[IN THE AFTERMATH OF YOLANDA, TO THE SURVIVORS, HELPLESS AND SUFFERING:
Do not be afraid for God is always in charge. Faith is stronger than fear.
God is helping you carry your heavy cross"
AT PHNO WE ARE THINKING AND PRAYING FOR YOU ALL EVERYDAY]
UNITED NATIONS: 10th DAY, MILLIONS IN THE VISAYAS STILL HUNGRY
There may still be millions of people in the Visayas who have yet to receive any assistance 10 days after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” swept across nine regions of the Philippines, the United Nations said on Monday.
But Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez blamed the delay in assistance to the survivors on “bureaucratic red tape.”
ALSO: AQUINO, ROXAS, ROMUALDEZ STRIKE A DEAL
President Aquino, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Mayor Alfred Romualdez met here on Sunday night behind closed doors, quietly sealing a partnership between Task Force Yolanda and the leadership of the local government that could bolster relief efforts for typhoon survivors. The President sought the meeting with the mayor on Day 9 of the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” ostensibly playing referee between Romualdez and Roxas, who had not been on speaking terms because of disagreements over relief efforts and the interior department’s initiative to take over the devastated city.
UN: MILLIONS IN THE VISAYAS STILL HUNGRY
SHEER RELIEF. A survivor of “Yolanda” breaks into a smile of relief as she welcomes a care package from President Aquino at the Palo municipal hall in Leyte province. The President visited areas devastated by the supertyphoon a week ago to reassure victims of government support. ANDREW TADALAN
MANILA, NOVEMBER 19, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Shiena M. Barrameda, Leila B. Salaverria - There may still be millions of people in the Visayas who have yet to receive any assistance 10 days after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” swept across nine regions of the Philippines, the United Nations said on Monday.
But Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez blamed the delay in assistance to the survivors on “bureaucratic red tape.”
Romualdez, whose district, including Tacloban City, was pulverized by Yolanda (international name: “Haiyan”), urged the creation of a department or an emergency management authority to be headed by a Cabinet-rank official to replace the current response system that failed to hit the ground right after the storm.
“The current setup has proven to be inadequate in preparing our country from major calamities, which we will inevitably have to face,” Romualdez said in a privilege speech in the House of Representatives on Monday.
“This [new] department will drastically reduce, if not totally eliminate, the bureaucratic red tape that caused the delay in the delivery of relief goods to the victims and clearing operations in the affected areas,” he said.
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Unocha) found that “375,000 of around 13 million people who were affected by the calamity were able to receive food relief, but 2.5 million people were still in need of food assistance.”
Matthew Cochrane, spokesman for the UN humanitarian office, discussed the agency’s assessment of the response made eight days since Yolanda struck on Nov. 8.
Cochrane, in an interview with the Inquirer on Sunday, said the assessment was based on data gathered and consolidated as of Nov. 16 from various local and international organizations involved in humanitarian work in areas ravaged by Yolanda.
While Eastern, Central and Western Visayas were considered hardest hit, Yolanda also affected portions of Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), Bicol, Northern Mindanao, Davao and Caraga regions, said Cochrane, who arrived in Tacloban on Nov. 14.
Cochrane said the data showed that around 3 million people were displaced by the typhoon, more than 70 percent of them in the Western Visayas provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros Occidental.
Reports from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) indicated that some 2.3 million, or 18 percent of those affected by Yolanda, could be found in Eastern, Western and Central Visayas.
Cochrane said the UN agency had observed that although there might be more than enough food assistance coming from different sources, there were constraints related to the transportation and distribution of the relief goods.
He cited “bottlenecks” that caused incessant delays in distribution of relief to survivors, particularly in the six provinces in Western Visayas.
“Most of them have yet to be reached, unlike in Tacloban, which has been reached several times by relief operations,” Cochrane said.
He noted that during the first few days of the response, damaged roads and airports caused delays in the distribution of relief goods by UN member-countries.
Cochrane said part of the delay in distribution was the insufficient number of vehicles and storage facilities.
“Having a ready stock of fuel for vehicles also proved a challenge during the first few days of extending help here,” he said.
But private local and international organizations, the government, particularly the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), are now contributing both fuel and vehicles for the distribution of food, he said.
Sixty UN member-countries and international private organizations are involved in providing both relief goods and “mobility to reach more beneficiaries,” he said.
The UN humanitarian agency recommended the setting up of warehouses in Cebu province and other nearby locations in the Visayas not much affected by the typhoon for the storage of relief goods, Cochrane said.
“This, plus the arrival of eight additional trucks from the Armed Forces of the Philippines could increase the food distribution capacity to 400 metric tons per day,” he said.
