P-NOY VISITS TYPHOON VICTIMS, CALLS FPOR MORE VOLUNTEERS / 'YOLANDA' HAS DEFINED AQUINO PRESIDENCY

ALSO: AQUINO BACK IN GROUND ZERO SATURDAY

MANILA, NOVEMBER 16, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Aurea Calica - President Aquino will visit areas hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda today (Friday) but he did not say how long he will be there; he only called for more volunteers to pack relief goods.

The President might stay for a week in the Visayas but the Palace would not confirm this. He stayed in Zamboanga City when it was under siege and in Bohol when an earthquake struck the province.

Aquino will be directly in charge of relief operations that will go with retrieval and burial of bodies.

The President visited relief centers Thursday night and thanked the volunteers.

Aquino also told volunteers that if they are feeling tired, they would just have to remember the families in disaster-hit areas who could no longer be taken care of by local officials, particularly the barangays.

“One of them (local official) told me when I visited (on Nov. 10) that they could really no longer take charge and they would have to pass everything (to us),” the President admitted.

He said the number of affected families has reached 275,000 or about 1.3 million survivors. A food pack is only good for two days for a family and about 140,000 food packs are needed each day.

“Our fellowmen must really feel that they are not being neglected, (we have to) ease the tension (so they will not be) desperate,“ he added.

The President stressed that without volunteers, the availability and distribution of relief packs would be slow and any delay could mean more suffering for the survivors. He asked volunteers to invite their friends to join them, especially this weekend.

He also noted that there are no goods to buy in areas affected most by Yolanda and things would still have to be transported there. By sea, it would take at least two days before the goods can be delivered.

Aquino said he is bent on expediting the delivery of relief goods and addressing the basic needs of the people so they could start the rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts since many of them lost their homes.

“Once we build all the houses, we will help each other with that, and we are not just talking about months with the number of people affected,” he added.

Aquino said Yolanda destroyed more than 100 transmission towers in Luzon and the Visayas and it would take at least two months before they could be fully restored. In some areas, electricity could be back by Dec. 15.

Given the difficulties, he acknowledged the need to step up efforts so people would not grow even more desperate.

The President said he regrets that it would be a sad Christmas for the survivors.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Aquino back to Ground Zero on Saturday By Gil C. Cabacungan Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:11 am | Saturday, November 16th, 2013


FROM MANILA STANDARD: Stung by criticism, Noy to revisit ‘ground zero’. PHOTO: Taking charge on Day 6. President Aquino encourages the volunteers he met at the relief repacking center in Villamor Air Base on Thursday night. The President plans to return to Tacloban City on Saturday to inspect the pace of relief operations. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

President Benigno Aquino III will return to Ground Zero of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” on Saturday to reassure the millions of hungry, homeless and despondent residents of Tacloban City that his administration has not abandoned them.

The President made this announcement during a surprise visit to three repacking centers in Metro Manila on Thursday night, where he called on the Filipinos’ spirit of volunteerism to get more volunteers to contribute their resources and time in feeding the 270,000 families solely dependent on the government for their survival.

Mr. Aquino, who visited Tacloban City two days after one of the world’s strongest typhoons tore through central Philippines, said he would return on Saturday “to show our kababayan (countrymen) that we have not abandoned them, to ease their tension and end their desperation”.

Volunteers needed

In a speech at the Fort Bonifacio Philippine Army Headquarters in Taguig City, the President cheered on the volunteers.

“If you are not here, all of these [donations] will only pile up. Any delay will be an added burden to them. I am thankful for your help. Please remember that each food pack you finish will help one family get through two days,” he said.

Mr. Aquino said there was not enough manpower to sort out and prepare the food packs. A bag of food is enough to sustain a family of five for at least two days but it takes at least two days to bring these relief items to the victims.

He said the five repacking centers were churning out 140,000 food packs each day to meet the estimated 275,000 families, or roughly 1.4 million individuals, who probably had no one but the government to depend on for food, water and shelter for the next few months.

The President said the country needed volunteers whom he described as a key cog in the government’s efforts to speed up the distribution of relief goods by fine-tuning the supply delivery, repacking system and transport schedule.

He said the lack of communication had compounded the feeling of hopelessness of the victims in the devastated areas.

“No electricity, no communication, no TV, no radio, no newspaper. People there, such as those in the 40 towns of Leyte, have not received any information [or government help], so they are overcome with fear,” said Mr. Aquino.

“Where are we going? Who are we going to approach? I plan to go back by Saturday and I hope that we can completely meet all of their daily needs because we cannot solve their problems quickly, since all of them have lost their homes. We are not only talking of months if we plan to restore all their homes,” he said.

Mr. Aquino said it would take until the middle of December (“and that involves prayers”) before power could be restored in the region, as 100 power transmission towers were destroyed, the geothermal power plant in Leyte province was damaged and the power link between Luzon and the Visayas was severed.

“Just imagine if you are there, you have no electricity, no food and no immediate solution to your problem. That is why I am asking that we hasten our preparations to speed up the transfer of these goods because anybody in their place can get desperate and that is what we want to avoid,” he said.

“We have heard about the looting. If they become more desperate, the situation will only get worse,” he said.

LGUs giving up

He said that while individuals had come forward to help from all over the country, he could not blame some local government units (LGUs)—the front-lines in the state’s disaster preparedness—for “giving up” because of the enormous task they are facing.

“We are supposed to depend on the local government because they have the barangays, they know their people, they know who needs the most help. But there was one who told us in my visit [last Sunday] that they could not do it anymore and they have passed it on to us. So this is the first time [the national government] has no help in some areas because the officials and members themselves suffered deaths and have to address their own families’ needs, and this has complicated our situation,” Mr. Aquino said.

