President Aquino Heaps Blame On Tacloban City Gov’t For Yolanda (Haiyan) Disaster

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, President Benigno S. Aquino III re-emphasized that the lack of preparation on the local government level was to blame for the huge number of deaths brought about by storm surges created by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Tacloban City, which reportedly had made disaster preparations, was overcome and almost completely devastated by the super typhoon which has been described as the strongest in recent history.

A report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer days ago detailed the state of disaster preparations:

tacloban not preparedIn Tacloban City, 177 families from 12 coastal barangays were brought to San Jose Elementary School, Eastern Visayas State University, and Tacloban Convention Center. Mayor Alfred Romualdez designated all 54 pulbic schools in the city as evacuation centers.

In Palo Towan, also in Leyte, dozens of families in coastal or riverside communities congregated at public schools serving as evacuation centers.

In the coastal village of Candahug, a settlement facing the Pacific Ocean, Army soldiers collected mostly children and their mothers or grandmothers and transported them to evacuation centers set up by town officials.

A picture from the Wall Street Journal’s website shows the Tacloban Convention Center in shambles in the aftermath of Yolanda (Haiyan).

Source: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303914304579193971305978200?mod=e2tw

Source: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303914304579193971305978200?mod=e2tw

In the interview on CNN, President Aquino also unwittingly revealed that his administration had yet to embark upon a study that would identify areas in islands throughout the archipelago that were most vulnerable to storm surges.

Already having admitted that “typhoons are not an unusual occurrence” in the country, Aquino virtually admitted to having failed to prioritize the implementation of geo-hazard mapping focusing on storm surges — the most common threat through out the archipelago with numerous islands facing storm/typhoon paths.

Below is a transcript of Aquino’s interview with Amanpour:

Amanpour: Can I ask you first, you have toured some of the worst hit areas, on a personal note, how has it affected you? How do you manage to reassure your people who have gone through this typhoon after an earth quake, after a typhoon last year?

Aquino: First of all, typhoons are not an unusual occurrence in the Philippines. We get visited by about 20 of them every year. But this year has been an exceptionally bad year with more than 20.

We have been able to demonstrate as a government and as a people collectively that we take care of each other.

And the government’s immediate response has been reassuring to the vast majority of our people.

Our ability to take care of our problems, rather quickly, except in this particular case… the foundation of our efforts rely on the local government units and unfortunately two or three were simply overwhelmed by the degree of this typhoon that affected us

But other than that, in other areas there was preemptive evacuation, cooperation from the citizenry which brought down the casualty figures from the other areas affected. Except for this corridor in Leyte and Samar provinces.

Amanpour: It is obviously a huge emergency to get fresh food, water to the worst hit areas and we have seen some of the local officials, mayors for instance in the tacloban area, has said that, you know, survivors are piling looking up into the heavens and the dead are piling up. He says that there is no local government functioning, those that they depend on, the police, the army, even social workers are the victims themselves, even the police and army are dead… we have heard so many stories from our reporters… the slowness, the bottle neck of trying to get vital aid to the people… how can you open those routes.. that pipeline for disaster relief?

Again, our system says our local government unit has to take care for the initial response. Unfortunately in the case of Tacloban, our police there assigned are about 290 and only 20 of them were available when disaster struck. Employees of the city government have also been affected, have been tending to their own families and there have been very few who have been reporting for work.

Hence, the national government had to not just augment what the local government could do but actually replace a lot of the personnel with personnel from other regions to take care of government’s vital functions.

What hampers the effort is the typhoon wrought havoc on the powerlines and also the communications facilities giving us immense dificulty in identifying needs and thereby dispatching the necessary relief supplies and various equipment.

So today, all the national roads are i understand reopened. We’re already working on the secondary roads. And most of the airports are almost back to normal operating levels.

But still, the sheer number of people that were affected in these three provinces is quite daunting.

We are tasked to provide something like 50,000 family food packs every two days.

