LACSON NAMED 'YOLANDA' REHABILITATION CZAR

Former Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson has accepted President Aquino’s offer for him to be the rehabilitation czar who will oversee the reconstruction in provinces that Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) devastated in November. Lacson earned the trust of President Aquino for consistently not touching his pork barrel allocation as a senator for 12 years. Three senators — Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. — have been charged with plunder for alleged corruption in the handling of their pork barrel allocations.

ALSO: Saving Grace: Canadian rushes to Ormoc to rescue fiancee

Days before Supertyphoon Yolanda slammed Eastern Visayas killing thousands, an online romance was blooming between Houssam Hammoudi, a 31-year-old Canadian Muslim based in Montreal, and Mary Grace Acojedo, 22, of Ormoc City in Leyte. When suddenly all communication via Facebook and Skype stopped on that tragic Nov. 8 and scenes of horrific devastation began trickling out through the media, Houssam was gripped with anxiety. He immediately took a leave from work and set off to rescue his Filipino fiancee.

ALSO: DND: Phl was not ready for Yolanda

“Actually we were not prepared for that kind of typhoon. It was too strong, signal number four. It appears that it was the strongest in the world. Any country that will be hit by it would experience the same,” Gazmin said in Filipino.“We really need to plan well and to preposition equipment intended for such strong typhoon so that when another one of such magnitude enters the country, at least we won’t be wiped out and we are prepared,” he added.

VIDEO: "STILL" Tribute to Super Typhoon Yolanda Victims

By Van Cruz ·music background "STILL" (by Hillsong)


Lacson named ‘Yolanda’ rehabilitation czar

TACLOBAN, DECEMBER 2, 2013 (INQUIRER) By Nancy C. Carvajal - Former Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson has accepted President Aquino’s offer for him to be the rehabilitation czar who will oversee the reconstruction in provinces that Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) devastated in November.

Lacson said on Sunday night that Aquino had acknowledged his acceptance of the offer to oversee the rehabilitation efforts of the government that would cost more than P40 billion.

The former senator said he accepted “the job offer after getting a series of briefings over the weekend from experts in the field of reconstruction and rehabilitation of disaster-stricken areas,” he said in text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

As the rehabilitation czar, Lacson will manage not only funding from the government but also foreign assistance running in tens of millions of dollars meant for towns and cities in central Philippines.

He said Aquino offered the position to him at a meeting in Malacañang last week. But he said he asked the President that he be given three days to “mull it over” and to “conduct consultations with experts in connection with the rebuilding of towns and cities decimated by the supertyphoon.”

“When the President asked me if I could be in charge of rehabilitation efforts, I did not immediately say ‘yes’ and asked for time to think about it because I know it’s a daunting task and it’s also not my area of expertise,” he said.

Had the President offered something in the line of law enforcement, Lacson said he would immediately say yes.
He was earlier reported to be the choice of the administration to head an anti-corruption commission.

Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief, said he did not want to do a haphazard job as the overseer of the rehabilitation work in Visayas.

“I want to do the job with flying colors. I want to do the best for the job,” he said.

Lacson earned the trust of President Aquino for consistently not touching his pork barrel allocation as a senator for 12 years. Three senators — Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. — have been charged with plunder for alleged corruption in the handling of their pork barrel allocations.

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano earlier pushed for Lacson to investigate the pork barrel scam “because of his impeccable record against corruption and his unwavering stand against the pork barrel.”

It has been three weeks since Yolanda decimated the provinces of Samar and Leyte, destroying houses and infrastructure, displacing millions of people.

Aquino has increased the proposed funding for communities devastated by Yolanda from P38.8 billion to P40.9 billion. The money is expected to go to housing, infrastructure, livelihood and employment opportunities, local facilities and social services.

The entire P40.9 billion could be fully funded in the 2013 General Appropriations Act. Last week, the Senate passed a P14.5-billion supplemental budget.

Yolanda devastated 171 municipalities, covering 4,971 villages in an area of 25,000 square kilometers, and displaced 6.6 million people.

As of Sunday, the death toll stood at 5,632, with 26,136 people injured and 1,759 missing.

Saving Grace: Canadian rushes to Ormoc to rescue fiancee 6:05 am | Monday, November 25th, 2013 208 12.8K 11.8K



Houssam tends to Grace's wounds

CEBU CITY, Philippines—Days before Supertyphoon Yolanda slammed Eastern Visayas killing thousands, an online romance was blooming between Houssam Hammoudi, a 31-year-old Canadian Muslim based in Montreal, and Mary Grace Acojedo, 22, of Ormoc City in Leyte.

When suddenly all communication via Facebook and Skype stopped on that tragic Nov. 8 and scenes of horrific devastation began trickling out through the media, Houssam was gripped with anxiety. He immediately took a leave from work and set off to rescue his Filipino fiancee.

Saving Grace, a mission he undertook alone with single-minded determination and hope, saw him fighting his way through jam-packed airports and seaports to reach Leyte, making his way through rubble and debris, and virtually carrying his girlfriend on his back to get her to a hospital in Cebu for urgent surgery.

