House leader: Yolanda’s wrath won’t justify increased US troops

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The catastrophe brought by Super Typhoon Yolanda which reduced Visayas provinces to Ground Zero and left at least 5,200 people dead won’t be enough to justify increased rotational presence of American troops on Philippine soil, a House leader said Tuesday.

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Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar, Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, made the stance a day after Secretary Albert del Rosario of the Department of Foreign Affairs noted that Yolanda’s wrath accentuated the need for increased US troops presence, considering the huge resources that the United States poured in for the immediate relief operations for victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

“Their [American soldiers] presence was a major factor in the immediate delivery of relief goods. They filled a vacuum because we lack the resources. But that can’t be a basis for increased rotational presence. It just means it pays to have a big brother on your side amid crisis,” Evardone, an ally of the President Benigno Aquino 3rd, said during the Ugnayan sa Batasan News Forum.

Several towns in Eastern Samar were also wiped out by Super Typhoon Yolanda such as Guiuan, Hernani, Basey, among others. The United States sent its troops, the USS George Washington fleet, as well as choppers, for speedy delivery of aid—a boost to relief efforts which was recognized by Evardone.

Still, the Eastern Samar lawmaker is not buying Secretary del Rosario’s argument.

“Without them helping, it would have been more difficult for us. This is because their presence here is for humanitarian purposes, not political,” Evardone said.

“By December, I think they can already gradually pull out,” Evardone added. LLANESCA T. PANTI

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