Amanpour: Mr. President, we’ve heard catastrophic death toll estimates, some have said maybe 10,000 in the worst hit areas in Tacloban alone. Your initial government estimates are about a couple of thousand dead. Do you expect the death toll to go much higher, what can you tell us about the number of dead?

Aquino: ten thousand I think is too much, perhaps that was brought about by a.. how shall I put it… being in the center of the destruction… being actual… there was emotional trauma involved with that particular estimate… quoting both a police official and a local government official… they were too close to the… they did not have basis for it…

two thousand.. the figure I have right now is about two thousand but this might still get higher…

we are hoping to be able to contact something like 29 municipalities left… wherein we still have to establish their numbers, especially for the missing…

but so far, 2,000 to 2,500 is the figure we are working on as far as deaths are concerned.

Further on:

Amanpour: And what about the… obviously the people are desperate, they are raiding some stores.. there are obviously some reports of some looting and outbreaks of some violence. What is your assessment of the state of law and order?

Aquino: Well, we have deployed an additional 2,000 personnel to these affected areas to restore order. And again, the problem is, the main government unit, which is the local government unit acting as first responders failed to respond appropriately, then there was that breakdown. People became desparate and that’s why we are trying to fast track the situation where the national government takes over the local government functions so that order is restored and people are gained the confidence that their needs are being addressed and will be addressed fully.

Amanpour: It just so happens that there is one of those major climate change conferences taking place in Europe in Warsaw, Copanhagan 19 and your Philippine climate negotiator made a really heart felt plea for international help and basically lambasted the failure of the world to deal with climate change. He said he has done a lot of interviews and he has talked to a lot of officials in the US and in the developed world. They say they can’t be held responsible, that they can’t be held morally obliged to do anything. Now the Philippines is the most storm wracked area in the world, we know that it is the third most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. What do you say to those negotiators sitting there in the world capitals while your country is practically submerged?

Aquino: Well, uhm, when… I think it is already an accepted reality for the Filipino community that the global community that climate change is a reality and that soon there will be no debate that it is happening. Areas, uhm, time when it should be raining suddenly become dry, the dry months suddenly become very very wet. For instance, since I’ve assumed office, practically every year, when we are supposed to be in the Christmas spirit, where we never had typhoons, we have very strong and devastating typhoons like what happened last year.

We are again at the tail end, where the wet season is supposed to have been over, and we have this super typhoon.

It wreaks havoc also on our planting season wherein our farmers are getting hard pressed to adjust to this global climate change. And we all live in one planet, either we come up with a solution that everyone adhers to and cooperates with or let us be prepared for ever increasing disasters on a global level.

In one of the international conferences that I attended, there was a south pacific island that was discussing moving their entire because they … I am sorry I don’t remember exactly how much the level of increase but it will completely inundate their country…

and they are actually discussing where to move their people to if that eventuality happens

especially in the most developed countries contributing immensely to global warming, there has to be sense of moral responsibility, that what they wreak is playing havoc on the lives of so many less capable of fending for themselves

Amanpour: Mr. President, you talk about a moral responsibility from the world. Can we ask you about your responsibility as President. Clearly, I don’t know whether you agree, the way you respond in your government responds to this terrible devastation, will probably define your Presidency.  Many have talked about how much effor has gone in, reform you have done, how much work you’ve done against corruption But many people might end up judging you on how your government has responded.

Aquino: I think you can ask all of the governors for instance in the areas that have been saying that our making them aware of the dangers that were forthcoming from this typhoone enabled them to move their populations from danger areas and safer areas and thereby minimize casualties. A lot of them, with the exception of Leyte Province, Eastern and Western Samar, have reported that practically 1 or 2 casualties and even practically zero casualties. Wherein normally, when we have a typhoon you will have ships that will be travelling that would have sunk, casualties in the hundreds probably merit too much attention…

So the knowledge, the geohazard mapping, the knowledge imparted to all of them has enabled them to reduce the risk inherent in all these disasters that visit us.