This love story in a time of disaster has a moving ending. On Saturday, Nov. 23, Houssam and Mary Grace, who is on her way to recovery, were wed in Islamic rites in a hospital room here.

Heroic saga

Houssam’s heroic saga began when he landed in Cebu on Nov. 14. He checked into a hotel, but he was so worried about the lack of news on Mary Grace that he picked up his backpack and headed straight for the port of Cebu that same day. He got on a ferry at 11 a.m., reaching storm-ravaged Ormoc City, not far from Tacloban, at 2 p.m.

Mary Grace’s brother brought him to a private clinic where he saw his online fiancee face-to-face for the first time. She was in bad shape. Her jaw, left leg, left arm, wrist and some fingers were broken, and she had deep cuts in the face and body. She badly needed surgery, including one to save her left leg from amputation.

Houssam knew he had to get her out of Ormoc and into a hospital fast. He paid her bills but since the clinic could not even provide her a wheelchair, Houssam carried her out, walking about 15 minutes before he found a tricycle to take them to the port.

All ferry tickets, however, had been sold out. Thousands of passengers, including those from worst-hit Tacloban City, had flocked there and were desperate to get out.

Houssam ran to the Philippine Coast Guard office to plead for help. A Coast Guard officer, whose name he could not recall, facilitated their transport on a ferry to Cebu.

Arriving in Cebu at midnight of Nov. 15, Houssam rushed Mary Grace to a private hospital where she underwent a series of surgeries.


AT THE FERRY ON WAY TO CEBU

Beside her hospital bed, Houssam launched a blog called “Operation Saving Grace” where he narrated how he ended up in Ground Zero and appealed for donations. He had already spent close to P500,000 and much still needed to be done.

“I don’t know until now how I made it out of Ormoc with her. I still cannot believe it. I realized that no matter what I could do, nothing would have prepared me for this. It was more like a special forces situation. If I had waited only a few days she could have lost her leg,” Houssam said in his blog entry posted on Nov. 16.

Outpouring of help

Two days after his blog went out, he was able to raise close to half a million pesos, which will be used for Mary Grace’s continuing treatment. He thanked his company and friends for helping him raise the money. He also sold his car in Montreal for additional funds.

Yet something more happened through all this. After the immediate medical emergency had passed, on Nov. 19, Houssam proposed marriage to Mary Grace.

“It’s the real stuff that we passed through,” he later told the Inquirer.

On Saturday evening, a Muslim Imam agreed to come to the hospital to perform the wedding rite, asking Houssam to repeat the word “Yes” three times to the question, “Do you accept Mary Grace to be your wife until the day of judgment?”

Mary Grace, who still could not walk, had put on a white-lace blouse. Her left arm in a sling, and stitches crisscrossing her face, she sat up on the hospital bed as the Imam read the rite.

‘Bangon Ormoc’

Houssam put on a clean white shirt bearing the exhortation, “Bangon Ormoc (Rise up, Ormoc).”

They were joined by Mary Grace’s mother, Grace, her older brother, Nathaniel, her youngest sister, Merry Christelle, and Mary Grace’s 6-year-old son, John Allen.

The newlyweds exchanged silver wedding rings bought at a local store.

Mary Grace told the Inquirer she met Houssam, a laboratory engineer working for a research and development company, on Facebook eight months ago, and they developed a liking for each other. She had expected to meet him in person in May next year when he planned to come to the country. They had in fact already talked online about marriage.

The newlyweds plan to settle in Canada, along with little John Allen, once the major surgeries on Mary Grace’s wrist, chin and leg are completed.

In the meantime, Houssam said he would do some home-based work via the Internet from this city while looking after Mary Grace.

FROM THE PHILSTAR

DND: Phl was not ready for Yolanda By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 30, 2013 - 12:00am 10 495 googleplus0 1

MANILA, Philippines - Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin (photo) yesterday admitted the Philippines was not prepared for a typhoon as powerful as Yolanda.

Gazmin, who also chairs the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said the super typhoon underscored the need to boost preparations and work closely with local governments.

“Actually we were not prepared for that kind of typhoon. It was too strong, signal number four. It appears that it was the strongest in the world. Any country that will be hit by it would experience the same,” Gazmin said in Filipino.

“We really need to plan well and to preposition equipment intended for such strong typhoon so that when another one of such magnitude enters the country, at least we won’t be wiped out and we are prepared,” he added.

Yolanda, known globally as Super Typhoon Haiyan, ravaged a huge part of the Visayas, claiming the lives of 5,598 persons as of yesterday, according to NDRRMC.

The typhoon also left 26,136 injured and 1,759 others missing. More than 2.3 million families or almost 11 million persons have been affected in nine regions while 3.8 million individuals have been displaced.

The monster storm also damaged P27.84 billion in agriculture and infrastructure and more than one million houses.

