NY TIMES/REUTERS: AQUINO FACES GROWING ANGER

A newspaper columnist ridiculed top officials, among them the nation’s defense secretary, for flying to the disaster zone without working phones. He noted that one of the first military planes to land was carrying a van – which could not be used on Leyte Island’s debris-clogged roads. “In the aftermath of the typhoon, the response of the Aquino administration, as usual, has been an uncoordinated, fumbling embarrassment,” he wrote.

ALSO: BINAY: 80 TO 85% OF CAPIZ DAMAGED

Binay said that compared to Iloilo province which he also visited, Capiz suffered more damage.

ALSO: NEW TACLOBAN SHOULD BE BUILT ON HIGHER GROUND

Because the city sits at the head of a bay, it absorbed the full force of the super typhoon.




TACLOBAN CITY, NOVEMBER 15, 2013
(MANILA BULLETIN) by The New York Times & Reuters – Six days after a devastating super typhoon swept through the Visayas, Filipinos are losing patience with the slow relief effort, increasingly angry with President Benigno S. Aquino III, a popular figure who has until now navigated multiple crises during his three years in office.

The heir to a political dynasty, Aquino, 53, is facing the biggest challenge of his presidency, and even allies say he appears to have been caught off guard by the scope of the crisis.

“He has to move fast, otherwise this will engulf him,” said Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, a veteran politician.

Although planes have begun arriving with badly needed supplies, much of the aid remains undistributed because of impassable roads, a dearth of working vehicles, and inadequate access to fuel.

‘It’s Total Chaos’

“The situation is catastrophic; it’s total chaos,” Dr. Natasha Reyes, the Philippines emergency coordinator for “Doctors Without Borders,” said in a statement.

Mr. Aquino flew to the devastated city of Tacloban on Sunday, but his public statements have struck some as insensitive.

He lashed out at looters and seemed to criticize local officials for their initial failure to help the living and count the dead. Some critics say he has held fast to national pride rather than issue forceful appeals for international assistance.

While international relief efforts have picked up, many petrol station owners whose businesses were spared have refused to reopen, leaving little fuel for trucks needed to move supplies and medical teams around the devastated areas nearly a week after typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) struck.

‘It’s Scary’

“There are still bodies on the road,” said Alfred Romualdez, mayor of the devastated Leyte capital of Tacloban.

“It’s scary. There is a request from a community to come and collect bodies, they say it’s five or 10. When we get there it’s 40.”

The scarcity of trucks presented grim options. “The choice is to use the same truck either to distribute food or collect bodies,” he added.

The city government remains decimated, with just 70 workers compared to 2,500 normally, he added. Many were killed, injured, lost family or were simply too overcome with grief to work.

Anger, Frustration

Anger and frustration has been boiling over as essential supplies fail to reach many of those in need. Food and other goods have stacked up at the airport in Tacloban, for instance.

Some areas have appeared to teeter near anarchy amid widespread looting of shops and warehouses for food and water.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) described a bleak situation in Guiuan, home to 45,000 people.

“People are living out in the open … The needs are immense and there are a lot of surrounding villages that are not yet covered by any aid organizations,” Alexis Moens, MSF’s assessment team leader, said in a statement.

Relief Aid Distributed

But Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, concurrent chairman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said food, water, and other life-saving basic supplies have started cascading down to the typhoon-ravaged communities as roads were cleared and communications were re-established in the provinces of Samar and Leyte.

Gazmin said relief items are now regularly being flown using six C-130 planes and transported to the three logistics hubs in Ormoc and Tacloban in Leyte, and Guiuan in Eastern Samar.

“The plan for today (Thursday) is to saturate logistics hubs and from there moved to the areas that were not reached before because of the lack of communication,” said Gazmin in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel.

“We will try to reach the farthest municipality and bring in the goods,” he added.

And based on the latest update, NDRRMC Executive Director Eduardo del Rosario said the transport and distribution of relief items are now doing well, especially in hardest-hit areas.

Aquino In Spotlight

Aquino has been on the defensive over his government’s preparations ahead of the storm given repeated warnings of its projected strength and now the pace of relief efforts.

He has said the death toll might have been higher had it not been for the evacuation of people and the readying of relief supplies.

The Philippines formally asked Washington for help on Saturday, one day after the storm slammed into cities and towns in the central Philippines, the US State Department said.