Amanpour: When you look to the future and you know what kind of place your archipelago occupies, storm buffeted over and over again, do you think this is going to get worse in the future? Do you envision worse storms, worse casualties, or do you think there might be the possibility of raising the game, raising the ability to react to this kind of…

Aquino: One would hope it would not be worse than this, at the same time, again when trying to plan a community whereby they are resilient to all of these ravages of nature… there is an ongoing program defining precisely geohazard maps .. some sort of ecological engineering whereby .. items like planting mangroves for instance as a defense against tsunamis …

investments in the sciences particularly our weather bureau… our institute for volcanology… and other entities in government where they will provide us with the necessary knowledge that we can minimize risks inherent in all of these national disasters that unfortunately the Philippines finds itself in not just in typhoons but being in the ring of fire…

Amanpour: Finally, what is your most urgent need to deal with this disaster right now?

Aquino: The challenge for us right now after the relief efforts will be to rebuild the houses of tens of thousands of families affected … quite a major outlay … construction has to be better to withstand the ravages of this climate change

and also later on the mapping out of areas prone to storm surges… that I think is the next phase of studies that we have to do to make our country more resilient to all these natural disasters

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Comments (29)

  1. Sam Ting Wong

    Katrinabianx Tiopes
    AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT

    After being stuck in a dead zone with no comms and internet the past 48 hours ngayon ko lang nababalitaan ang latest antics ng ating kagalang-galang na pangulo.

    So take this as one Taclobanon’s OPEN LETTER to His Excellency, Benigno Aquino, President of the Republic of the Philippines.

    Mr. President,

    Gusto ko lang sabihin, NAGHANDA ANG TACLOBAN. IN FACT, most people we encountered who survived, survived precisely because NAGHANDA SILA. People were evacuated, centers were put up, and warnings were issued.

    Ang tanong, bakit madaming namatay? kasi tangina naman pre mas malakas pa ang yolanda sa katrina. Kung ang US nga hindi napigilan ang hagupit ng katrina. This was not something anyone could have prepared for. Isa pa, wala bang nakapagsabi sa yo na nasa tacloban ang SENTRO NG BAGYO?? pano mo maikukumpara ang “casualty count” ng leyte at samar sa ibang probinsiya ng hindi mo rin ikukumpara ang lakas ng tama ng bagyo.

    Pero alam mo minamahal naming pangulo, di ka naman namin sinisisi, puta bagyo to eh, nature to, alam naming hindi ikaw ang dahilan nito. Isa pa, ang mga waray, hindi magaling sa blame game. ANG IKINAGAGALIT NG MGA TAO NGAYON ETO LANG:

    AT A TIME WHEN PEOPLE ARE DESPERATE FOR A LEADER THAT WILL SEND THEM A MESSAGE TO PICK UP THEIR BROKEN SPIRITS;

    AT A TIME WHEN PEOPLE NEEDED ASSURANCES THAT YOU HAVE THEIR BACKS;

    THE ONLY THING YOU GAVE THEM, WAS A BIG “FUCK YOU TACLOBAN, THIS IS YOUR FAULT, DON’T BLAME ME.” (Forgive my very liberal paraphrasing)

    Tangina naman pre (i hope you don’t mind my audacity to refer to you on friendly terms), hindi naman namin hinihingi na pigilan mo lahat ng bagyo. O kaya na personally ka mamigay ng relief goods. Ang hinihingi lang ng mga tao sa yo, bilang lider ng sambayanang Pilipino, ang maging inspirasyon sa amin.

    The best leaders throughout history aren’t remembered because they prevented huge disasters, they are remembered because when disaster inevitably struck, they inspired and rallied the people. I’m not an expert on Philippine history, but isn’t that what your parents did?

    I’m sorry Mr. President, but you failed us. You failed the people of Bohol, Cebu, Leyte, Samar, Biliran, Masbate and all the other provinces that had to face the last few disasters.