But even with these developments, the UN report said 60 percent of survivors in Capiz province had not received food assistance while in Iloilo province, the towns of Carles, Estancia and Concepcion had not received sufficient help.
The UN humanitarian office recorded 234,760 houses damaged during the typhoon, and 243,583 completely destroyed.
Some 1,000 tents in Tacloban City and 500 tarpaulins to be used as temporary shelters in Medellin town in northern Cebu were distributed by the Philippine government and UN member-countries, the report said.
In addition, 500 “shelter repair kits” have been given out to residents of Bantayan Island, Cebu.
But the UN agency noted that despite being provided these materials, few of the survivors had the initiative to build their temporary shelters.
Cochrane said the inaction of the rest could be due to the frustration they felt in the aftermath of the typhoon.
“We have to understand that the extent of their devastation extends beyond the physical,” he said. “They lost their livelihoods, too.”
The United Nations considers Yolanda one of the strongest typhoons to hit any place on earth in wind strength and in the damage it caused.
“The task of rebuilding here would be monumental for everyone,” he said.
Another UN official urged a halt to bickering and finger-pointing in the aftermath of Yolanda.
Bernard Kerblat, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative for the Philippines, told a news conference in Manila that this is not the time for arguing over discrepancies between the UN death toll estimate and that of the Philippine government.
The United Nations last week reported an early estimate of more than 4,000 people dead from Yolanda, a figure disputed by the Philippine government, whose count at the time was 3,600 dead.
“We have to think of those who died,” Kerblat said. “Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do but offer them a dignified burial, without entering into a polemic of how many of them have died.”
At the House on Monday, Romualdez defended local governments from criticism that they had been remiss in responding to their constituents’ needs in the aftermath of the storm.
“Our local government officials are at the forefront of every problem that may arise in their respective communities. But how can they be mobilized if they don’t have the right resources that may be needed in this kind of situation? Worse, how can we expect them to respond in any kind of situation if they, too, are victims of the same tragedy?” Romualdez said.
Local governments need to be strengthened to be able to handle all kinds of circumstances, he said.
Romualdez urged the passage of legislation that would give local officials more resources to build safer, adaptive and resilient communities.
He also noted that the World Risk Index had ranked the Philippines third among the most vulnerable to disasters.
“I strongly recommend that we pour our resources preparing for these major calamities. We need to procure more updated rescue and relief equipment like helicopters, ships, vehicles and other related modern technology and apparatus,” he said.
Romualdez called on the House to pass his resolution to allow the spending of P30 billion from the Special Purpose Fund for the rehabilitation of the towns ravaged by Yolanda.
He also urged passage of the bill that would create a Typhoon Yolanda Assistance and Development Commission so that P25 billion could be appropriated for livelihood, rehabilitation, and infrastructure support.
He said tax incentives should be given to people and private corporations that would help rebuild the typhoon-ravaged towns and cities.
“This tax holiday bill comes with an invitation for all entrepreneurs and companies to establish their businesses in these calamity-stricken areas. While they may be starting from scratch, we assure them of utmost cooperation to provide a business-friendly climate,” Romualdez said.
He also proposed the creation of a Typhoon Yolanda Development Integration Assistance Program that would ensure the continued education of children in communities laid to waste by Yolanda.
And he appealed to the national government and to local leaders to help the displaced find alternative homes and livelihood so that they could get back on their feet.—With a report from Jaymee T. Gamil
Originally posted: 7:31 pm | Monday, November 18th, 2013
Aquino, Roxas, Romualdez strike dealBy Michael Lim Ubac Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:00 am | Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
RELIEF COORDINATION. President Aquino (right clockwise) on Sunday meets with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas (second right) and Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez (in bright orange shirt) and other local officials to discuss alternative measures to hasten relief operations in and rehabilitation of Tacloban and other areas of Leyte devastated by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” PHOTO BY GIL NARTEA/MALACACANG PHOTO BUREAU
President Aquino, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Mayor Alfred Romualdez met here on Sunday night behind closed doors, quietly sealing a partnership between Task Force Yolanda and the leadership of the local government that could bolster relief efforts for typhoon survivors.
The President sought the meeting with the mayor on Day 9 of the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” ostensibly playing referee between Romualdez and Roxas, who had not been on speaking terms because of disagreements over relief efforts and the interior department’s initiative to take over the devastated city.
Aquino and Romualdez met briefly, with Roxas hardly saying anything.
“We can now coordinate the efforts for relief… and address the issues confronting us,” Romualdez told reporters later.
A Romualdez relative said Roxas “did not say much” during what the mayor described as a “brief” meeting.
Asked by the Inquirer if all’s well that ends well, Romualdez said: “We have no problem. But you have to look at it this way—that everything changes every day, so there is nothing permanent in a situation like this.”