The goal was to help get the typhoon victims back on their feet so they could reclaim their lives on their own, he said.

Super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ defines Aquino presidency November 15, 2013 9:40 pm


by RICK B. RAMOS
INSIGHTS

In her interview with President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd last Wednesday, CNN’s news anchor Christiane Amanpour asked him a loaded question if his administration’s response to the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda will define his presidency. President Aquino did not answer the question directly, as can be expected, and instead veered to the other disaster-stricken areas with “ minimal” casualties.

However, there was something shocking that President B.S. Aquino 3rd told CNN’s Chief International Correspondent that seemed to be out of touch with reality based on CNN’s own coverage of the disaster in Tacloban and other parts of Leyte and Eastern Samar. It can be the case of a Chief Executive who is honestly clueless about what is going on with his administration or perhaps suffering from absolute mental dishonesty.

PNoy told Ms. Amanpour, a veteran journalist of world-celebrity status, that the “immediate response of the national government (to the aftermath) reassured the vast majority of our people.” There is Nothing Farther than the Truth.

Admission

There was hardly any government response to speak of. On the sixth day of the super-typhoon Yolanda, the Aquino administration finally admitted their slow response and “lapses” after a storm of criticism from international and local media, as well as from the United Nations.

After the devastation of Friday last week, what PNoy simply did was he presided over a meeting of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) on Saturday, a day after the super-typhoon hit northern Leyte and Eastern Samar. Then on Sunday, he briefly visited Tacloban where he walked out of a meeting after hearing the 95 percent devastation report of the NDRRMC Executive Director, but minus any details.

After the sojourn in Tacloban, P-Noy together with DILG Secretary Mar Roxas proceeded to Roxas City, the capital of Capiz province located in northeast Panay Island. It is amazing that the President did not visit the other adjacent towns like Palo, and Ormoc City in northwest Leyte (facing Cebu) that was on the way from Tacloban to Roxas City.

Neither did P-Noy visit Guiuan, Eastern Samar that was worse devastated than Tacloban.

CNN has already visited Guiuan twice in a span of two-three days.

The first visit was with celebrity correspondent and news anchor Anderson Cooper who flew in with Philippine Navy Captain Roy Vincent Trinidad who said, “Guiuan is worse than Tacloban … (people with) sense of despair and hopelessness and wandering aimlessly.” CNN’s Ivan Watson visited Guiuan last Friday and saw the worse devastation for himself.

Flight

It has been seven days since the super typhoon struck and the people of Tacloban still have No Food, No Potable Water, No Medicine, No Shelter and No Electricity. No less than Tacloban City Mayor Alfred S. Romualdez had issued an appeal last Wednesday for the residents to leave the city. The indefatigable local chief executive urged them to flee to other cities since there is barely any food, water, medicine and shelter left for them.

The front page headlines of the leading newspapers last Wednesday showed the sheer desperation of the situation in Tacloban,Leyte. The headlines and their stories are a harsh indictment of the dismal failure of the Aquino administration on its rescue and relief operations not just in Tacloban, but other devastated areas such as Palo, Ormoc and Guiuan.

Thousands waiting desperately at the regional airport of Eastern Visayas hoping that they can get a ride away from a place one resident referred to as “Worse Than Hell.”

On 13 November 2013, the headline of the Philippine Daily Inquirer screamed: “Mad Rush out of Tacloban; Thousands foiled in bid to leave devastated city.” The Philippine Star screamed: “We have to Flee!” The Manila Standard screamed: “Escape from Hell.” The Daily Tribune screamed: “Survivors Seek Escape from No Man’s Land.”

It was only on the same day, Wednesday, 13 November 2013, the Fifth Day of Super-Typhoon Yolanda that the Office of the President finally took a direct hand with the command conference of Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras presiding over a NDRRMC meeting.

It was only that same day that Mr. Almendras finally admitted the “glitches in coordination” of the National Government and still “waiting for the Plan of the DSWD.”

I believe that Super typhoon Yolanda has defined the Presidency of P-Noy.

The severe criticisms from the victims who survived the catastrophe and the media coverage from local and international news organizations easily confirm the obvious failure in the search, rescue and relief efforts of the national government. Even the volunteers of medical missions, non-government and foreign aid organizations like the Red Cross, USAID, the World Food programme (WFP) and police and military forces have witnessed the chaos.

The assessment made by the CNN reporters Paula Hancock and Andrew Stevens on the inhuman conditions in Tacloban when they were interviewed by Anderson Cooper has indicated the dismal failure in the disaster rescue and relief operations in the past six days.

Mr. Cooper has reported that he has not seen “any organized large scale search” for survivors. Ms. Hancocks confirmed Copper’s observation that she has not seen any “systematic search for survivors” that is what is done in any disaster
CNN’s news anchor Rosemarie Church commented on something intriguing and insightful.

She said that you would expect the Philippines to have developed by now its capability in Disaster Relief Operations since we are so used to calamities—from typhoons to earthquakes. The Philippines has over 20 typhoons per year.

Correspondents of CNN have commented that the rescue and relief operations in Tacloban is both slow and there is are no real organized and concerted efforts.

Then on its sixth day, relief goods were just trickling in with No food, clean water and medicine.

Anderson Cooper reported that the only the makeshift hospital operating in Tacloban has virtually no more medical supplies left.

Glacial pace

CNN reporters have covered many other disasters before and they say that the glacial pace of rescue and relief operations has caused desperation amongst the people. Perhaps the jaded correspondents have not seen so many victims –including men – in tears.

No less than the United Nations Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos has complained the delivery of the relief goods is “far too slow.”

She sadly said that “we have let the people down.” Of course, the “we” is not the United Nations (UN) that provided the relief goods. It is the Presidency of P-Noy that has now been defined.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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