U.N. ADMITS FAILURE TO REACH VICTIMS / CHAOS SPREADS TO SORSOGON

ALSO: BUCK STOPS WITH P-NOY, NO EXCUSE FOR SLOW RESPONSE - MILITANTS

Questioned about the slow pace of aid, the President’s men echoed Mr. Aquino. “As I have said, nothing is fast enough in a situation like this,” said Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II. “In our framework, the local government unit is the first responder. The national government [is] supposed to come at Day 2 or Day 3 to be able to support that.”

ALSO: POLICE OFFICIAL WHO REPORTED ESTIMATED OVER 10,000 FATALITY WAS FIRED

However, EASTERN VISAYAS POLICE CHIEF Soria’s assessment had a semblance of truth as many devastated areas had yet to be reached. Being the police commander of Eastern Visayas, he knew the region well. “He could be correct in his assessment but he expressed his views too soon without any documents to back this claim,” the official said. Of 983 policemen of the regional headquarters in Palo, Leyte, only 34 have so far been accounted for, with the remaining 949 officially declared as missing.


U.N. ADMITS FAILURE TO REACH VICTIMS / CHAOS SPREADS TO SORSOGON
 


UN Humanitarian chief Valerie Amos Photo By Rene Dilan

TACLOBAN CITY, NOVEMBER 15, 2013 (MANILA TIMES) by Bernice Camille V. Bauzon and Volt Palaña Reporters -
Baroness Valerie Amos, United Nations under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency who is leading the agency’s relief efforts in the Philippines, expressed frustration over the speed at which humanitarian and logistical aid are trickling into the disaster areas.

“I think we are all extremely distressed. This is day six and we are still not able to reach everyone. My people on the ground, they are personally concerned they are not able to reach the people,” she said.

Some of the supplies the United Nations have for the victims remain stuck in Manila because of the minimal air assets that can transport the relief aid.

“We are not able to get our resources to Tacloban and other areas. It is a frustration . . . because part of the job I have is to recognize the challenges and overcome those challenges,” she said.

The UN official noted that even Philippine government officials feel the same way.

Amos said there is a shortage of vehicles for waste management, so debris and blocked roads cannot be cleared yet. This makes it doubly challenging for humanitarian and relief aid to reach the affected people.

“I do feel we have let people down because we are not able to get in more quickly,” she lamented.

“Every disaster is different and unique to the country to which it occurs. Given the number of disasters that have happened in the Philippines just this year, it is all the more difficult for humanitarian and government to cope,” Amos said.

“Our capacity is stretched. We are still dealing with other disasters and also the supplies are run down.”

But despite the hardship being endured by the typhoon victims, Amos said that the people are holding up because of their resiliency.

“Tens of thousands of people are living in open or sheltering in the remains of their homes and badly damaged public buildings, exposed to rain and wind. Many have lost loved ones, homes, livelihood. Medical facilities for those were injured; food, clean water and basic sanitation are urgently required,” she said.

“There are many challenges ahead. We talk constantly about the resilience of the Filipino people. Yesterday, I saw it personally. People with absolutely nothing are doing their best to regain some degree of normality. We all must do much more now to ensure they receive the help they desperately need and support required to rebuild their lives,” she added.

Situation improving

But Amos said that the delivery of aid will improve with the arrival of aircraft with life-saving supplies, including 2,500 metric tons of energy biscuits from the World Food Program (WFP).

“The immediate priority for humanitarian agencies over the next few days is to scale up the relief operation on the ground. Transporting and distributing food, tarpaulins, tents, and other shelter and non-food items to ensure the people are protected have basic necessities,” she added.

Amos said humanitarian aid will also reach other areas hit by the typhoon such as Guiuan in Samar and Ormoc City.

She also lauded Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman for leading the national relief effort.

The Haiyan (Yolanda) Action Plan is targeting to get $301 million humanitarian aid to help the million disaster victims to their immediate need as of November 12 the plan is 14 percent funded.

Based on combined data of the Disaster Response Operations Monitoring and Information Center (DROMIC) and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), 11.8 million people were affected, with 2,357 dead, 3,853 injured and 77 missing.

Difficult

Amos explained that the capacity to reach the people in need all became more difficult because local officials have also been affected by the typhoon.

“The key element is that local officials should be the first to respond, but they themselves lost people. The local capacity on the ground should be doing a huge amount of work,” the UN official said.

“But that capacity was lost. We have to remember that even the mayor almost lost his wife. People are besides themselves looking for family members,” Amos said.

The failure to forecast the storm surge, which brought waves up to three meters in height, also added to the task at hand as it completely obliterated everything on its path.

She said that in other areas where the typhoon passed but were not hit by the storm surge, the damage was something “people have dealt with in previous crisis.”

A task force has been created to address the issues, but “massive effort is needed” in terms of removing the debris and clearing the roads.

Amos was also quick to point out that the United Nations is certainly not forgetting the aid needed by other affected areas.

“Other regions suffered severe losses and damage and have not fallen off our priority list,” she said.