    On a final note, that “casualty count” you so callously keep referring to? That’s not just a number to us. That “casualty count” are family, friends, and neighbors that we will never see again. People we loved and cared about that we will never be able to laugh with or share a drink with.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do not for a moment presume that you don’t know the pain of loss. I’m sure you do. But, you see, that’s precisely my point. I’m sure you understand, that any human being going through the deepest and darkest grief doesn’t care much that it’s this or that person’s fault. What we need from you right now, Mr. President, is an outstretched hand, not a big middle finger.

    Yours truly,
    Biboy Alimangohan
    Formerly of San Jose, Tacloban City
    Current address: N/A

    • Sue

      I fully understand how you feel because I myself is part Waray. That should put Pnoy in his place! and think very very well next time before he opens his mouth. Let us just encourage and strengthen each other now and always seek God’s mercy and help. God bless you friend!

    • Makabayan

      For me, i think Pres. Aquino is not blaming the LGU’s if you try to watch it again or read the transcript again, he say’s that the foundation rely’s on the LGU’s. Our system says the LGU’s should be the first response, but then because of the strength of the typhoon is too much that even the local government, police and social workers where devastated too and they are also affected hence crippling them too that’s why the slowness, bottleneck of relief, looting, raiding is happening. If you look back to the past disasters our LGU’s are the way of our national gov’t to bring the relief and let the LGU’s designate where the relief should be heading since they know better what are the place that were affected most. Now that there is no LGU’s the national gov’t doesnt know where to put/give the relief, if there’s still LGU’s operating the said effects were not to happen, only they too were affected. The only thing is he did not explain it further and we understood it differently.

      P.S. I’m a Dick Gordon fan

      • Sam Ting Wong

        Pointing out that the foundation of disaster relief efforts relies on LGUs, puts the onus or burden on them. It would be fair under circumstances when the LGU still has the capacity to respond to the disaster. But in Tacloban’s case, the entire local government was virtually wiped out.

        What is perhaps the right thinking that should guide us is that the NEAREST LGU should be ready to assist neighboring LGUs that are worse off.

        They will most likely be nearest to the disaster area.

        But, really, what we are looking at is a very huge corridor of destruction which simply has overwhelmed all LGUs in the area.

    • Makabayan

      Also I forgot to mention the article says “Our Pres. re-emphasized the lack of the local gov’t disaster preparedness” can you give me the example in the transcript that he said that? I think he didnt said anything about the LGU’s disaster preparedness

      • Sam Ting Wong

        By re-emphasize, it is meant that this is not the first time that the President faulted the Tacloban LGU.

        Check out this time line that I found on a Facebook group.

        November 10: The President blames local officials of Tacloban for lack of preparation that led to high death toll.

        November 11: The President’s henchmen claim their boss is not blaming anyone. Cabinet Sec. Jose Almendras said: “Hindi po kami nanunuro. Wala po kaming sinisi. Ang sinasabi ko lang po, napakaimportante na meron kaming katuwang, meron pong makakasabi sa amin kung saan dadalhin ang tulong.”

        November 12: President B.S. Aquino tells Amanpour: “And again, the problem is, the main government unit, which is the local government unit acting as first responders failed to respond appropriately, then there was that breakdown.”

  2. Steve

    I totally agree! Here in Bicol Region particularly in Albay, we are very aware of disaster preparedness. But YOLANDA is a different story… Bicolanos are now joining hands to help, inspire and NOT blame somebody! Bangon tayo! Kilos PNoy!

  3. Nakaka

    Mr. President this is not the time to blame anyone, they have prepared for the typhoon, but not for the storm surge. GOD Bless……….

  4. Really annoying…Even if all the preparations were made, the storm has destroyed 90+% of the assets, so what could they do? I really don’t know how this guy won since he doesn’t even have enough balls to face issues..In terms of preparations, isn’t Manila spared from most of the brunt of the storm? SO why the hell is he and his team only having conferences and planning and some action merely 1-2 days after the storm left most of the country? Talk about preparation..If they prepared much earlier, most of the help would’ve arrived to affected areas a few days ago..At least they should’ve prepared transportation arrangements so international assistance could get there quickly…really really annoying…SO who lacks preparation now?

