AMID threats of a massive protest by People Surge, a group composed of victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda, President Benigno Aquino 3rd decided not to proceed to Tacloban City and instead spend time with residents of Guiuan in Eastern Samar, the town where the howler first made landfall last year.
Malacañang on Thursday said the President decided to skip other towns due to “limited time.” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the first anniversary of the catastrophe comes at the thick of preparations for Aquino’s participation in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in China.
“Yolanda affected a wide area. President [Aquino] chose Guiuan, which was the first point of impact in November 2013. He has limited time as he is preparing for back-to-back APEC and Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] summits,” Coloma added.
“He will report to the people on what the government has done and how it will complete the work through the full implementation of the CRRP [comprehensive rehabilitation and recovery plan],” he said.
Aquino and his team will fly to Guiuan this morning from Davao City.
The President visited Guiuan and Tacloban City (capital of Leyte province) last year, just days after the tragedy, and praised local government officials of Guiuan for their efficient preparation and effective planning that reduced the expected number of casualties. In Tacloban, on the other hand, the local government unit headed by Mayor Alfred Romualdez, who is in the opposition, was criticized for lack of disaster mitigation plans.
Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr., in a separate statement, lashed at Aquino for “skipping Tacloban on the first anniversary of Yolanda.”
“Is it because of the protesters that will be gathering in the city starting tomorrow? Or is it still because, as [Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel] Roxas [2nd] puts it, the President is an Aquino and the mayor is a Romualdez?” the Bayan leader asked.
“Why can’t he face the outraged survivors on this important day? The victims and survivors from People Surge have an important message to the President. They should be heard, not snubbed. It’s bad enough that they have suffered from the criminal neglect of the regime, they now have to contend with a regime that cares little for their grievances,” Reyes pointed out.
Earlier this week, People Surge officials said they will hold a massive rally today to commemorate the tragedy.
They called on the President to resign as they deplored what they saw as his “insensitivity” to their plight.