An aerial shot from Malacañang showing the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Leyte province.

MANILA, NOVEMBER 12, 2013 (PHILSTAR) President Benigno Aquino III on Monday declared a state of national calamity due to the massive devastation wrought by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Visayas.

"... by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Constitution and by law, do hereby declare a State of National Calamity," so declared President Aquino in Proclamation No. 682.

Cited as reason for the declaration was the "widespread death, destruction and incalculable damage in several areas, including the Samar provinces, Leyte, Cebu, Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan and Palawan" by the super typhoon, the strongest and possibly the deadlines in history to hit the Philippines.

Earlier estimates said that the fatality from the super typhoon may reach 10,000. The government has reported that 9.6 million people have been affected in Visayas.

Under the proclamation, the government will control the prices of basic goods and commodities in the affected areas.

"... this declaration will, among others, effectively control the prices of basic goods and commodities for the affected areas and afford government ample latitude to utilize appropriate funds for rescue, recovery, relief, and rehabilitation efforts of, and to continue to provide basic services to, affected populations, in accordance with law," it said.

The proclamation also ordered the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to "undertake all necessary measures" to ensure peace and order in the areas devastated by the typhoon.

There have been several incidents of looting in Eastern Visayas, particularly in Tacloban City as hungry residents desperately look for food following the devastation of the typhoon.

The proclamation cited that the state of national calamity will remain in effect "until lifted" by President Aquino.

State of national calamity declared (UPDATED)

By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 12, 2013 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

A welcome sign remains standing in the city. AP

MANILA, Philippines - With many areas still cut off and people resorting to looting as supplies run low in typhoon-hit areas, President Aquino yesterday declared a state of national calamity.

The declaration will enable the government to respond more effectively to the devastation from monster Typhoon Yolanda that whipped Eastern Visayas last Friday.

In a televised address, Aquino appealed for public understanding as he announced that the national government would take the lead in efforts to help the victims instead of just assisting local officials.

Noting that the devastation was massive, the President said some local governments were “paralyzed” by the typhoon despite the preparations undertaken.

Aquino said 22 countries had pledged to help and that P18.2 billion in savings, calamity and contingency funds had been identified and could be utilized to rebuild Tacloban City and other disaster-hit areas.

He also approved the release of P1.1 billion in quick response funds for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as well as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to immediately bring relief to the victims of the tragedy.

In Proclamation No. 682 that he issued, Aquino said the state of national calamity would hasten the rescue, recovery, relief and rehabilitation efforts of the government and the private sector, including international humanitarian assistance.

“This declaration will, among others, effectively control the prices of basic goods and commodities for the affected areas and afford government ample latitude to utilize appropriate funds to provide assistance and services to the people.”

Aside from overpricing, hoarding of vital products must also be avoided, he said.

“Like you, I also want to know what we can do to prevent similar situations in these areas in the future,” Aquino said.

Proclamation 682 was in accordance with Republic Act No. 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 and upon the recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

All departments and agencies were tasked to provide assistance and services.

“Law enforcement agencies, with support from the Armed Forces, are directed to undertake all necessary measures to ensure peace and order in affected areas, as may be necessary,” Aquino said in his proclamation.

Under Memorandum Circular No. 56, the departments and agencies were also tasked by the President to help in running localities affected in the provinces of Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Aklan, Capiz, Iloilo and Palawan.

Aquino said the loss of life and the destruction the typhoon caused were huge.

“In the coming days, be assured: help will reach you faster and faster. My appeal to you all is: Remaining calm, praying, cooperating with, and assisting one another are the things that will help us rise from this calamity,” he said.

“Aid is also arriving from other countries; 22 countries have pledged their assistance, including Indonesia, America, England, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, and Hungary. The private sector is also finding different ways to help our countrymen recover, such as restoring telecommunications and the supply of oil to affected areas,” the President said.

