PNoy WON'T PLAY BLAME GAME BUT... / U.N. EXEC: STOP THE BLAME GAME

Asked by foreign media if “understanding the shortcomings” of Tacloban was his way of blaming the local government unit for the vast casualties, the Chief Executive said that a probe was necessary. /

“The UN not a substitute of the (Philippine) government. The government is in charge in the emergency response and we are here to complement their efforts,” he said.

ALSO: THIS TIME, AQUINO GETS THE BLAME

The real disaster is the government itself. For a while I thought President Aquino was hands on in overseeing relief efforts for the victims of monster typhoon Yolanda. During a global interview, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asked President Aquino pointedly: You had made known your campaign against graft and corruption, but how do you think your presidency is going to be defined by its handling of your government’s slow relief response for the victims of this catastrophe?

PNoy WON'T PLAY BLAME GAME BUT... MANILA BULLETIN, NOVEMBER 19, 2013

TACLOBAN CITY, NOVEMBER 19, 2013 (MANILA BULLETIN) by Ellson Quismorio - President Benigno S. Aquino III is not about to play the blame game on exactly why typhoon “Yolanda” caused so many casualties in the provincial capital, but did say that he wanted the matter investigated.

Aquino, in an ambush interview in the town of Alang Alang, noted the “shortcomings” of the local government of Tacloban in the aftermath of the powerful storm, saying that there was a “breakdown in terms of government.”

“We have to admit there was a breakdown in terms of government. And there is a cascading effect,” he said in Alang Alang where he led the ceremonial distribution of some 900 food packs as well as bottled water and tarpaulin for roof-less homes.

“Unfortunately in Tacloban, the mayor himself almost became a victim of this and we’d like to try to understand the shortcomings as something amounting to shock. A lot of city councilors have not reported. They are, in a sense, a unique case. Two-hundred-ninety policemen, there were only 20 that were around,” Aquino added.

Asked by foreign media if “understanding the shortcomings” of Tacloban was his way of blaming the local government unit for the vast casualties, the Chief Executive said that a probe was necessary.

Probe First

“That is a matter that is subject to investigation. I’d rather have the investigation finished before accusing anybody of anything.”

Aquino was then asked bluntly if the ultimate responsibility for the destruction caused by Yolanda fell on his shoulders. He answered, “I’m the chief executive, so therefore everything that happens, I’m ultimately responsible.”

“But let me point out,” the President continued, “If you look at the casualty figures, the overwhelming bulk of it happened in this region. And one has to ask why this particular region. Why for instance are some provinces reporting zero. Zero casualties in terms of deaths.

Some of them are very minimal, but here you’re talking thousands already. What is the difference? And everybody was basically given the same bits of knowledge and information,” explained Aquino.

LGU Role Cited

Aquino, in the same interview, stressed the importance of the LGUs’ role in preparing for calamities as well as in guiding the national government in disaster response.

“The local government will give us the necessary data to tell us what… they need. aga in the disaster risk response of this country is geared toward the empowered LGU, which is supposed to provide the backbone…the national government comes in to augment that.”

Aquino To Stay In Leyte

Last Sunday, President Aquino said he will stay Leyte until he sees more progress in the aid effort following complaints from survivors that they have yet to receive proper help.

Aquino is expected to set up camp in Tacloban, the capital of hardest-hit Leyte province, but it is not clear where he will find suitable accommodations amid the ruins. Virtually every building in the city was damaged or destroyed by the Nov. 8 super typhoon.

Tribute To Filipinos

Meanwhile, Malacañang welcomed the tribute that CNN anchor Anderson Cooper paid to Filipinos affected by Yolanda.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said it was indeed good that Cooper thanked Filipinos for showing others how to live.

We welcome the show of support from various parties. It lifts our public morale, particularly that of the people in calamity areas, he said in Filipino.

Coloma also echoed President Benigno S. Aquino III’s call on media to help lift the morale of people especially at this time. (With reports from AP and PNA)

FROM MANILA TIMES

Stop blame game – UN exec November 18, 2013 10:35 pm by Ritchie A. Horario Reporter


A man starts to rebuild his house as the body of a victim lies among debris in a Tacloban neighborhood. AFP PHOTOS

EVEN an official of a United Nations agency helping in the relief and rehabilitation efforts in typhoon-ravaged areas is annoyed at the blame game being played by government officials over the slow delivery of basic aid to victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

“In times like this, finger-pointing should not be the name of the game,” said Bernard Kerblat, the representative in the Philippines of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd has been under heavy criticism for the slow pace of delivery of relief goods. On social media such as Facebook and Twitter, government officials are being slammed for their failure to airdrop food and water to typhoon victims who had nothing to eat for days.

