Coloma said President Aquino is directly in charge of the entire relief operation. Coloma said the command structure of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) showed Aquino was on top, aided by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras. The main men after them are Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and NDRRMC chief Eduardo del Rosario, he added.


Storm of criticisms spurs gov’t to speed up relief. “It’s ridiculous,” Mar Roxas told the Inquirer when asked about the criticism in the press over the slow government response to survivors’ plea for help. “Against what standards are they saying we are slow? Is it Hurricane ‘Katrina?’ Is it the tsunami in Indonesia? Is it the tsunami in Fukushima, Japan?” Roxas said. Who’s calling the shots? Roxas said it was Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, as chair of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), and he, as its vice chair.


Survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda wave to relief workers and doctors being transported in an Air Force helicopter in Hernani, Eastern Samar yesterday. AP

(PHILSTAR) By Paolo Romero -  “De facto martial law” is in effect in Leyte and its capital Tacloban as authorities try to contain looting and secure relief goods being sent to areas that have yet to be reached a week after Super Typhoon Yolanda struck, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said yesterday.

“(Martial law) is de facto, meaning it’s in place even if there’s no technical paper legalizing it,” Roxas told CNN’s Andrew Stevens.

He said the Philippine National Police (PNP) is enforcing the security measures.

“We have brought an additional 1,000 PNP from outside,” Roxas said.

He said even the curfew in Tacloban City was de facto as the city council could not raise a quorum to discuss the issue since some of its members were casualties of the typhoon.

Roxas issued the statement as reports of looting and people dying of hunger continued to come in.

In Isabel, Leyte, an 88-year-old man died waiting for relief goods, his daughter Wilma Lumanglas said.

On Tuesday, a wall of a warehouse of the National Food Authority collapsed, crushing eight people to death as hungry villagers swarmed the structure and carted away sacks of rice.

Tacloban City has a force of 293 policemen, but a day after Yolanda struck, only 20 reported for duty. On Wednesday, only 30 more showed up.

“They are also victims, they lost their shelters, and are looking for their loved ones,” Roxas said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday said it sent additional troops and several helicopters to Tacloban City and other parts of Leyte.

Roxas assured the public that government is doing everything it can to hasten the distribution of aid to remote areas and stabilize peace and order in starving communities.

“We want to assure the people that the entire force of President P-Noy (Aquino) is looking after the people here,” Roxas said, as he tried to dispel criticisms that the flow of aid remains excruciatingly slow.

“Nothing is fast enough in a situation like this. The point is everything we have, if this were a gun, all bullets are being deployed. If this is a fire hose, all hoses are being deployed. Slowly, as we’re clearing the streets, we’re able to reach the people in the interior,” he said.

Roxas also explained that the local government unit was supposed to be the first to respond to the disaster.

“What happened is that the local government unit, not just here in Tacloban but in many of the communities in Leyte, was basically, literally swept away,” he said.

“What you see here is multiplied a thousand times by all the other localities inside,” he said.

He said there are 40 towns in Leyte and half of them have yet to be reached by aid. However, authorities are hoping to reach the isolated towns today.

Roxas admitted the entry and processing of relief goods had been “chaotic.”

“There are no baggage tags. The supplies just come in unmarked boxes,” Roxas said.

The Department of Health (DOH), for its part, has implemented price control on 200 drugs to ensure the availability of supplies for the victims.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the price control takes effect immediately and covers all private and public drug retail outlets, including hospital pharmacies nationwide.

Be accurate

President Aquino appealed to media for “greater accuracy” in reporting the tragedy.

In a speech read by Press Secretary Herminio Coloma, the President said accuracy of reports is sometimes being sacrificed “at the altar of a catchier headline or a more intriguing lead.”

Coloma read the speech before the national convention of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas at Clark Freeport in Pampanga.

“The entire country, even the rest of the world, is relying on the flow of information that you help provide,” Coloma said.

“In the same way that you have used your media coverage to give this disaster a very real human face and to move others to action, you can also use your role to uplift the spirits of the Filipino people, to find stories of resilience, of hope, of faith, and show the world how strong the Filipino people are,” he said.