Earlier, lawmakers from Leyte appealed to President Aquino to consider declaring a state of national calamity to allow the government to mobilize resources to help the country recover quickly from the string of natural and man-made calamities.

Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said members of the independent bloc in the House of Representatives which he heads and lawmakers from the province filed a resolution urging Aquino to make such a declaration, especially because there have been numerous reports of increasing lawlessness in areas devastated by Yolanda.

Bathroom break

Malacañang denied reports that President Aquino walked out of his own briefing in Tacloban City last Sunday after local officials allegedly pressured him into declaring martial law there following reports of massive looting.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told a news briefing yesterday that Aquino merely “took a bathroom break” for about 10 minutes when national and local disaster officials were discussing ways to help the typhoon victims.

“There was no walkout. In fact, after that break, he returned and the discussions went on and lasted for another hour,” he said, quoting the narration of Assistant Secretary for Media Affairs Rey Marfil who accompanied Aquino.

“As per the account of Assistant Secretary Marfil, the President was not angry. He just took a break,” Lacierda said.

Taking a break during long and grueling discussions is “normal” for Aquino, Lacierda added.

He said Aquino was surprised when he was informed of the walkout issue.

Meanwhile, Romualdez said yesterday there should be no controversy over the reported walkout of President Aquino during the briefing.

He did not confirm or deny that the President walked out of the meeting, but said maybe Aquino was not yet updated on the magnitude of Yolanda’s damage.

No justification

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, for her part, yesterday opposed calls for President Aquino to declare martial law in Tacloban City amid reports of the breakdown of law and order among desperate survivors of Yolanda.

De Lima said there is no need for the Chief Executive to resort to military rule to address the aftermath of the calamity, including reported looting of commercial and residential establishments in the area.

“I believe there are enough powers allotted by the Constitution and the laws to the national government, specifically the President, in addressing the situation in the Yolanda-devastated areas, including breakdown of law and order, of lawless violence and the like,” she told reporters.

De Lima also stressed that the declaration reportedly proposed by local officials cannot be legally justified under the present circumstances.

“Under the Constitution, martial law is confined to only two cases or situations – invasion or rebellion. I don’t think either situation currently exists,” she said.

Palace sources told The STAR that declaring martial law was never even considered.

Caution in reporting

Aquino also appealed to the media to be more careful in reporting fatality figures.

He said they have not received reports that thousands have died because of the typhoon.

“If I may appeal, let us reduce the anxiety of those who have relatives in the affected areas by not exaggerating the figures,” he said.

The President called on the public to wait for the validated figures on casualties from local governments and disaster management officials. – With Delon Porcalla, Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero, Edu Punay, Cecille Suerte Felipe

Inconsistent reports irk PNoy, walks out of meet By Christine F. Herrera | Nov. 11, 2013 at 12:00am 2

REPORTS of lawlessness and massive devastation – and even a call to impose emergency rule – caused President Benigno Aquino III to walk out briefly of a meeting Sunday with local disaster officials in Tacloban City, which was hardest hit by super typhoon Yolanda.

At the meeting, the President expressed displeasure over what he called “inconsistent reports on the extent of devastation and the breakdown of law and order, after officials told him of looting and ransacking in the city.

The President questioned the basis of the disaster team’s assessment that the city was 95 percent devastated.

He pointed to the Tacloban City Jail building, whose roof was damaged and some parts were blown off at the height of the killer storm and asked the team how it categorized and assessed that kind of damage.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director Eduardo del Rosario told the President that that kind of damage was assessed and labeled as just “minor devastation.”

“There is no such thing as minor devastation,” the President snapped. “You have to have a clear policy on which to base your assessment.”

“I’m running out of patience,” the dismayed President declared.

But what seemed to irk the President most was a businessman, who asked him to put the city under martial law after his store was ransacked by looters.

“Martial law is not in the Constitution. What is your basis for the state of emergency when it looks like you are the only one affected?” the President said.