The President was also widely criticized for blaming local officials for the high death toll in Tacloban City.

“I am hearing some bickering and some finger-pointing, sorry this is not the time,” Kerblat told reporters during a press briefing.

Although he admitted that there is still a bottleneck in providing relief assistance to the survivors of the calamity, Kerblat said blaming the government will not help at all.

He said instead of blaming officials, Filipinos should unite in extending assistance to the survivors and help them rebuild their lives.

“We have now to focus, all of us, including and starting with your kababayans who demonstrated the spirit of bayanihan.
That spirit of bayanihan must be preserved, strengthened and continue to exist,” he added.

Kerblat denied reports that the United Nations has taken over relief operations because of the government’s failure to speed it up.

“The UN not a substitute of the (Philippine) government.

The government is in charge in the emergency response and we are here to complement their efforts,” he said.

Orla Fagan, Humanitarian Affairs Officer of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said it is difficult to tell how soon ravaged areas will recover.

“It is very hard to tell at this time, our main focus today is life saving and to give immediate assistance to the affected individuals,” she said.

She added that they will assess areas that have yet to be reached by the relief operations.

Kerblat also said it will take time before Eastern Visayas, particularly Samar and Leyte, can fully recover from the wrath of super typhoon.

“We are not talking about months. We are talking about years before that portion of the territory of this beautiful country can be back on its feet,” he said.

He said the rehabilitation will take long because the destruction is “massive and huge.”

Kerblat said that as foreign aid continues to flow in they are coordinating with concerned government agencies so assistance could reach more victims.

Disaster manager

Aquino has moved to assert himself as disaster manager-in-chief after criticism of his response to the super typhoon, with the calamity set to become the defining event of his presidency.

Aquino toured the worst-hit towns and cities on Sunday and announced that he would set up base in the region until he was “satisfied” that the relief operation was running as effectively as it should.

He again made some thinly veiled criticisms of local officials, suggesting they had been under-prepared and provided inaccurate data which had hampered the relief effort.

“As president, I should not show my anger. No matter how irritated I am,” he said.

Aquino’s image has taken something of a hit as public anger has grown over a government corruption scandal.

At the end of October, he felt compelled to go on national television and publicly declare he was “not a thief” as he defended hundreds of millions of dollars in government spending that has come under scrutiny.

Typhoon Yolanda was always going to be a major test, but the unprecedented ferocity of the storm was overwhelming and exacerbated by a five-meter storm surge that sent tsunami-like waves crashing into coastal cities, towns and villages.

As the scale of the destruction became apparent, Aquino was initially criticized for what was seen as some insensitive quibbling over the likely death toll.

His initial estimate of 2,500 now appears unduly optimistic with the number of confirmed dead standing at almost 4,000, with another 1,600 missing and many remote areas still to be properly assessed.

At the same time, the delay of several days in getting the official relief program up and running was taken as a lack of preparedness, and that played badly with the gruesome video footage coming out of the worst-hit zones.

“The knee-jerk reaction is to blame the president,” said Rene de Castro, a political science professor at De La Salle University in Manila. “But I don’t know that anybody else in his position would have been able to handle a disaster of this magnitude.”

Aquino’s decision to move down to the impacted region was clearly aimed at demonstrating a “hands-on” appreciation of the situation, and on Monday he toured other devastated towns where he was filmed helping out at distribution centers.

“We have to raise people’s morale, we have to encourage them to get back on their feet as soon as possible by giving them positive signals of assistance and encouragement,” Aquino’s spokesman Herminio Coloma said on Monday.

“The President wants to ensure they have ample supplies and that they could be sustained so that we can move on to the next stage which is rehabilitation.”

Aquino’s criticism of local officials did not go down well in Tacloban, which was badly hit by the storm surge.

“Will we insult the dead, and say they died because they were unprepared?” Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez said also on Monday.

There was an element of political and personal bad blood to the spat, with Aquino and Romualdez belonging to two of the most powerful political clans in modern Philippine history.

Aquino’s mother, Corazon Aquino, led the “people power” revolution that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

Her husband, also called Benigno, was assassinated at Manila airport when he returned from exile in 1983.

Romualdez is related to Marcos’s widow, former first lady Imelda Marcos, who remains a powerful political figure as a congresswoman. Her son, Ferdinand Jr., is a senator eyeing a run at the next presidential elections in 2016.

“The whole relief effort has been politically polarized,” said Prospero de Vera, a political analyst at the University of the Philippines.