Coloma said the government would put up an emergency broadcast facility in Tacloban City to facilitate information dissemination.

This will serve as a communication facility for survivors to look for their missing relatives, as well as to ensure faster delivery of goods.

Coloma also said authorities are preparing burial sites, but the mass burials would take into account the sensibilities of the families of the deceased.

He said the DOH, the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the AFP are coordinating to identify and prepare the appropriate burial sites.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is repacking two million food packs within two weeks to intensify relief operations.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said the DSWD has started distributing 40,000 metric tons of high-energy biscuits from the World Food Program.

Some 5,692 food packs and 520 rice packs were also distributed in Leyte.

The distribution of additional 2,480 sacks of rice will be completed today, she said.

Some eight truckloads containing 7,200 food packs and 7,200 1-liter bottles of water were dispatched yesterday to affected towns in Leyte.

Aquino yesterday visited several repacking centers of the DSWD at the Air 21 cargo house and Air Force gym at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City and the Ateneo covered courts in Quezon City.

This came amid reports that some repacking centers are not orderly and volunteers are being turned away because there are too many of them.

The government said additional repacking centers would be established to ensure continuous flow of goods.

How about us?

A week after the typhoon, Samar province still has not received aid from the national government.

Christine Caidic, acting head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, lamented that assistance seems to be pouring into Tacloban but not to Samar, which was also devastated by Yolanda.

“The relief operations of the PDRRMC have been going on but nothing is coming from the outside. The Red Cross is here but there’s still none (from the national government),” she said.

Caidic said the provincial government is relying on pledges of non-governmental organizations, church groups and a contingent from Camarines Sur.

Hardest hit in Samar are the towns of Marubut and Basey, where so far 121 and 585 dead have been found. In Basey, only 158 of the dead have been identified.

Caidic said a mass burial was made the other day but the bodies were not placed in body bags since none has been provided by the national government.

Caidic said the town is using its own resources to help the victims as they wait for the national government to take notice.

Capiz, too

Vice President Jejomar Binay pointed out that Capiz was 85 percent destroyed by the typhoon.

“We conducted an inspection in Iloilo. But it is more serious here. I understand that 80 to 85 percent of Capiz was destroyed,” he said.

Binay said affected residents may avail of the government’s housing programs. Pag-IBIG Fund has deployed roving officers in affected areas to make it easier for members to avail of housing assistance.

Former first lady and now Ilocos Rep. Imelda Marcos expressed concern over the devastation in her home province of Leyte.

“With great concern, of course, and we are keeping her apprised of the situation on the ground and what we have been doing to help,” said Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. –Sheila Crisostomo, Aurea Calica, Ding Cervantes, Christina Mendez, Jose Rodel Clapano

‘Next time, response will be perfect’ By Delon Porcalla and Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 15, 2013 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus0 0

US soldiers assist an elderly woman at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City where a USAF C-130 carrying typhoon victims from Tacloban City landed yesterday. VAL RODRIGUEZ

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang welcomed yesterday criticisms from foreign journalists on the relief operations for victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Speaking to reporters, Press Secretary Herminio Coloma said the criticisms give the administration an opportunity to do better.

He said the problems in disaster response were “borne out of severe constraints.”

“We welcome all criticisms,” he said, “so that we can make (the response) perfect the next time around.”

Coloma said President Aquino is directly in charge of the entire relief operation.

“The President ordered all members of the Cabinet to focus on and coordinate the actions of the different government agencies to improve and hasten the delivery of help to as many families and communities as possible in the affected provinces,” he said.

Coloma said the command structure of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) showed Aquino was on top, aided by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras.

The main men after them are Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and NDRRMC chief Eduardo del Rosario, he added.

Coloma said Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority director-general Joel Villanueva would take charge of logistics, while Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya would ensure their expeditious delivery.

The airdropping of goods was an option, but it would be more effective to move them by land, he added.

Coloma said the NDRRMC structure shows “all hands on deck,” and that all departments and agencies were performing specific tasks based on law.