Provinces outside Tacloban City affected by the typhoon and the accompanying storm surge were Roxas City, Samar and Ormoc, among others. Some areas in Palawan were also destroyed.

Amos expects the situation to pick up in the coming days as foreign aid and those from the central government are beginning to enter the devastated areas.

Countries like Australia, the United States, United Kingdom and Singapore have also sent air assets to help in the transportation and the delivery of relief aid.

The United Nations has 100 people on the ground.

“I can see operations scaling up significantly. Today and in the coming days, things will get better as logistical capacity increases and facilities at the airport continue to improve,” she said.

Amos, however, reiterated that “much more [effort and aid] is required.”

FROM MANILA STANDARD

Buck stops with PNoy’ By Joyce Pangco Panares | Nov. 15, 2013 at 12:04am 7 MANILA STANDARD

Militants: No excuse for slow response


MILITANTS on Thursday said the buck stops with President Benigno Aquino III, whom they blamed for the slow pace at which the government was bringing aid to the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda.

A Palace spokesman said the administration welcomed criticism, but the President’s men defended their actions in the typhoon-devastated city of Tacloban, which international journalists said showed “no real evidence of organized recovery or relief” five days after Yolanda struck.


Day 6. Workers of the National Food Authority carry sacks of rice for loading into 10-wheeler trucks that will take them to the Ateneo University in Quezon City for repacking for the typhoon victims in Leyte and Samar. The photo at the bottom shows Tacloban City residents lining up to receive rice while the people in the background ransack a warehouse for food. Manny Palmero and Ver S. Noveno

“We will gladly welcome all criticisms and suggestions on how to further improve our disaster response system,” said Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, after CNN and other foreign news organizations slammed the government’s slow response in the Visayas.

“Every experience will serve as a bridge for a more organized and systematic process of delivering aid in the future.”

Coloma said the administration would not pass the buck and would apply the lessons it learned to improve its disaster management and response.

“We never said we would not be prone to mistakes. But what I can say is that we never intentionally neglected our duties,” he added.

But the militant umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said there was no excuse for the government’s slow response.

“The President and the national government are ultimately responsible for the relief and rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of Yolanda. This becomes increasingly true as the local governments in affected areas are hardly functioning as a result of the severe impact of the storm,” Bayan said in a statement.

“The growing international criticisms are valid since much needed aid has failed to reach many storm-ravaged areas. These criticisms should push the government to do more in the face of the worsening humanitarian crisis in the affected areas,” the group added.

Earlier, CNN reporters Anderson Cooper and Paula Hancocks, who are in Tacloban City, described how disorganized the government’s relief efforts were.

“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.”

In his television report, Cooper said: “It’s a miserable, miserable situation here. 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.”

Hancocks, in her report, said: “It is certainly not organized. It’s just a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed.”

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 (Yolanda’s international name), as heavy rains lash survivors facing a fifth day without food, water or basic medical supplies,” she wrote in her London-based paper.

Cooper said the slowness of the Philippine government contrasted with how the Japanese handled the Fukushima earthquake in 2011.

“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.

In an earlier interview with CNN, the President put the onus on local governments that he said failed to respond.

“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 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.”

Questioned about the slow pace of aid, the President’s men echoed Mr. Aquino.

“As I have said, nothing is fast enough in a situation like this,” said Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II. “In our framework, the local government unit is the first responder. The national government [is] supposed to come at Day 2 or Day 3 to be able to support that.”

Earlier, Roxas’ wife, ABS-CBN news anchor Korina Sanchez, stirred up angry public reactions when she cast doubt on the accuracy of CNN’s reporting in Tacloban City.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the national government was already running the show in Tacloban City and denied reports that it was slow in bringing aid to typhoon survivors.

He called Cooper’s observations unfair, and dismissed a report that there was no sense of urgency at Villamor Airbase, where the country’s C-130s are housed.

“I don’t think it’s an accurate observation. The C130s have been flying up to the time they’re able to fly,” he told the ANC news channel.

He also blamed logistical problems for the lack of shelters and feeding centers five days after Yolanda hit land.

“We’re already addressing that, the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) is looking for tents available since most are in Bohol used by the earthquake victims,” he said.

He also said the Public Works and Highways Department was looking for areas in the affected communities where the government can put up temporary shelters.

He did not give a timetable, however, saying only that these would be done “as soon as possible.”

Gazmin said the search for bodies, which littered the city and have remained uncollected, has started.

“Initially, we gave priority to the living…Two days ago, we started operations for the retrieval of cadavers. We have mobilized the Bureau of Fire Protection, the military…We do have problems because of the debris,” he said.

He also said the increase in the number of police and soldiers addressed the instances of looting and other peace and order concerns.

Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras earlier declared that President Aquino is in charge of all relief and rehabilitation efforts.

“The [one] calling the shots is actually the President and the Cabinet members,” Almendras said at a press briefing Wednesday.