He cited the peace and order problem at the outset, when lawless elements had threatened to harass residents, which he said was solved in 48 hours by the Philippine National Police.
Asked about his thoughts on the President personally seeking him out as well as the apparent “disconnect” between him and Roxas, the mayor said:
“In a crisis like this, the best way you can solve this is you have to be on the ground from the beginning.”
Romualdez recalled that a day after Yolanda struck, he was already mobilizing what little resources were left to the city government to rescue survivors and immediately clear the main roads of debris, including the hundreds of corpses.
“It’s hard because I drove the vehicles, heavy equipment. I went to barangays (villages) to know the problems because you don’t have enough resources, so you have to maximize them. That’s the best way to do it so that you get the job done,” he said.
Asked about the “disconnect” between Roxas’ camp and the mayor’s office, he said:
“There’s no problem with coordination between local and national [units]… The local government, we’re using all the resources we can [mobilize], and the national [agencies] also that are here on the ground are also maximizing here the resources they have. If they don’t have resources, we can’t blame them also. Then the national government in Manila should give them more resources.”
“At the beginning, we were retrieving bodies with two trucks. What can we do with two trucks?” he asked.
He said relief distribution and retrieving bodies were the priorities now. “That continues,” he said.
Asked about relief efforts, he said: “The problem is not the quantity—it’s the distribution. That is the problem not only in Tacloban but in other areas.”
Except in hushed voices, nobody here would want to be quoted on record to explain what caused the apparent rift between Romualdez and Roxas in the immediate aftermath of Yolanda.
Romualdez won a third term opposite Liberal Party candidate Bem Noel, the former An-Waray representative, in the May 2012 polls.
Roxas is the president on-leave of the ruling party but the President and even his sister Kris had campaigned for Noel, a friend of the President.
But observers claim the President personally reaching out to Romualdez shows that Aquino has realized the humanitarian catastrophe engulfing Tacloban and the rest of Eastern Visayas should be spared from politics.
In a separate interview, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said there had been a “disconnect” between City Hall and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
However, Mayor Romualdez was banking on the President’s public pronouncement that the local government unit should spearhead relief and recovery efforts in times of calamities, with the national government only augmenting local resources.
“But he (Roxas) asked the mayor to relinquish power and authority,” recalled the congressman.
“Mayor, face it, the City Hall is basically inutile now,” said Representative Romualdez, recalling what Roxas had supposedly told the mayor right after Yolanda struck.
“So the mayor answered that well, [I can do my job] if you give me replenishment of police personnel who, as you know, have been decimated because either “they’re casualties themselves or have been killed, if not, close members of the families have probably died.” Per one account, only 30 police officers turned up on Nov. 9.
The mayor suggested that the Department of National Defense provide Tacloban with a military force “to secure the perimeter because we’ve heard of unverified reports that some lawless elements have been trying to take advantage of the [aid] caravan as far as Samar, and there were rumors of some NPA (New People’s Army) members coming down,” the lawmaker said.
Inmates, facing death, also escaped from the city jail.
Himself a victim—he and his family barely escaped the storm surge that flooded his seaside residence—he “operated the backhoe himself, digging the mass graves and cleaning the roads,” said the congressman. “The operator was either dead or missing.”
Representative Romualdez denied that local officials in Tacloban were unprepared for Yolanda. “The destruction was so vast that we… everybody was overwhelmed. The national [government] can always rely on the assets of local governments when they arrive in the locality. But as you see, the destruction was so vast that all the personnel were affected, the offices were affected,” he said.
Nobody could have prepared enough for such a superstorm, much less immediately cope with it in the aftermath, he said.
“The resources like vehicles, which are so few, at least at the outset for ready deployment, were taken over by the national government. Everyone needs a service vehicle,” he said.
The brother of Representative Romualdez, businessman Philip Romualdez, rallied the private sector as early as last week to immediately come to the aide of his fellow Leyteños, personally asking several mining companies to send relief supplies, food packs, medical teams, tarpaulins and a water filtration system to the survivors.
The Oxford-educated Philip is the president of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines and CEO of Benguet Corp.
In response to the request, Marcventures Mining and Development Corp. sent a “mercy ship” containing tons of relief supplies, personnel and rescue equipment to Tolosa, Tanauan, Palo, San Miguel and Santa Fe towns, and Tacloban City; Benguet Corp. sent a medical group to Tanauan and Tolosa, as well as a crisis management team and two helicopters; Nickel Asia provided two barges of relief goods that went to Guiuan, Samar province; Atlas Mining provided ships to ferry goods from Cebu province to Tacloban; and Philex Mining provided rescue teams.
Many companies, such as Indophil, also provided cash donations.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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