“This is the most comprehensive framework based on law and which the current administration is following,” he said.

Coloma said the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is working double time to clear the roads to speed up the delivery of relief goods.

Telecommunication services had been restored in Tacloban City, he added.

Coloma said lawless elements are raiding rice warehouses, but the police and military have been deployed to maintain peace and order.

“We cannot deny that there have been shortcomings, but these are because of severe constraints,” he said.

Coloma said one cannot really imagine a perfect world, especially in a huge and complex organization like the national government. – With Alexis Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jaime Laude, JessDiaz, Paolo Romero

Aid delivery picks up pace By Christian V. Esguerra, Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:08 am | Friday, November 15th, 2013

Storm of criticisms spurs gov’t to speed up relief
BIG LIFT US Marines unload relief items from a cargo plane at the Tacloban airport on Thursday. President Aquino was under growing pressure to speed up the distribution of food, water and medicine to desperate survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” RICHARD A. REYES

TACLOBAN CITY —The distribution of food, water and medicine to typhoon survivors here picked up speed on Thursday after a barrage of criticisms from aid workers and the Philippine and international press forced the Aquino administration to bring order to its response to the calamity caused by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

But President Aquino, smarting from the international criticism over his slow response to Yolanda, appealed to the press for “greater accuracy in reports.”

His right-hand man for home affairs, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, also dismissed as “ridiculous” observations in the Philippine and foreign press that the government was slow to respond to the disaster caused by Yolanda (international name: “Haiyan”).

“We can all do more, and today I would like to make an appeal for greater accuracy in reports,” the President said in a message read for him by Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma at a broadcasters’ meeting in Pampanga province.

Aquino urged news organizations to “uplift the spirit of the Filipino people, to find stories of resilience, hope and faith, and show the world just how strong the Filipino people are.”

The President gave the assurance that rescue, relief and rehabilitation operations are going on and “will go on for as long as necessary.”

“The Department of Public Works and Highways has been working nonstop to clear roads so help can sooner reach cut-off communities,” Aquino said.

“Most roads are now passable, and can be used to deliver relief,” he said.

On Wednesday, five days after Yolanda roared across the Visayas, thousands of survivors in heaviest-hit Leyte and Samar provinces still had to receive help from the government, which had been forced to send in special security forces to contain looting by hungry and homeless typhoon victims.

On Thursday, six days after Yolanda, bodies still littered the streets of Tacloban, a city of 220,000 people reduced to rubble by the typhoon.

Several communities, including some villages in this city, remain cut off from the outside world, as telecommunication is only partially restored.


Roxas, who flew here when the monster typhoon battered the Visayas on Nov. 8, acknowledged that many typhoon-ravaged areas have not received relief from the government due to logistical problems.

He, however, said the government was doing its best to respond to the needs of the survivors.

“It’s ridiculous,” he told the Inquirer when asked about the criticism in the press over the slow government response to survivors’ plea for help.

“Against what standards are they saying we are slow? Is it Hurricane ‘Katrina?’ Is it the tsunami in Indonesia? Is it the tsunami in Fukushima, Japan?” Roxas said.

“Nobody is denying that many are still hungry,” he said. “In fact, that’s a no-brainer. Two months from now somebody will probably be still hungry. Are we happy? No. Are we content? No.”

Asked what was delaying the delivery of relief to survivors, he said it was the distribution system, referring to the difficulty of transporting aid caused by the heavy damage to the Tacloban airport and the roads that remained uncleared of storm debris.

Who’s calling the shots?

Roxas said it was Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, as chair of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), and he, as its vice chair.

He said the Department of Social Welfare and Development had been tasked with the repacking of donated relief goods for distribution to village officials, who in turn would distribute the aid to the survivors.

According to need

Asked about the system of delivery, Roxas said: “It’s according to need. That’s the only system.”

He added: “[T]here’s no other system because everybody needs it. There’s democracy and there’s no prioritization here.”

Roxas stressed that attending to the basic needs of a city with a population of more than 200,000 like Tacloban was a daunting job.

