 40 of the agency’s members were now in the country to help coordinate all international support to the areas ravaged by Yolanda.

“There has been an outpouring of international support to the Philippines and an enormous display of solidarity from the international community to the people of the Philippines,” Julie Hall said.

She said international medical teams were either here or on their way and many more would be coming over.

She said food, water and shelter remained the priorities in the affected areas.

“But relief is coming,” Hall said.

“Supplies are available in the Philippines now. It’s just a matter of getting those access routes open.”

Ona said that, pneumonia aside, the other diseases they were closely watching were diarrhea, fever, skin infections and leptospirosis.

“We have already distributed medicines for the prevention of leptospirosis,” Ona said.

He said his department had also given out 200,000 anti-tetanus shots and thousands of antibiotics.

Govt slow response hit By Joyce Pangco Panares | Nov. 14, 2013 at 12:04am 41 CNN describes relief efforts ‘disorganized’

INTERNATIONAL media on Wednesday slammed the government’s slowness in aiding victims of super typhoon Yolanda, which pulverized provinces in the Visayas five days ago, prompting an admission by President Benigno Aquino III that they have not been as quick to react as they were in previous disasters.

“It’s a miserable, miserable situation here,” said CNN’s Andersen Cooper, who reported from Tacloban City. “It is not getting better day by day... You would expect maybe a feeding center that has been set up five days after the storm. We haven’t seen that, certainly not in this area.”

Relief’s on the way. From left clockwise: Relief goods from the US sit next to a C-130 plane that will take them to Tacloban; members of the recently organized HelpLeyte.PH prepare relief goods to be sent to Leyte province; Indonesian Air Force personnel carry boxes of relief goods to a military plane that will depart Jakarta for Cebu; motorists are stranded as people walk along the Samar-Tacloban City Road to get relief goods in Tacloban City. AFP, Ey Acasio and Ver S. Noveno

His colleague, Paula Hancocks, added in her broadcast from Tacloban: “It is certainly not organized. It’s just a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed.”

Both Cooper and Hancocks described how disorganized the government’s relief efforts were, prompting some hungry residents to turn to looting.

“It looks like the end of the world, for many here it was...The people in Tacloban have great dignity and deserve better than what they have gotten,” Cooper said in his Twitter account.

“The search and rescue never materialized.. There is no real evidence of organized recovery or relief.”

The Guardian’s Tania Branigan noted that “minimal amounts of aid have reached the worst-hit areas.”

“Desperation is growing in the areas hit by typhoon Haiyan (the international name of Yolanda), as heavy rains lash survivors facing a fifth day without food, water or basic medical supplies,” she wrote in her report for the London-based paper.

Cooper, for his part, compared the response of the Japanese government during the earthquake in Fukushima.

“When I was in Japan, right after the tsunami there two years ago, within a day or two, you had Japanese defense forces going out, carving up cities into grids and going out on foot looking for people, walking through the wreckage. We have not seen that here in any kind of large-scale operation,” Cooper said.

The international group Doctors Without Borders described the situation as “total chaos.”

“The situation is catastrophic... Access is extremely difficult and is preventing people from receiving help,” Doctors Without Borders emergency coordinator in the Philippines Natasha Reyes said.

At the damaged Tacloban airport, thousands of people jostled and begged for seats Wednesday on scarce flights out of the flattened city as anger at the slow pace of aid turned deadly.

News emerged that eight people were crushed to death Tuesday when a huge crowd of survivors from Yolanda rushed a government rice store in Alangalang town, 17 kilometers from Tacloban.

“One wall of our warehouses collapsed and eight people were crushed and killed instantly” in Tuesday’s incident, said Rex Estoperez, spokesman for the National Food Authority.

Five days after Yolanda -- one of the strongest storms ever – ripped apart entire coastal communities, the situation in Tacloban was becoming ever more dire with essential supplies low and increasingly desperate survivors clamoring to leave.

“Everyone is panicking,” Capt. Emily Chang, a Navy doctor, said.

“They say there is no food, no water. They want to get of here,” she added, saying doctors at the airport had run out of medicine, including antibiotics.

“We are examining everyone but there’s little we can do until more medical supplies arrive.”

After meeting his Cabinet Wednesday, President Aquino promised “one of the largest logistic and relief operations” in Philippine history, said Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras.

Almendras said part of the plan was to set up Cebu as a centralized hub for incoming aid, with teams from the Bureau of Immigration, the Food and Drug Administration and the Professional Regulatory Commission to oversee the processing of international relief workers, doctors and nurses who are flying in to help.

Almendras admitted authorities had been overwhelmed by the sheer number of deaths.

“The reason the body recovery stopped is because we ran out of body bags,” he said. “But we now have 4,000 bags. I am not saying the casualties are 4,000. We are making sure there is an oversupply.”

Mr. Aquino said 2013 has been “an exceptionally bad year” for the Philippines in terms of disasters, and except for the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda, the government has been effective in delivering relief.