Aquino has also stoked debate over the extent of the casualties, citing a much lower death toll than the 10,000 estimated by local authorities. As of yesterday, NDRRMC said the death toll has already reached a total of 2,357, with 3,853 injured.

Tacloban city administrator Tecson John Lim, who previously estimated 10,000 people likely died in Tacloban alone, said Aquino may be deliberately downplaying casualties.

“Of course he doesn’t want to create too much panic. Perhaps he is grappling with whether he wants to reduce the panic so that life goes on,” he said.

The preliminary number of missing as of Thursday, according to the Red Cross, remained 22,000. It has cautioned that number could include people who have since been located.

More the 544,600 people have been displaced by the storm and nearly 12 percent of the population directly affected, the United Nations said.

‘Emotional Trauma’

On Tuesday, Aquino played down reports that the death toll could exceed 10,000, suggesting 2,000 might be more realistic. In an interview with CNN, he attributed the larger figure to the “emotional trauma” experienced by those providing the estimates.

Ramon C. Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform in Manila, said the debate over casualty figures was becoming an unnecessary distraction. “I don’t believe the lower figures put out by officials, but if the number turns out to be greater, you’re going to have a political backlash,” he said.

‘But You Did Not Die, Right?’

During a meeting with officials in Tacloban, the President expressed annoyance at his top disaster management official and grew peevish when a local business owner complained of being held up at gunpoint by looters.

“But you did not die, right?” Aquino snapped, according to local news media reports, shortly before presidential guards ushered the man out of the room.

No Working Phone

A newspaper columnist ridiculed top officials, among them the nation’s defense secretary, for flying to the disaster zone without working phones. He noted that one of the first military planes to land was carrying a van – which could not be used on Leyte Island’s debris-clogged roads.

“In the aftermath of the typhoon, the response of the Aquino administration, as usual, has been an uncoordinated, fumbling embarrassment,” he wrote.

No Comment – NYT

The president’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Until now Mr. Aquino, popularly referred to as Noynoy, had a remarkably smooth tenure as the leader of nation long derided as “the sick man of Asia.” The son of former president Corazon C. Aquino and former senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr., a beloved political figure who was assassinated in 1983, Mr. Aquino has earned high marks by taking on the endemic corruption that has long bedeviled the Philippines. Among his most notable achievements was a landmark peace accord with the nation’s largest group of Muslim separatists that had evaded his predecessors. (With a report from Aaron B. Recuenco)

Enormous Task

But few would deny that Mr. Aquino has been dealt a difficult hand in recent months. In September, the government was caught off guard after a splinter group of Muslim insurgents seized a city in the south, prompting a battle with the army that left more than 200 people dead and destroyed 10,000 homes. There have also been back-to-back natural disasters, including an earthquake last month that killed more than 200 people on Bohol, an island that was battered again last week by typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan). Last year, typhoon “Pablo” (Bopha) killed more than 1,100 people in Mindanao, causing $900 million in damage.

Then there is an unfolding corruption scandal involving more than $200 million in public money that ended up in the pockets of elected officials, and a businesswoman accused of setting up fake nongovernmental organizations. Investigators said some of those funds had been earmarked for flood prevention and projects that would have re-housed vulnerable residents living in storm-prone coastal areas.

Under Siege By Nature

“We’re already a country under siege by nature, and we have no money to spend on disaster preparation because all our high officials are stealing from us,” said Senator Santiago, who conducted televised hearings on the scandal last week that transfixed the nation just as the storm was approaching.

For the moment, however, all eyes are focused on Mr. Aquino and his administration’s response to the latest natural calamity. That effort will require him to navigate the clannish politics of a region traditionally loyal to the Marcos family, including Imelda Marcos, 84, the wife of former President Ferdinand Marcos who is a member of the House of Representatives.

$14-B Loss

Initial estimates put the devastation at $14 billion, an enormous sum for a country with a gross domestic product of $250 billion, and where a quarter of all residents live on less than $1.25 a day. Mars S. Buan, a senior analyst at Pacific Strategies and Assessments, said Yolanda and the earthquake that struck Bohol last month would probably depress economic output by 5 percent in the final quarter of 2013. “No one was prepared for this kind of disaster,” she said.

Although Ms. Buan and other analysts credit the Aquino administration for increased spending on disaster preparation, there are some who say the nation has to do a better job planning for storms, especially if the predictions of some climate scientists – who warn of increasingly powerful storms fueled by warming seas – prove correct.