And he pointed out that even international disaster observation groups said Yolanda, the 24th typhoon to hit the country this year, was the most powerful typhoon on record.

“There’s no such thing as fast enough in a situation like this because of the [enormousness] of the task. You have to replace the entire social structure, including the business structure. We’re actually starting with a clean slate,” he said.

Roxas said C-130 military cargo planes were able to land in Tacloban a day after the typhoon and debris on major roads were cleared on the second day.

Relief distribution

On Thursday, Roxas supervised the relief distribution.

“Every town in Leyte will get 30 packs a day,” he said.

He said eight military 6×6 trucks had been sent to deliver rice to far-flung towns.

But Charmaine Cinco, who lives just 500 meters away from the sports complex that had been turned into a hub for the government response, said she and her family had yet to receive anything.

She said a village councilor in Barangay (village) 27 had told her that only 50 food packs were delivered to her community of 700 families.

“There’s none. What they’ve been doing is all hao shao,” Cinco said, meaning the government response was only for show.

And yet Coloma said all 140 towns in Leyte would get help by Thursday.

He could not say, however, whether survivors in other areas, such as Eastern Samar, Western Samar and Capiz province, would get adequate help.

“We accept their criticism,” he said, referring the flak the administration had been drawing for six days for slow and disorganized delivery of relief.

“We do not deny that there might have been some shortcomings, but these were the result of severe constraints. We did not intend not to give [other victims] proper attention,” he said at a briefing for reporters in Malacañang.

Can’t swear

Despite the assurances of aid from higher-ups, the executive director of the NDRRMC could not swear on his word that help would finally reach all the survivors.

“Well, maybe, that’s too much. I will be held accountable if we say that every victim (will be given relief goods),” NDRRMC chief Eduardo del Rosario said.

“What we said was all areas, all municipalities will be given relief goods,” he said.

“Now, because of the magnitude of the problem, we are requesting the local governments, the mayors, barangay captains and their councilmen and their volunteer groups, including NGOs, to help us in the delivery,” he said.

Del Rosario did not say when aid would reach the survivors, saying only that supply lines would be stabilized by Friday or Saturday.

A Philippine Coast Guard vessel carrying 180 tons of relief goods was on its way to Tacloban on Thursday.

Cmdr. Armand Balilo, spokesman for the Coast Guard, said the BRP Corregidor was expected to reach Tacloban on Saturday.

Slowness defended

President Aquino’s allies came to his defense on Thursday, with Senate President Franklin Drilon saying CNN was unfair in criticizing the government’s response to Yolanda despite its limited resources and dealing with a disaster bigger than the calamity caused by Hurricane “Katrina” in 2005.

“When Katrina struck in the US, there were also many complaints. Victims were also exposed to the elements for days,” Drilon said on radio dwIZ. “With their resources, they were not able to cope with the problems immediately.”

Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas said the people must unite and support the government.

“Minor shortcomings” could not be avoided given the magnitude of the devastation, Treñas said.

Former Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said Yolanda’s strength was unparalleled and the preparations were no match for that power.

“Without being an apologist for the inadequacies of the government’s initial response in the aftermath of Supertyphoon Yolanda’s superfury, [I say] critics must understand that the unprecedented massive devastation and deaths upset the government’s preparation and experience in coping with disasters,” Lagman said.

Death toll

The death toll from Yolanda stood at 2,357 on Thursday, a figure that aid workers expected to rise sharply.

In Tacloban, workers were concentrating on the retrieval of bodies, according to Lt. Col. Leo Madroñal, a spokesman for Task Group Yolanda.

He said soldiers had recovered 696 bodies, which were buried in a mass grave in Basper village, 14 kilometers from here.

Still, bodies littered the streets and remained buried under the rubble of collapsed buildings, and the stench posed risk to health.

Madroñal said 11 military trucks were arriving Thursday to join 21 other military vehicles being used in the retrieval of bodies. With reports from Norman Bordadora, Leila B. Salaverria and Jerry E. Esplanda in Manila; Joey A. Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas; and wires

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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