The President said the delivery of aid was hampered by the decimation of local government units.

“Our ability to take care of our problems rather quickly, except in this particular case, the foundation of our efforts rely on the local government units. And unfortunately, two or three were just simply overwhelmed by the degree of this typhoon that affected us,” the President said.

“The problem is when the local government unit who are acting as first responders fail to respond appropriately, then there was that breakdown. People became desperate and that’s why we are trying to fast-track the situation where the national government takes over these local government functions so that order is restored and people gain the confidence that their needs are being addressed and will be addressed fully.”

“But other than that, in the other areas, there was preemptive evacuation and cooperation from the citizenry, which brought down the casualty figures from the other areas affected, except for this corridor in the Leyte and two Samar provinces,” he added.

Mr. Aquino explained that damaged power and communication lines, along with impassable roads, have also prevented authorities from giving immediate succor to the displaced residents.

“Today all of the national roads, I understand, have already been re-opened. We’re already working on the secondary roads, and most of the airports are almost back to normal operating levels,” the President said.

“Still, the sheer number of people that were affected in these three provinces is quite daunting,” he added.

Aquino played down earlier projections that the deaths could reach up to 10,000.

“Ten thousand, I think, is too much. And perhaps that was also brought about by being in the center of the destruction. There was emotional trauma involved with that particular estimate, quoting both a police official and a local government official. They were too close to the incident. They did not have basis for it,” he said.

“So far, 2,000 to about 2,500 is the figure we are working on as far as deaths are concerned. But this might still get higher,” Aquino added.

The President said the casualty count has yet to be established in about 29 municipalities.

In a separate interview, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras admitted that the government cannot yet give a target date as to when all survivors will be able to receive aid.

“I would like to give you a date and a time if possible, but it is not within the national government’s control as to how effectively we can hit the ground. There are places which are very remote, which we need to know also so that we can reach them,” Almendras said.

Almendras said he also received a text message that some relief did not reach the residents because of “political considerations.”

But he quickly added that it was an unverified report. “I am not saying it is confirmed. (But if it is), this is a great disservice to the people.”

Despite the growing criticism of the slow response, the President expressed confidence that life would soon return to normalcy in the affected areas.

“The well of strength and compassion that characterizes us as a nation has time and again proven to be bottomless. Solidarity born of faith and prayer, combined with a steadfast resolve, is showing the world that nothing can make the Filipino spirit yield,” he said.

“The Almighty has granted us the resilience to withstand such tragedies, secure in our belief that God will continue to guide us as we provide care for our countrymen, rebuild our nation, and prepare for the future,” the President added.

But at the airport, journalists from the Agence France-Presse agency witnessed exhausted and famished survivors pushing and shoving each other to get on one of the few flights out of the city.

“We have been here for three days and we still cannot get to fly out,” said a frail Angeline Conchas, who was waiting for space on a plane with her 7-year-old daughter Rogiel Ann.

Her family were trapped on the second floor of their building as flood waters rose around them.

“We made it out, but now we may die from hunger.”

The UN estimates more than 11.3 million people have been affected with 673,000 made homeless, since Yolanda smashed into the nation’s central islands on Friday.

Overwhelmed and under-resourced rescue workers have been unable to provide food, water, medicines, shelter and other relief supplies to many survivors, and desperation has been building across the disaster zones. With AFP


CONCERN: What will happen to the country after PNoy’s term?

Surviving a post-Aquino scenario
November 13, 2013 8:36 pm MANILA TIMES COMMENTARY


What will happen to the country after PNoy’s term?

This is a concern I heard from one bank executive while thinking aloud.

How do you make sure that reforms that have been initiated will continue beyond the term of PNoy?

The answer of course is to make the reforms not personality–based. This is also one of the staple questions asked in various discussions, according to Trade Secretary Greg Domingo.

And his staple answer is major reforms have all been institutionalized through laws such that future administrations have no way to go but pursue the reforms introduced.

Secretary Domingo has just recently returned from a trip that took him to several countries in Europe and Asia on a mission to invite more investors to the Philippines. Of course, he is not in competition with PEZA Director General Lilia de Lima who also was on a road show of the Scandinavian countries, and successful too.

News about the Philippines moving up 30 notches in the World Bank report on Ease of Doing Business was a welcome treat. Of course, the target has always been to land in the top third from bottom third or no.63 countries out of 189 countries by 2016.

Major gains have been in the areas of resolving insolvency, getting credit, and getting electricity or three of eleven items MSMEs need to contend with in the conduct of their business.

Indeed, it would be nice if we are able to land in the top third of countries in the next round but it would be nicer if the jobs our people have been hoping for finally sees the day. Naiinip na po kasi ang mga tao eh!

Recent calamities have shown the Filipinos’ indomitable spirit and resiliency. Each time, we rise up and pick up the pieces. I am sure the country will survive a post-Aquino scenario. Not that we consider his rule in the same vein as a calamity.

God is Great!

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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