President Benigno Aquino on Monday ordered an investigation into the lapses of local officials in areas badly hit by Typhoon Yolanda.
Aquino said that the shortcomings of local authorities in term of disaster preparedness are “subject of investigation.”
”I’m the Chief Executive, therefore, everything that happens ultimately resides with me,” he said, stressing that there are some local officials who had been under-prepared.
”If you look at the casualty figures, the overwhelming bulk of them happened in this region. And one has to ask why this particular region. Why are some provinces, for instance, reporting zero— zero casualties in terms of deaths? Some of them are very, very minimal but here you are talking thousands already. What is the difference? And everybody was basically given the same bits of knowledge and information,” he said.
”In terms of storm surges we have a 36,000-km coastline. You want to map every area and try to model if a storm comes at this velocity, how does the contour of the area have on the beaches look like so that you would know the magnitude of storm surges and their effects on the inland portions? That has to be handled also. A lot of relocating efforts also, which is actually being undertaken already,” he added.
Aquino said that he wants to find ways “to minimize the casualties and destructive effects” of typhoons.
”That’s why the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council has been constantly fine-tuning and improving its capabilities. And I think proof of that is, again, the disparity between what transpired in terms of casualties and several other regions that have reported very minimal (toll),” he said.
He noted that the disaster risk response of the country is “gauged towards the entire local government unit, who is supposed to be the backbone for all of the assistance that comes from the national government.”
The national government, on one hand, “comes in to augment that which the local government has not met,” he said.
”Unfortunately, in Tacloban City, in particular, the mayor himself almost became a victim of this. So we have to admit, there was a breakdown in terms of government and there was a cascading effect,” he added.
“One is tempted to despair. But the minute I despair, then everybody gets hampered in the efforts to get up,” he told reporters.
Asked to respond to criticisms that the government reacted too slowly, Aquino said: “I would like to ask these critics, what else would I have done given the resources we do have, and given the magnitude of the problem?”