He described the effort as “one of the largest logistic and relief operations that the Philippine government has ever done in history.”

Almendras said Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman was “on the ground to make sure that the distribution [of relief] happens.”

FROM PHILSTAR

Chaos spreads to Sorsogon By Rainier Alan Ronda and Jonathan Carson (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 15, 2013 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The usually sleepy port of Matnog in Sorsogon is now a scene of chaos as thousands struggle for limited space on ships carrying relief goods bound for Yolanda-ravaged Leyte and Samar.

Getting to the port complex yesterday was a challenge in itself as dozens of vehicles clogged more than three kilometers’ stretch of highway leading to the pier.

A Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) policy giving priority to vehicles carrying large volume of aid was reportedly getting on the nerves of bus passengers waiting for their turn to board RoRo (roll on, roll off) vessels bound for Tacloban.

The port of Ormoc has reopened, PPA said.

Rosenda Sumagaysay, PPA port management office director for Legazpi City, Albay said the situation had been chaotic since last week, or even before the onslaught of Yolanda when PPA suspended shipping operations as a precautionary measure. PPA Legazpi City has jurisdiction over the Matnog port.

By Wednesday, Sumagaysay said Leyte and Samar-bound passengers began to arrive in droves. “This is the only route going to Samar and Leyte,” Sumagaysay pointed out.

“All of us here have not slept properly since Thursday,” she said, adding that Matnog port was understaffed.

“Today is not an ordinary day. We are in a crisis,” she lamented, but added they were doing the best they could to ease the situation.

She said that they had asked the PPA leadership to send some personnel from Manila or Batangas to beef up the workforce in Matnog. Sumagaysay said she would stick to the PPA policy of giving priority to trucks carrying relief goods over RoRo buses with passengers carrying provisions for their families.

“Some people are already crying, begging us to give them space inside,” Sumagaysay bewailed.

Carol Mendezabal, Matnog PPA Terminal Management Office division chief, said the congestion was unavoidable considering the surge of people heading for Tacloban City and Samar.

Compounding the problem was the fewer number of ships, from the original 12 vessels to only eight, she said. The four, she said, were on dry dock for repair and maintenance.

She said the number of departures last Wednesday was only 14 as against the 22 to 26 during normal times. Furthermore, some 600 vehicles had assembled at the port since the resumption of operations to take their turn to be allowed on RoRo vessels, from the usual weekly average of 200. With Lawrence Agcaoili

Police official sacked over 10,000 fatality estimate (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 15, 2013 - 12:00am 1 37 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The police general who said Super Typhoon Yolanda could have left 10,000 people dead was ordered relieved from his post yesterday.

Eastern Visayas police (PRO8) regional director Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria was quoted as saying that 10,000 people could have perished in Tacloban City alone, citing the extent of the damage brought by the monster storm in the city.

“He was relieved of his command as PRO8 director,” an official revealed, adding that Soria would be replaced by his military academy classmate, Chief Superintendent Henry Losañes, currently head of the PNP Maritime Group.

The PNP leadership has yet to announce Soria’s relief, but sources said Losañes will take over in the next few days, as soon as he could get a flight to the region.

A police official said the relief had nothing to do with Soria’s statements, but was done to allow him to take a break after the tragedy.

Soria incurred the ire of government officials for expressing his view on Yolanda’s rampage in Eastern Visayas.

Soria’s belief that 10,000 people could have died in the super storm made headlines in international and local news, quoting him as the source of the information.

Malacañang and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) immediately belied the fatality reports, describing these as without basis.

President Aquino himself downplayed the death toll, saying it could not exceed 10,000 and that the government is looking at 2,000 to 2,500 deaths, which he said is more realistic.

PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima clarified that the reported 10,000 deaths remain unconfirmed.

Purisima said he would call the attention of Soria to verify the basis for his statement.

Purisima said police officers should remember that any pronouncement should be supported by hard evidence.

“We rely on the actual body count, we do not rely on perception reports or anecdotal reports,” he said.

He said policemen should only state the number of deaths if they saw the bodies, buried them and after making the report to the NDRRMC.

“We are not trying to hide anything here, but what we want is the factual report and not speculation,” Purisima said.

However, Soria’s assessment had a semblance of truth as many devastated areas had yet to be reached. Being the police commander of Eastern Visayas, he knew the region well.

“He could be correct in his assessment but he expressed his views too soon without any documents to back this claim,” the official said.

Of 983 policemen of the regional headquarters in Palo, Leyte, only 34 have so far been accounted for, with the remaining 949 officially declared as missing.

A disaster official admitted the official NDRRMC list of 2,357 fatalities only represented the bodies recovered by the local government units.

As of yesterday, there are still many corpses to be retrieved in Tacloban and nearby Samar, posing health hazards to hundreds of hungry storm survivors.

The official said the number of fatalities could even double or even surpass the 10,000 estimate by Soria if all the bodies strewn across Tacloban are accounted for by the NDRRMC. – Jaime Laude, Non Alquitran, Cecille Suerte Felipe


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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