“This will be the defining moment of Aquino’s administration, and he needs to act very strongly and be very focused, and rise above any political bickering,” De Vera said.
AFP

MANILA STANDARD COMMENTARY

This time, Aquino gets the blame By Alejandro Del Rosario | Nov. 16, 2013 at 12:03am 84

The real disaster is the government itself. For a while I thought President Aquino was hands on in overseeing relief efforts for the victims of monster typhoon Yolanda.

During a global interview, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asked President Aquino pointedly: You had made known your campaign against graft and corruption, but how do you think your presidency is going to be defined by its handling of your government’s slow relief response for the victims of this catastrophe?

Apparently, Amanpour already knew the situation on the ground from its CNN team headed by veteran reporter Anderson Cooper.

Aquino, unable to blame his predecessor this time, pointed to a flawed system that he said placed local government units in charge of relief operations. But they too, and their families suffered from the typhoon, Aquino said. In other words, since local government units are not functioning, then no one is really in charge.

During these times of horrific human suffering, one refrains from criticizing government and presumes that our officials know how to handle the situation. But the colossal mishandling of relief operations does not allow us to cope with the magnitude of devastation wrought by typhoon Yolanda.

The international community is responding to the catastrophe with money, medicine, relief goods, doctors from Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), and rescue teams from the US military.

Delivery of the relief goods and services, however, is not moving fast enough. The choke point is that the government has been clueless on how to go about the relief operations from Day One. Consider this. Authorities won’t allow planes other than military aircraft to land at Tacloban airport.

Bypassing Tacloban, a US C-130 plane loaded with relief goods was able to land in Ormoc, Leyte and delivered its cargo to the grateful people.

Why can’t the government harness all available aircraft and just drop the relief goods to the starving populace?

The AFP bought 10 helicopters from Poland but they are not being used to airlift relief goods to far- flung areas. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin reasoned out the choppers cannot carry enough load and it would be a waste of fuel.

But it’s not a waste of fuel when ferrying officials even during non-emergency situation?

A week after Yolanda struck last Friday, many of the main roads have not been cleared for relief trucks to pass through. Truck convoys are lined up in Matnog, Sorsogon waiting for clearance to deliver their life-saving cargo to the victims in the Visayas.

The government could have released rice stockpiled in a National Food Authority warehouse in Alangalang town, 17 kilometers from Tacloban. When the NFA officials did not, hungry looters ransacked the warehouse resulting in eight people killed in a stampede on Tuesday. What were the NFA officials waiting for, authority from Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to release the rice?

We can’t say enough about the fury unleashed by Yolanda. Horrific images of the monster typhoon’s handiwork keep flashing on our TV screens like a recurring nightmare.

For those of us who have no concept of what hell is like, images of Tacloban’s devastation are pages straight out of hell.The survivors of the violence visited by Yolanda on the Visayan provinces gave graphic description of what it’s like to pass through the gates of hell.

The stench of decomposing bodies strewn on the streets is overwhelming. Without water and electricity, the mortuary and few funeral parlors in Tacloban can’t cope with the corpses that keep piling up. The Department of Health has run out of body bags, leaving the dead exposed for the flies to feast on. Some have been buried in mass graves to prevent an epidemic. The graves are dug shallow so the corpses can be easily exhumed and identified later.

Those who survived are like the walking dead, wailing in their misery. Thousands have not eaten in days. The Leyte landscape has been turned into a wasteland after Yolanda swept the Visayas with apocalyptic dimension.

Other provinces are just as devastated by Yolanda, the world’s worst natural calamity. But Tacloban serves as the screen saver for us not to forget Samar and the other provinces which are less accessible to government rescue and relief workers.

Conscience-stricken congressmen and senators have given up or realigned their Priority Development Assistance Fund to the stricken provinces. They should. It’s not their money, anyway; it’s the people’s money. They, in fact, should do more. They should get out of their gated mansions and be with their constituents.

In the Makati condo where I live, unit owners -- including foreigners and expat tenants—have donated relief goods like rice, canned goods, bottled water, clothing and medicine.

In Warsaw, Poland where I was once posted as ambassador, a timely United Nations conference on climate change and global warming is being held. Naderev Saño, the head of the Philippine delegation, made a dramatic appeal for the environment by going on a fast for the duration of the conference.

Developing countries are urging the developed nations to increase funding for the mitigation of climate change and to reduce their carbon emissions. The industrialized countries’ priority, however, is reviving their faltering economies. This means business as usual as their factories continue to churn out smog and other pollutants.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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