Manila Standard Today - Tacloban mayor says city still ‘in the dark’

In The News
24 January 2014

By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Manila Standard Today

Featured-image-Manila-Standard-TodayNEARLY two months after super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ slammed into Eastern Visayas, ninety-five percent of Tacloban City remained without power, Mayor Alfredo Romualdez said on Thursday.

In an ambush interview after a congressional oversight committee inquiry on the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2000 at the Senate, Romualdez said only five percent of electricity has been restored in Tacloban.

“We are calling for help and coordination since only 5% of the city has electricity,” said Romualdez, adding that rehabilitation work in the city has slowed down due to the rains.

During the hearing, Romualdez urged local government officials to be more flexible in dealing with rules during times of disasters.

“On the ground, we need leeway with regards to COA (Commission on Audit) when it comes to distribution,” he said.

“We can’t go by population census because victims tend to move to barangays which were not hit by calamity.”

Romualdez said it was difficult to go by the census or the population because if they were given only 300 (food packs) and there are an additional 100 persons waiting in a barangay where they moved, a fight could ensue.

“That’s only food,” said Romualdez who clarified that he is not blaming anyone in coming out with facts and situations in Tacloban city in the aftermath of the typhoon.

But he said that some adjustments should be made in the implementation of the rules aside from the establishment of storm-proof cell sites to ensure communications amid disasters.

In the same inquiry, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos backed Romualdez’s call for more flexibility during disasters.

Marcos said the government should probably change its standard operating procedure of strictly having “first responders” when disasters strike.

“You shouldn’t say you are the first responder. We have been hearing that. Perhaps, this SOP should be changed and be made flexible,” he added.

He also belied the declaration of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin during the inquiry that there was no crime and starvation in the areas ravaged by the super typhoon due to intensified police and military visibility.

Three days after the super typhoon, Marcos recalled that there were several complaints of looting which were recorded in police blotters in the city.

“We’re not talking here about looting of food since this would amount to survival. There was massive looting in malls here like the Robinsons Mall,” he said.

He added that there were reports of rape cases and other crimes committed in several places in the province of Leyte.

“There was chaos. There was no peace and order. So something must be done to avoid a recurrence of these incidents during disasters.

He also underscored the need to boost the disaster units of the AFP and the PNP.

Roxas, however, brushed aside claims by Romualdez and Marcos that they were being bureaucratic in providing assistance to typhoon victims, but explained that they merely wanted everything to be done in an orderly manner to avoid any problem.