MALACAÑANG on Thursday downplayed claims that President Benigno Aquino 3rd was “physically absent” as Typhoon Glenda (international codename: Rammasun) battered Metro Manila and parts of Luzon on Wednesday.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino worked from his official residence at Bahay Pangarap during the typhoon’s onslaught.
“The President was at Bahay Pangarap the whole day, monitoring updates on the typhoon. Bahay Pangarap is in the National Capital Region [Metro Manila], and NCR is one of the areas struck by the typhoon,” Coloma told reporters in a news conference.
“Ginawa naman niya ‘yung sapat at hindi naman siya nagpabaya [The President did what needed to be done. He was not remiss],” he said.
It was no longer necessary for the President, according to Coloma, to be at the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) headquarters since he was already coordinating with Cabinet officials from his home office.
“It might be exaggerated to demand that he should be at the NDRRMC. He can oversee things from Bahay Pangarap,” he said.
“I hope the media will understand he does not need to be in one place and that this [not going to NDRRMC]will not be the basis of how to assess his performance,” Coloma added.
He said Aquino was satisfied with the performance of the various concerned agencies at the height of the typhoon.
“The President weighed things, and found that the damage brought about by the typhoon was not that big. He was happy with the reports from the various departments on the ground and felt that his physical presence was no longer needed,” Coloma added.
According to the NDRRMC, at least 38 people were killed, eight persons remained missing while around 1.6 million people (192,000 families) were affected by Typhoon Glenda.
Coloma said the government’s preparations for the typhoon were “sufficient” to minimize casualties, especially since the typhoon hit populous areas.
He noted that the administration already learned lessons from Typhoon Yolanda last year, and was exerting efforts to improve the country’s disaster preparedness.
“We will notice that this is the first major storm after Yolanda and there was sufficient preparation orchestrated by the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council,” Coloma said.
He cited “the very accurate forecast of the [Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration] and Project NOAH, which is now being widely disseminated through the social media platforms on a very real-time basis.”
In January of this year, Coloma said the President met with the Cabinet for a post-Yolanda assessment.
“What was made clear to the Cabinet was this: There is need to prepare for the onset of the rainy season, which at the time was still six to seven months away, and indeed the different departments buckled down to brass tacks and proceeded to make their preparations in their respective spheres,” he added.