FOREIGN observers, specially, have been congratulating the Aquino administration for its “success” in handling the risk reduction and risk management tasks required by former super typhoon, then storm and now tropical depression Ruby/Hagupit.
The smallness of the number of deaths and injuries and property damage Ruby/Hagupit has caused compared to those Yolanda/Haiyan caused is, however, not largely due to anything the national government did. Unless you want to give credit to the Aquino administration for this time not giving misinformation about the super typhoon, which the Secretary of Interior and Local Government and the Secretary of National Defense did on November 8, 2013 in Leyte, preventing the local government and the citizenry from bracing for Yolanda.
The fact is Ruby/Hagupit has not been as strong and destructive as Yolanda/Haiyan. And local governments, not waiting for cues from the Aquino national government, were this time proactive.
In every area Ruby/Hagupit was forecast to possibly make a landfall or to pummel with strong winds and heavy rains the barangay and town officials, in bayanihan cooperativeness community leaders and ordinary citizens, carried out efficient evacuation moves to safer ground and what they thought were good relief centers.
PAG-ASA, was as alert and accurate, this time as it was vis-à-vis Yolanda/Haiyan in November 2013.
But proof the continuing dysfunctionality of our disaster risk and reduction management officials is the disparity between the Philippine National Red Cross death count and that of the NDRRMC (which stands for National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management
Council). The Red Cross was reporting 23 deaths, while the NDRRMC was reporting only 2. At the time of this writing, the Red Cross had counted 28 deaths, the NDRRMC only 12,
This is, however, not like last year, when, because President BS Aquino apparently got tired of hearing the unceasing bad news of deaths caused by Yolanda/Haiyan, he ordered the counting to stop when the toll according to the government had reached 6,000 (which was way above Mr. Aquino’s earlier optimistic calculation of only 1,500. The fact is the Yolanda/Haiyan deaths are most likely higher than 15,000, because thousands of missing persons have not been accounted for and people were likely buried under landslides and sunken ground under leveled houses and buildings—and even ships that were swept by tsunami-like waves into Tacloban City.
There have been conflicting reports on the number of fatalities from tropical depression “Ruby” with the Philippine Red Cross reporting as many as 28.
NDRMMC Executive Director Undersecretary Alexander Pama explains that the government count is slower because NDRRMC has to “follow procedures based on protocols” and “we record the number of deaths officially when it is verified, confirmed, and validated.” The validation happens only, he added, “when the Department of Health has issued a death certificate.” That is a very good, but extremely bureaucratic way of doing things correctly. But why doesn’t the NDRRMC have an “unofficial count” mirroring that of the Red Cross? Is it because President Aquino insists on keeping the fatality number low?
People Surge call for justice
Meanwhile, the people of Leyte still have a legitimate grievance.
The People Surge Alliance for Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors are asking for justice for the victims. In a statement to media on Tuesday, they said:
“We, survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), are just beginning to pick up the pieces of what Super Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) has left of our lives. ‘Ruby’ has brought and continues to bring torrential rainfall, winds, and storm surges as it made landfall once again on the Eastern VIsayas region, and as it continues to slowly traverse the country…
“The tale of the two storms, Yolanda and Ruby, are inextricably linked. It has been more than a year since Yolanda’s landfall, a year fraught with continuing social, economic, and environmental injustices as our national government under President Noynoy Aquino continued to abdicate its mandate to address the needs and rights of affected communities. And then came Ruby.
“Lessons seem to have remained unlearned as that brand of criminal negligence continued during Ruby: whereas government’s weather scientists have effectively predicted the typhoon’s pathway and forewarned the public, and the majority of the communities have proactively evacuated from hazardous areas, government has been unable to provide sufficient and safe evacuation centers. Thousands are reported to have searched for alternative evacuation sites or forced to settle in unsafe sites, as designated evacuation centers were overflowing. Some declared evacuation centers were actually disaster-prone areas, and initial reports reveal how an evacuation center was even destroyed by Ruby’s violent winds in Eastern Samar province.”