[PHOTO - President Aquino thanks volunteers packing relief goods at the DSWD Relief Center in Pasay.]

CITY OF MALOLOS, AUGUST 13, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Carmela Reyes-Estrope - President Benigno Aquino III’s inspection of the floodplains of Central Luzon on Friday brought a ray of hope into the bleak lives of victims of the weeklong monsoon rains and floods who took refuge in evacuation centers in Tarlac, Pampanga and Bulacan provinces.

But the President missed the flood victims’ concerns and anecdotes that he could have heard had he met them face to face.

Carlos Macasling, 50, of Barangay Sumapang Matanda here, said his family and other evacuees were suddenly transported by military trucks from the provincial gymnasium to the Malolos sports complex in Barangay Sta. Isabel at dawn on Friday.

Make room for wedding

The reason: The local government was paid a bundle to reserve the gym exclusively for a weekend wedding.

Macasling said his family was ushered into a room with wet bedding, owing to leaks from the roof.

Jean Cristobal, caretaker of 23 families who were also relocated, said they were told that the wedding was booked even before floods struck most Bulacan towns.

Provincial officials were incensed when told about the move, but had not offered any official statement.

To many evacuees at the sports complex, the transfer had been disappointing because the President did not even reach out to them.

A child is born

Mr. Aquino motored to the city proper, instead of the sports complex in the village as scheduled, because bad weather prevented a fleet of helicopters from flying him to several destinations on Friday.

The President and Cabinet officials managed to visit Malolos Central School, where 400 families took refuge.

Maricel Artacha, 26, said she would have told the President that she had given birth at home in the middle of the calamity. Her husband, Joel, 27, acted as midwife when she gave birth to their fifth child.

Floods left them isolated from neighbors and the nearest hospital and no medical teams could reach them, Artacha said.

There were also some good news in the aftermath of the calamity.

Miner rescued

In Benguet on Friday, volunteers finally rescued Felipe Plimaco, 34, a pocket miner from La Union, a week after he was trapped in an eroding Bokod tunnel on Aug. 3.

Plimaco celebrated his birthday on Aug. 7 inside the shaft, parts of which collapsed due to strong rains. Benguet miners worked to dig him out, said Lomino Kaniteng, president of Benguet small-scale mining federation.

“We were never informed about this tunnel, which must be old because it is deep. The distance separating the rescuers and Plimaco was only 2 meters but the tunnel walls were fragile and crumbled every time the rescuers erected poles to stabilize the hole,” Kaniteng said.

Plimaco was fed air and food through a pipe that was inserted into the tunnel. As soon as he emerged, Plimaco was given eggs, rice and coffee. With a report from Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

'GMA left behind only flood plans' By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) Updated August 13, 2012 12:00 AMComments (87)

MANILA, Philippines - While his government was busy trying to mitigate the consequences of massive flooding in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, President Aquino yesterday blamed his predecessor for leaving behind mere “plans” to solve the perennial problem.

“What is hard here is I just inherited the plans – one of them is the dredging of Laguna Lake,” the President told evacuees in Montalban, Rizal, in reference to a government project he called off in late 2010 due to its apparently dubious nature.

Aquino informed the evacuees that he cancelled the P18.7-billion project since it had no use and would just be a waste of government resources that would entail transferring silt from one end of Laguna lake to the other.

“There is a need to cancel it so that water would increase. It would be foolhardy to spend P18.7 billion just to play with mud. We can use it perhaps in Valenzuela where there is a nine-kilometer dike,” he said.

The government cannot release government funds, which came from taxpayers’ money, just to collect four million cubic meters every year of mud from Laguna lake, and remove the total 12 million cubic meters – only to transfer it to the other side.

Aquino again took a swipe at former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now a congresswoman from Pampanga, saying the government is more prepared and equipped now to handle such disasters, compared to the past administration.

“So, you can expect… maybe you have noticed that the government now did not come up short (as it did during) during ‘Ondoy,’” he said in Filipino, referring to the tropical storm that practically submerged the metropolis in September 2009 and left around 300 dead.

Aquino already made the rounds last week in affected areas in Metro Manila, among them the cities of Muntinlupa, Quezon City, Marikina, Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela.

Other provinces severely affected have likewise been inspected like his home province Tarlac, Pampanga, Bataan and Bulacan. Over the weekend, he visited the towns of Montalban and Cainta in Rizal province and Pasay City as well. – With Rey Galupo

Aquino thanked Rizal Gov. Jun Ynares for making sure that help is extended to those in need during the calamity. He also made special mention of Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara, who will be instrumental in pushing the House to approve key measures of government.

Garbage problem in Manila

Meanwhile, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim appealed to all Manila residents to cooperate in speeding up the city government’s efforts in clearing all the streets of garbage.

Manila city hall’s department of public services chief ret. Col. Carlos Baltazar reported that the volume of garbage in the aftermath of the rains and floods has gone up five times, compared to the already voluminous trash collected during Ondoy.

Lim also directed city engineer Armand Andres to mobilize the district engineers in each of Manila’s six districts to repair all potholes and other destruction caused by the heavy flooding.

“I hope everyone helps with the problem. There should be citizen involvement in this problem. We should not leave this to the government,” he said.

Baltazar said that on a daily basis, at least 1,900 tons of garbage are collected during normal weather and during storm-related calamities, the volume increases five-fold and includes water-damaged appliances and furniture.

However, a city hall employee told The STAR that the cleanup could take days even if they are working overtime to bring back Manila to normal. – Rey Galupo

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved