STATEMENT OF THE PRESIDENT ON SOUTHERN LEYTE DISASTER

MANILA
, February 18, 2006, (OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY, MALACANANG) These are the times that try our souls. The nation must join hands and embrace the survivors as if they were family. It is our moral obligation and national character to rise up and give comfort to our fellow citizens in this terrible hour of need.

I call on each Filipino to pray for the victims and the survivors. We must rally around as a people and a nation in this moment of grief. We know a better day is coming, but it is hard to imagine when the tragedy is so deep and heart-felt.

Meanwhile, I will not stop until that last remains of these cherished men, women and children are recovered and provided a proper, dignified burial. It breaks my heart to think of those precious school children whose innocence and hope have been so tragically snuffed out.

I commend our police, military and government workers who have responded so valiantly to this tragedy. I also thank the average citizens who have volunteered, at great risk to themselves, to help in the relief efforts. Let me also thank our international friends who are sending resources even as we speak.

The ongoing relief operations are not only terribly sad but also dangerous for survivors and relief workers alike. With the continuing likelihood of more rains and soft hillsides, we must be prepared for slow going at times and the prospect of more mudslides.

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First and foremost, the government is focused on the rescue of any survivors that have escaped the initial tragedy but need assistance. Second is to make every possible effort to recover every victim in order to give some comfort to surviving family. And finally, we must provide immediate relief to the survivors and begin to rebuild a safe and secure home for the survivors.

The government is also working to alert all areas of the country affected by the heavy rains to take immediate precautions so that another tragedy does not strike. I have tasked my government to make sure every village and town has emergency preparedness under control. And if necessary, we need to be prepared to evacuate areas deemed unsafe as a result of the La Nina rains.

I have called on Executive Secretary (Eduardo) Ermita to establish a multi-agency task force to provide a full investigation and accounting of the tragedy so that we can learn what steps each community and the nation need to take to minimize if not eliminate this type of tragedy from occurring again.

Arroyo warns of more landslides in the country 02/19 3:49:18 PM THE STAR

MANILA (AFP) - President Gloria Arroyo warned Saturday that the Philippines could face more landslides amid forecasts of further heavy rain and promised to help threatened areas adopt safety precautions.

The farming village of Guinsaugon, on the dirt-poor central island of Leyte, disappeared Friday under an avalanche of earth dislodged from a nearby mountain after more than two weeks of heavy rain.

Only 57 people have been rescued, according to the local governor, with various local officials saying between 1,400 and 3,000 others are missing.

"These are the times that try our souls. The nation must join hands and embrace the survivors as if they were family," Arroyo said in a statement.

With a small storm expected to hit from the Pacific coast in 48 hours and with the Philippines suffering from heavier than usual rains induced by the La Niņa phenomenon this year, the rescue effort could be bogged down, she said.

The people must prepare for "the prospect of more landslides."

She said the government is working to set up an early warning system.

"The government is also working to alert all areas of the country affected by the heavy rains to take immediate precautions so that another tragedy does not strike," Arroyo said.

The government would "make sure every village and town has emergency preparedness under control. And if necessary, we need to be prepared to evacuate areas deemed unsafe," she said.

"The government is focused on the rescue of any survivors (who may) have escaped the initial tragedy but need assistance," and would "make every possible effort to recover every victim in order to give some comfort to surviving family," Arroyo added.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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