The businessman said he got shot at by an armed looter but he was able to take cover.

The President retorted: “Buhay ka pa naman di ba? (You’re still alive, aren’t you?)”

Other businessmen however said killings would follow in the chaos. “No one follows the law anymore,” one of them said.

Members of the Presidential Security Group intervened and asked the businessman to stop debating with the President, and escorted him out of the meeting.

The President, who was sitting down, abruptly stood up, raised his hands as if in surrender and stormed out of the meeting.

He returned to the meeting a few minutes later and said he would study the resolution passed by the city council asking him to declare emergency rule.

Amid reports of looting, Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon alerted authorities through a television interview that the convoy of trucks carrying relief to some 25,000 families was mobbed by starving residents and ransacked.

Gordon said he was forced to announce the incident on TV because no one responded when the Red Cross tried to reach the police.

“I thought of announcing it on TV and hoping that this would reach the authorities and alert them. We need a police escort so we could safely reach our destinations because those isolated families are also hungry and it is unfair to them if we could not reach them on time,” Gordon said.

In the aftermath, TV footage from local television networks showed residents looting malls and various stores.

The loot included food, appliances, furniture, GI sheets, woods and cement, apparently for rebuilding of their houses.

Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado said he has also received reports that people have resorted to looting automated teller machines.

There were no policemen to stop them because they had either perished in the storm surge or were still recovering from shock brought about by the super typhoon, Mercado said.

Before the President’s walkout, the city council, led by Vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasin, attended the disaster meeting to relay their message to the President. They asked the President to declare martial law in the city.

Yaokasin said even those from neighboring towns have started coming into the city to ransack business establishments.

He also told the President that the city hall employees could not report back to work because they themselves were victims and were trying to find ways to rebuild their lives and homes.

The President said he would study the matter but suggested that they pass a city council resolution as mandated by Republic Act 10121 or the NDRRMC Law.

Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon slammed President Aquino’s “insensitive remarks” when he said the Tacloban officials seemed “unprepared compared to other hard-hit areas.”

“At a time when our people have barely recovered from the devastation wreaked by super typhoon Yolanda, it is simply in bad taste to blame the extent of the damages and casualties to the locality which suffered the most.

“In fact, the Aquino government should actually reassess the disaster preparedness program of the national government, which up until now is mostly focused on relief and rehabilitation – not preparedness,” Ridon said.

Instead of blaming the local government of Tacloban City, the national government should assess the absence of a “clear and rational disaster plan,” he said.

“We’re a country that encounters over 20 typhoons each year yet up until now, the national government has yet to install a clear and rational disaster plan that puts premium on disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction. Despite the allocation of a P7.5 billion calamity fund for 2013, the absence of proper disaster battle plan that should be created and installed by the national government to mitigate disasters renders the billions of pesos for calamity fund questionable,” Ridon said.

“The utilization of calamity funds should not remain limited to monitoring and reactive response but should first and foremost be geared towards pre-disaster activities and infrastructure such as typhoon drills, pre-positioned relief goods, proactive warning systems, and a nationwide emergency response system, among others, that is based on a clear disaster-risk reduction and climate adaption plan,” he said.

Ridon said he plans to file a resolution in the House of Representatives this week to urge the national government to create such a disaster-risk reduction plan.

On Monday, the members of the independent minority bloc, led by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, will also file a resolution asking the President to declare a national state of calamity.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said he was told by An Waray Rep. Neal Montejo that it is now possible to reach Tacloban City by land, passing through San Juanico bridge.

“This means that relief goods can be transported by land,” Belmonte said.

“There’s hardly any food and water for the people in Tacloban City. Tents are also needed as sleeping quarters. A serious problem is peace and order. People are looting stores for food and water and supplies. Local police need to be augmented as they have lost control of the situation,” Belmonte said, quoting Montejo.

The Speaker said Montejo had discussed the problems with Interior and Local Governments Secretary Manuel Roxas II, but stressed that immediately police deployment was needed.