  5. Philippine_Samurai

    Our president is evidently a child and not prepared to govern yet. This and so many examples have already came to test him and all he did is blame them to the other people than gather his thoughts and do his job. I can’t help but end up feel shame for our government’s lack of ‘kick’. Kumbaga kulang sila sa sipa sa pwet para kumilos ng matino.

  6. Kate

    Mr. President, why point fingers at other people when you could use those hands of yours to lift your people from this terrible calamity? There are a lot of things I still don’t know that happened during Yolanda’s devastating trip to the Philippines but the one thing I am sure about is that no one is to be blamed. I know that people always look for someone to blame to make themselves feel better but that just makes everything worse. At times like this, people should help each other out no matter what your status in the society is. Whether you’re the president or a low-ranking employee, it doesn’t matter because in the end, what matters most is that we helped each other out.

  7. open letter…yong tulong ng foreign at govt.fund regenerate natin sa lahat na apektado ng kalamidad gamitin sa pagbuo ng highways,housing,etc, ihire lahat ng lalaki na apektado ng kalamidad sa ganitong paraan kikita ang mga lalaki at ung kita nila ibibigay sa asawa at sila naman ang bubuhay sa mga tindahan..iikot ang pera pansamantala…habang hinihintay muli ang pagtubo ng niyog estimate 5 to 8 yrs. at saging 3 to 5 yrs yata sa ganitong paraan walang lootting na mangyayari at within 5yrs babalik muli ang sigla ng mga kababayan natin dyan sa visayas… wala ng sisihan ipadala lahat ang equipment,military,bigas, delata,tuyo,mmda,health,dilg,senate congres, sa visayas at lahat tumulong ng walang sweldo volunter minsan lang sa 400yrs.pansagip kapamilya,kapuso,kapatid, may God blss us…

  8. As a Zamboangueno who very recently suffered from a catastrophe, albeit manmade. I too question, even deplore, the lack of sincerity and urgency in the national government response. The grieving populace because of relatives who died, because of houses burned, livelihood lost need real help, not announcements of so much finances available or promised. Balewala ang 3.8B aide na on paper lang. There must be solid infra projects and services on the ground made available NOW!.

  9. NelMan

    Granting Leyte local officials did not prepared well, what about the National Government??? what kind of preparations have they done? 6th day still no show of actual efforts/actions. Blame will back fire to the one who shoots first…. Panot umayos ka!

  10. Alvin M O.

    I totally agree. May i have your permission to repost/share your comments, Mr Biboy?

  11. Joni

    You can never expect anything good coming from a mediocre leader. Distressful times like this, I agree with you, calls for a leader not to personally attend to our needs but at least have some compassion on the victims. But what we get instead is an accusing finger.

  12. cipriana lee

    tamad talaga si pnoy ,matagal na natin alam iyan ,nasa congreso pa tamad na iyan lagi lang nakaupo ,walang ginawa siempre anak mayaman anak ni ninoy at cory , ,ang sisihin niyo ang nagsulong na siya ay maging presidente ,namatay lang ang ina ibinoto na ninyo kahot alam ninyo na tamad at walang alam ,sino kahiya hiya di ba tayong mga pilipino .huag na magsisihan ,pumili ng mahusay na presidente sa susunod iyong nagtatrabaho ,
    sana s iGIBO teodoro binoto ninyo ,

  13. Sana lahat kayong mga corrupt gov’t officials ang tinamaan ni Yolanda, lalo na sa Senado at Malacañang. Mga demonyo kayo nagbabalat tao. Sabagay kahit mamatay kayo ay bubuhayin pa rin kayo ng amo ninyong si Satanas.