Having been warned days in advance about the route and strength of the typhoon, some critics say the government should have evacuated residents from coastal areas, noting India’s successful evacuation last month of more than 800,000 people in the path of Cyclone Phailin. In the end, only a few dozen deaths were reported.

Short-Term Relief

Benito Lim, a political analyst at Ateneo de Manila University, said the Philippine government had long been focused on short-term relief rather than long-range planning.

“The government thinks it’s enough to give out packages of noodles, cans of sardines and rice,” he said. “The problem is that suffering by the poor has become a normal thing in the Philippines.” (With a report from Aaron B. Recuenco)

Binay: 80 to 85% of Capiz damaged by ‘Yolanda’ by Jc Bello Ruiz November 14, 2013 MANILA BULLETIN

Vice President Jejomar Binay said Thursday that 80 to 85 percent of the province of Capiz have been damaged by super typhoon Yolanda.

The vice president was able to talk to Capiz Governor Vic Tanco Thursday when he visited the province to assess the damage wrought by the powerful storm and determine the needs of the affected residents.

Binay said that compared to Iloilo province which he also visited, Capiz suffered more damage.

“Kanina nandoon ho kami hanggang sa Passi, nag-ikot ikot ho kami sa Iloilo. Pero, mas grabe ho dito. Kada bayan namin na dinaanan, I understand mga 80-85 percent dito sa Capiz nasira [A while ago, we were in Passi, we roamed around Iloilo. But, (the damage) here is worse. Every town that we passed by, I understand why 80-85 percent in Capiz have been damaged],” Binay said in an interview in Roxas City.

Debris and fallen electric posts marred roads while many houses were heavily damaged, he shared.

Binay also went around Dumarao, Cuartero, Dao and Roxas City in Capiz.

In Iloilo, he visited Zarraga, Barotac Nuevo, Pototan, Banate, Estancia, Concepcion and Passi City.

As housing czar, Binay assured officials that the national government will help survivors of the super typhoon rebuild their homes or resettle to safer locations.

FROM MANILA TIMES

New Tacloban must be built on higher ground November 14, 2013 9:32 pm
by Ritchie A. Horario Reporter

THE unprecedented horror that befell Tacloban City should prod officials to seriously consider rebuilding the city on higher and safer ground so that it withstand another typhoon as powerful as Yolanda, a renowned urban planner said.

Architect Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr. said that if he were to spearhead the rehabilitation of Tacloban, he would transform the city into the world’s center for climate change.

Tacloban is in the northeastern part of the island of Leyte with a land area of 201.7 square kilometers. The city, a port town, has 138 barangays. Like many places in the Philippines, much of Tacloban is low-lying. The spit of land on which the airport stands is well below five meters below sea level.

Because the city sits at the head of a bay, it absorbed the full force of the super typhoon.

Palafox said he would relocate the city to higher ground to spare it from storm surges whipped up by monster storms.
“Let’s locate the city to high ground, at least 10 meters above ground, also away from the fault line,” he told The Manila Times.

Many of the deaths in Yolanda were attributed to the tsunami-like surge that swamped entire communities.

Palafox said that structures in the new Tacloban should not only be disaster-resilient but also adapt to climate change.
“The new buildings in the city should be designed to address our problems in climate change,” he said.

He said the city’s seaport and airport, which were destroyed by Yolanda, should be improved to meet international standards.

The province should also have a strong, disaster-proof evacuation area.

He noted that most of the designated evacuation centers where people sought refuge were not spared from the wrath of the super typhoon.

With global attention centered on Tacloban, Palafox said this is the right time to make it as the world’s center for climate change.

The architect is willing to take part in the planning or remaking of a new Tacloban City.

United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos admitted that Tacloban needs to be rebuilt from the ground but it is impossible to say at this time as to how much will be needed for reconstruction and rebuilding efforts.

“It is far too soon to tell. This is a city devastated,” she said.

For now, what the local and national government can do is to identify the immediate needs for rehabilitation and reconstruction, so that details can be threshed out later on.

She said that it will take about six months before the city is cleared and prepped for rebuilding. And even then, the cost of the damage can be too extreme to be assessed in an instant.

Amos said that United Nations is working together with the government to estimate the cost of the city’s rehabilitation.

The people, she said, would also need to do their share in rebuilding the city and communities


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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