On Monday, the Speaker said he would summon some congressmen to discuss the kind of assistance they extend to the typhoon-hit areas.

The military and police appealed to residents devastated by Yolanda Sunday not to resort to looting as relief was being moved to them as quickly as possible.

A statement from the military said at least 100 soldiers were deployed to help restore peace and order in Tacloban City.

Philippine National Police Public Information Officer Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac said they are also sending additional 500 policemen to help maintain order in the city.

“Looting should not happen because our police personnel in that area were also devastated by the typhoon. So we’re sending additional troops there,” he said in a television interview.

Government troops have also established command and control in affected areas to hasten the facilitation of relief goods, search-and-rescue and retrieval operations.

Technicians from Smart Communications, three personnel from the United Nations, 22 foreign medical volunteers of the Mammoth Medical Mission, and an air traffic controller from the Air Traffic

Organization have been sent to Tacloban aboard an Air Force Fokker aircraft.

The PNP also established a communication cell in the Tacloban City Police Station.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development said Sunday that the number of affected famlies had reached 2 million or about 9.53 million people.

The department said some 96,039 displaced families with 449,416 persons are staying in 1,790 evacuation centers, while 36,627 other families with 182,379 persons temporarily sought shelter in their friends and relatives’ houses.

Relief operations were hampered, however, by the lack of communication and inaccessibility of the worst-hit towns, cities and barangays, the department said. With Florante S. Solmerin and Francisco Tuyay

POSTED ON 11/11/2013 3:09 PM | UPDATED 11/11/2013 5:20 PM

Aquino: Prioritize the living over the dead BY NATASHYA GUTIERREZ POSTED ON 11/11/2013 3:09 PM | UPDATED 11/11/2013 5:20 PM

CARE FOR SURVIVORS. President Benigno Aquino III says the government is prioritizing care for survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda. Photo by Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines - To President Benigno Aquino III, the top priority is caring for those who survived Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Aquino admitted the initial number of casualties, although still subject to verification, "is really alarming," but he added, "the priority has to be, to take care of the people who are alive and those who are injured."

The President has tasked the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to start retrieving bodies – many of which line the streets, if not buried in rubble.

"I think the local government units have already designated areas for mass burials because they pose a public health hazard," he said.

But caring for the living – those who are desperate for aid – also poses a huge challenge.

Aquino said part of the unprecedented difficulty is the breakdown in leadership since the local government has also been rendered helpless. He said "other functions of government will be provided by the various (national) departments."

"We’ll be adding personnel here. The local government unit has told us that a lot of their personnel have not reported," he said.

Game changer

The presence of officials and their coordination with the national government, he said, will be a game changer in helping the administration decipher the needs of areas hit by the typhoon. READ: Tormented typhoon victims scour for food)

"That’s why we’ve been tasking our Department of Interior and Local Government to go and talk to each individual local executive and to get whatever data they possess with the end in view of determining which communities we lack information on, are isolated, so that we can send the necessary response," he said.

"For instance, we’re talking about power; we’re talking food and water. So that is the priority. In other areas it might be medicine, in others it might be just clearing the national highways. So we want to be able to send the correct assets to address the correctly identified problems at the soonest possible time."

One of the most intense typhoons on record, Yolanda whipped across the central parts of the country for most of Friday, November 8, tearing down houses and taking lives, although the official death toll has yet to be confirmed. By Sunday, however, there were reports that the death toll may have reached as many as 10,000.

Added challenge

Aquino said the government is working on building bunkhouses to house "about 45,000 families" whose houses were completely destroyed.

"But the priority now has to be food, restoration of water, and power and communications," he said.

He said it was also an added challenge that communications are down, making it difficult to disseminate information to panicking victims, who have resorted to looting in the aftermath of the super typhoon to meet their and their families' basic needs.

