MANILA, AUGUST 8, 2012 (STANDARD) By Joyce Pangco Panares - President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday admonished the public to heed typhoon and flood warnings as at least nine people died from the massive flooding in Metro Manila and nine other provinces.

Hand signals. President Aquino gestures to make a point during a meeting of the National Risk Reduction and Management Council at Camp Aguinaldo.

“We condole with the families of those who have died, but we are also making an appeal because some people did not take seriously this southwest monsoon,” the President said as he convened the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

“There was one who died of a heart attack while swimming in the flood, and some young people who drank alcohol to warm their bodies before they crossed a raging river. There are some who do not want to leave their houses and choose to remain on their rooftops, prompting our rescue service to come back for them repeatedly.

I think it is not too much to ask for a little cooperation. We understand these residents want to protect their properties, but they are just adding risk to our rescuers.”

The President also ordered the Trade Department to ensure that hoarders and profiteers did not take advantage of the situation by raising the prices of basic commodities.

Mr. Aquino said he was satisfied with the color-coded system of flood alerts that the weather bureau started testing in June. Metro Manila was put under red, the highest alert level, on Tuesday, indicating that residents could expect more than 30 millimeters of rain per hour and serious flooding in the low-lying areas.

“The government’s resources are not infinite. Our rescue services continue, but we should all cooperate. It is not fair to unduly put at risk the lives of those whose job is to rescue us by refusing to cooperate,” the President said.

Mr. Aquino, however, said that, based on his observations, people were “not as desperate” as they were before when tropical storm Ondoy inundated Metro Manila in 2009.

“Everybody is doing what they are supposed to do and improving what they’re supposed to do,” he said.

But he admitted that the government needed to improve on “structural things so we are not at the mercy of the weather.”

A critic of the President, meanwhile, criticized what he called the government’s slow response to the latest calamity.

“Noy, gising [get out of bed]! Where is the President? Gising na ba [Is he up]?” was what people wanted to know at dawn Tuesday, said Kabataan Rep. Reymond Palatino.

“The President was caught noynoying [slacking off] again. He should have been the one waking up his people. He should have made the government move as early as [Monday] night since the forecast was already known that heavy clouds were already hovering over the metropolis.”

Palatino said the flooding started Monday night and not on Tuesday morning.

“But the President was nowhere to be found nor heard Monday night. His press conference Tuesday was late,” he said.

Palatino said the President and his Cabinet were complacent because no storm signal was raised over the now flood-stricken capital.

“Having no storm signal was no excuse to be complacent. The Aquino administration should have learned already from Ondoy, Pepeng and Sendong,” he said.

Palatino recalled that it took the President five days to respond and make a public appearance even after five provinces went under water last year.

At the time, the President was roundly criticized when he was seen attending a party at a five-star hotel while the people in the flood-stricken areas were struggling for survival due to the lack of relief and clean water.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. suspended work, sessions and hearings Wednesday to allow the legislators to attend to their constituents who were affected by the flooding. He added that his office was mobilized to carry out relief operations.

Parishes in Quezon City were kept busy when evacuees trooped to the churches after the La Mesa dam overflowed and flooded several villages.

The Philippine Red Cross called for donations in cash or kind to help flood-affected families across the country.

Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon said the Red Cross had already deployed medical personnel and social workers to evacuation centers to care for the families displaced by the floods.

Red Cross emergency response teams had so far rescued 250 people in various flood-stricken areas in Valenzuela, Rizal and Quezon City using amphibian vehicles, rubber boats, trucks and ambulances, Gordon said.

Volunteers had also served 6,000 hot meals in 63 evacuation centers nationwide, said the group’s secretary general Gwendolyn Pang.

Reports of massive flooding in Metro Manila triggered a deluge of calls from the Filipinos working in the United Arab Emirates who were worried about their relatives back home. With Christine F. Herrera and Sara Susanne D. Fabunan

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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