Gazmin said local governments should be organized so that they won’t be totally crippled when a disaster strikes.

He cited the case of Leyte, where only 20 of its 200-strong police force were able to report for duty a day after Yolanda hit the province.

Gazmin also cited the need to amend the Building Code to ensure that structures can withstand winds from 250 to 350 kilometers per hour.

The government is also considering moving people in hazard-prone places to safer areas, Gazmin said.

“We will get them out of the danger or those geohazard areas. We will come up with no-build zones so we have to relocate them,” he said.

Gazmin admitted there would have been less casualties had the people in risk-prone areas been transferred before the typhoon arrived.

He said the public needed to learn terms like “storm surge” and “tsunami” as well as ways to prepare for them.

Gazmin also cited the importance of acquiring additional C-130 cargo planes for relief efforts and satellite phones to ensure continuous information flow after a disaster.

“This is not the time for blaming one another. This is the time to sit down, talk and help and assist our countrymen to stand up, and to come up with a better environment,” he said.

Front row seats

Gazmin himself witnessed the fury of Yolanda when it made landfall on Nov. 8.

Gazmin, along with Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, were sent by President Aquino to Tacloban City to oversee preparations a day before Yolanda made landfall.

News5 obtained videos and photos of the activities of the Cabinet officials at the Leyte Park Hotel on the morning of Nov. 8, when Yolanda made landfall and laid waste to Eastern Visayas.

Roxas told News5 that he, Gazmin and other officials got up early to meet at 6 a.m. at the hotel lobby and noticed that the wind was already picking up, leading them to conclude Yolanda had made landfall in Tacloban City earlier than expected.

The video showed Roxas, Gazmin and other staff members seated in the open air lobby of the Leyte Park Hotel when the wind started to pick up.

They were later seen texting on their cellphones, while others were able to make calls before mobile signals went dead.

Several minutes later, the video showed the wind getting stronger and visibility outside turning to zero.

Several pieces of furniture inside the open-air hotel lobby were tossed about by Yolanda’s winds. Outside, shingles of the lobby driveway’s roof were blown off by the strong winds that also rocked the cars parked on the driveway. The winds were so strong that one van was moved sideways while other cars were rocked, triggering auto alarms. A wayward GI sheet hit a car parked nearby.

The imminent danger forced Roxas and Gazmin to order all hotel guests and staff to evacuate to the hotel’s basement. By this time, the power had gone out and people had to be guided with flashlights.

Roxas and Gazmin can be overheard in the video telling people to remain calm and continue moving to the basement.

Later in the afternoon, the two officials emerged from the hotel as Yolanda passed, although it was still raining heavily. The photos showed Roxas and Gazmin going around the hotel inspecting the damage. They were also looking for a possible area in the hotel that could serve as a temporary command post but the damage was too extensive.

Some of the hotel’s cottages, located near the shoreline, were washed away and debris was strewn over a huge area. Some of the staff members of the two officials were staying there and many lost their belongings.

One photo showed Roxas, wearing a yellow hooded jacket, and Gazmin, clad in a blue jacket, going around the hotel area; both appeared shocked by the damage wrought by Yolanda’s strong winds, whose gusts measured up to 300 kilometers per hour. The photos showed the two officials trying to walk from the hotel to the Tacloban City Hall through the roads choked with fallen trees and debris.

The city hall suffered substantial damage such as blown out windows, destroyed roofs and water inside the offices.

Roxas and Gazmin met with city hall personnel, who had camped out to ride out the storm. That initial meeting focused on finding out the extent of damage and where key people were.

Roxas and Gazmin later met with acting Tacloban police chief Senior Superintendent Domingo Cabillan and his men on duty to set up the initial command center at the police station, one of the few structures still intact.

The two officials were also met by city administrator Tecson Lim, who informed them that they lost contact with Mayor Alfred Romualdez and already dispatched a team to check on him. – DJ Sta. Ana/News5

VIDEO FROM YOU TUBE

"STILL" Tribute to Super Typhoon Yolanda Victims Van Cruz Van Cruz·1 video

 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Rc7jAvL7ltY

"STILL" Tribute to Super Typhoon Yolanda Victims Van Cruz Van Cruz·1 video -Published on Nov 11, 2013 I made this video for the Super typhoon Yolanda victims. And for my country..

This is my first ever video made. and my first upload.

Sorry its not that perfect...

Some corrections on the spellings were needed.

I rushed on making this and i was crying and in grief...

But still..

This touched my heart. I Hope it will touch yours.
Van Cruz

 

THE LYRICS TO THE SONG 'STILL' by Hillsong United

Still - Hillsong United with Lyrics Published on Apr 19, 2012 Hide me now Under Your wings Cover me Within Your mighty hand

Hide me now
Under Your wings
Cover me
Within Your mighty hand

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father you are King over the flood
I will be still, know You are God

Find rest my soul
In Christ alone
Know His power
In quietness and trust

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father You are king over the flood
I will be still, know You are God
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