"But the idea of showing the people here that they don’t have to be desperate, it’s coming, if it’s not already on the way. Even if we get to land it here, how do you actually tell the people that it’s here?" he asked.

"Because you don’t have TV, you don’t have radio, you don’t have newspapers to be able to disseminate the information hence the anxiety persists. So that is a new challenge for us."

Additionally, "moving the food from areas where there is an abundance" is also a problem because roads have yet to be cleared.

Aquino was accompanied to Tacloban City by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, Transportation Secretary Emilio Abaya, and Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras.

As of posting time, the government said it is still studying the possibility of declaring a state of national emergency. -


A painful lesson By Manila Standard Today | Nov. 11, 2013 at 12:00am 7

The Interior and Local Government secretary, who flew in, described the scene as horrific, while the Defense secretary said President Benigno Aquino III was speechless when he told him of the devastation that the typhoon had wrought in Tacloban.

STUNNED rescue workers in Tacloban City expect the death toll in the city alone to reach 1,000, a testament to the destructive power of super typhoon Yolanda, which battered the Visayas Friday, and a grim reminder that our best efforts to protect ourselves from the fury of nature have been woefully inadequate.

At least 138 people were confirmed dead in the aftermath of the super typhoon, but national government and provincial officials estimate the toll could rise to a staggering 10,000 as more bodies are recovered.

Yolanda tore into the eastern islands of Leyte and Samar on Friday, leaving in its wake scores of corpses and wiping away buildings and leveling homes. Many of the worst-hit areas remained cut off from communications over the weekend, with power and telephone networks destroyed.

The worst hit was Tacloban, the capital of Leyte and city of 200,000, where storms urges of up to three meters pounded the area.

The airport looked like a muddy wasteland of debris Saturday, with more than 100 bodies littered in and around the facility, and crumpled tin roofs and upturned cars. The airport tower’s glass windows were shattered, and Air Force helicopters were busy flying in and out at the start of relief operations.

Large areas of Tacloban were flattened, with scenes reminiscent of tsunami damage. Some houses were destroyed, with piles of splintered wood lying on concrete slabs, while others had just the stone frames remaining. Almost all the trees and electric posts were torn down, while cars were overturned.

Dazed and injured survivors wandered around the carnage asking journalists for water, while others sorted through what was left of their destroyed homes.

The Interior and Local Government secretary, who flew in, described the scene as horrific, while the Defense secretary said President Benigno Aquino III was speechless when he told him of the devastation that the typhoon had wrought in Tacloban.

‘‘I told him all systems are down,’’ the Defense chief said. ‘‘There is no power, no water, nothing. People are desperate. They’re looting.’’

As early as two days before the super typhoon struck, the President had ordered the Defense secretary and disaster officials to mobilize for the onslaught. On Thursday, thousands of Filipinos living in high-risk areas in the typhoon’s path were moved to evacuation centers.

But nobody was ready for the sheer death and devastation visited upon the south by Yolanda, which made a mockery of the President’s publicly stated target of “zero casualties.”

As the early reports came in, one administration supporter said on his Twitter account that CNN might have been overstating Yolanda’s danger, “hoping for a good disaster story.”

Rather prematurely, he added: “OK Yolanda. You had your chance. We were prepared. We’ve learned a lot the past years. You did not knock us down. Now get outta here.”

Sadly, it is now apparent that we have not learned enough.

For foreseeable disasters such as storms of Yolanda’s magnitude, evacuation must done earlier, and on a larger scale. The evacuation centers themselves must be built to withstand the destructive force of nature, and a reasonable amount of emergency supplies must already be inside the centers, so that refugees do not wait days for relief to arrive from the far-flung capital.

The fact that many areas remained incommunicado 24 hours after the storm hit suggests every community must have access to emergency communications facilities independent of the commercial mobile networks which have proved time and again unreliable and susceptible to damage.

Finally, Yolanda has taught us never to be complacent about natural disasters. Lives depend on whether we learn this lesson.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved