The House of Representatives has mobilized its members to set up multiple drop-off points for relief goods to be situated near the affected areas of Typhoon Yolanda to speed up the flow of aid which has been hampered by damaged roads and airports, a House leader said on Tuesday.
Reps. Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. of Quezon City and Mel Senen Sarmiento of Western Samar made the announcement four days after Yolanda walloped the provinces Leyte, Samar, Capiz and some parts of Palawan with storm surges, leaving thousands of people dead and wiping out houses, business establishments, roads, bridges, among others.
Belmonte and Sarmiento, as well as the rest of the members Oversight Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction identified the following possible drop-off points: Congressional Districts along the Maharlika Highway which covers provinces of Calamba, Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon (for donations coming from Luzon), Catbalogan and Calbayog Cities in Samar, Southern Leyte, Biliran, Metro Cebu and Bacolod (for donations from Visayas) and Surigao (donations from Mindanao).
“Looting is wrong. It is bad and we condemn it. But at the same time, let’s look at it with a little compassion considering what’s going on and let’s try to solve the problem, and the best way to help is to see to it that the food will reach them,” Belmonte pointed out during the Ugnayan sa Batasan Forum.
Aside from Belmonte and Sarmiento, the members of the House Oversight panel on Disaster Risk Reduction include: Reps. Ashley Acedillo and Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list, Leopoldo Bataoil of Pangansinan and Gus Tambunting of Parañaque City.
“We don’t need to send all our donations to Manila. We should have a decentralized and orchestrated effort so that the aid can reach the victims sooner. There have been bottlenecks in the delivery of aid in the highways near the affected areas, and this Maharlika Highway can already provide our needed logistical support,” Sarmiento stressed.
The victims of typhoon Yolanda are in urgent need of food, medicine, shelter, clothes and feminine napkins, among other sanitation needs.
“We have been calling the lawmakers in these areas so that they can be of help. These areas mentioned are not affected by Typhoon Yolanda. Those relief collected along the provinces in Maharlika Highway can be transported to Samar which was not affected. For relief goods dropped in Calbayog, it can be transported via pump boats to Biliran. In two hours, it can reach the affected area of Cauayan in Negros Occidental. Biliran is also near Eastern Samar which was affected by the Typhoon,” Sarmiento explained.
“In Catbalogan, there is an airport and military camp. Goods dropped off there could be boarded on a pump boat to Babatngon, Leyte. Those goods coming from Surigao can be brought to Southern Leyte thru RORO (Roll OnRoll Off) and from there it can reach Tanauan, Leyte in a few hours. If goods are coming from Cebu, you can reach the heavily typhoon ravaged areas of Ormoc, Palompon, Carigara in Leyte in five hours via RORO. It can also be coming from Cebu, you travel by RORO to Sogod, Southern Leyte and from there, it will 70 kilometers travel by land to Tanauan, Leyte,” Sarmiento added.
The relief for Aklan and Capiz, on the other hand, can be dropped off in neighboring Bacolod City which wasn’t affected.
The mayhem stirred by Typhoon Yolanda has also reduced the number of law enforcers in the affected areas since they also ended up as victims of the catastrophe. President Benigno Aquino 3rd has earlier revealed that only two of the 290 policemen from Tacloban City were able to report for work in the aftermath of Yolanda.
In an earlier press briefing, Rep. Martin Romualdez of Leyte disclosed that the Special Action Force has already been deployed in Leyte to work with local law enforcers to stop the looting incidents.
Belmonte, however, clarified that those who are looting non-basic necessities such as appliances should be punished under the law.
“As to those who are looting not to have food but to steal, the long arm of the law should get them. If you are carting away the refrigerator, that is not addressing an urgent need,” Belmonte, a lawyer, said.
“The police and Armed Forces should step up,” Sarmiento added in closing. LLANESCA T. PANTI