  14. bobo_lang_ako

    Almost all of you guys are angry of Pnoy, believing that HE IS BLAMING THE LGU for the slow respond of the nat’l government… Sana intindihin nyo, na according dun sa interview is sinasabi lng niya kung ano ang nangyari at hindi niya sinisisi… eh sa totoo naman na, since kasama sa nasalanta ang LGU’s, kaya hindi nakapag report ng tama kaya ndi rin naka respond ang nat’l government… sinabi lng niya kung ano ung nangyari pero hindi ibig sabihin nun is sinisisi niya na neither ung mga taga TACLOBAN or other areas nor the LGU’s… He simply stated what happened…

    • Sam Ting Wong

      President Aquino’s administration has had three years to implement geo-hazard mapping which should have also taken into account storm surges. Apparently, this did not happen and he admitted it to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

      If there were any preparations for typhoons such as Yolanda, it should have been made YEARS ago. This should have taken into account various scenarios where multiple provinces and their LGUs had all their disaster response resources wiped out.

      There should be multiple plans too, as many as there are alphabet letters, maybe.

    • vic

      sana inintindi mo din, na sa mga repeated na comment nya ineemphasize nya yung kakulangan ng response ng lgu… hindi nga nya sinabi ng diretso pero by inference sinisisi nya ang mga lgu…

  15. bobo_lang_ako

    Siguro for me, if i were to lead the national government, i would send lesser people for the sending of the relief goods and other needs then more ang ipapadala ko for clearing out the roads and everything wherein dun nahihirapan dumaan ung mga namimigay ng relief goods and other needs, and then, even more dun sa mga taong mag-eestimate and maguumpisa ng rebuilding ng houses and other facilities needed for each areas…

    kasi diba, hindi nmn sa magrerely ako sa mga donations pero since kilala naman natin ang mga Pilipino na sadyang magtutulong-tulong tlga for the donations, edi mas magco-concentrate nlng ako dun sa dadaanan nila kasi according sa mga news, may mga trucks daw na, kung ndi makadaan sa mga main roads ay hinaharang ng mga NPA’s… meron pa nga daw ung sa kapuso foundation, inanod ng malakas na alon ung isang barko ata un, parang ganun hehehe… so dun ako mag focus then behind that, better kung unti-unti nang gumawa ng paraan para maiayos na ang mga bahay-bahay at ibang facilities like hospitals or centers at iba pa…

    i don’t know kung this is happening pero un ung naiisip ko sa ngaun na dapat gawin… Madaming mayayaman na Pilipino na tumutulong talaga lalo na ngaun, makikita nyo naman sa news dabah… anjan ang Sagip Kapamilya, Kapuso Foundation, Tulong Kapatid pati Red Cross… i-add nyo pa ung mga company owners plus ung help coming from other countries… oh dabah! full pack!!! pak na pak! harharhar

  16. Macky

    Pointing fingers is not a big help.. people from tacloban, leyte, samar are all prepared. but the gov’t failed to have a back up plan if ever that 1st plan will not work.

    How will the LGU people will help others if they were also affected or maybe worse they are already dead.

    Mr President, might as well admit that they are lapses of national government.

    Let you people feel that you are concern with them not to blame them

  17. sawa na

    ALL TALK.. don’t even bother to know what he’s talking about!

  18. gebie

    Nakakahiya naman ang pamamalakad ng government natin….sana ung mga donations mapunta sa mga projects at hindi ma pork barrel o manakaw lng ng mga gahaman…anyways sana nga matauhan ang gobyerno na dapat mas marami pang epadalang tao o military forces na tutulong sa paglilinis don at pagpapakain sa mga tao don…habang ang mga taong willing mag help ang tutulong sa pag uplift ng spirit ng mga taga ron…kasi for sure maraming willing mag help like doctors, companies, cleaners, etc. Pero dahil unorganized hindi alam kung saan pupunta o sino ang lalapitan para tumulong…kea tuloy parang ang hirap e bangon uli ang tacloban or visayas…

  19. Anonymous

    Yet another stupid, alarmist article that spins facts. Pnoy did not in fat “heap blame” on the LGU – he only said they were overwhelmed.

    More stupid hackery by the anti-Pnoy crowd, taking advantage of a disaster to push their agenda yet again.

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