Malacañang lashed back at Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez over the alleged refusal of national government to rescue thousands of his people in the immediate aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda.
Appearing before a congressional committee in the Senate, Romualdez lamented the lack of support from the national government and said that politics injected into rescue and relief efforts added insult to injury.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., however, defended the national government from Romualdez’s accusations, and outlined “empirical facts” showing the administration’s disaster response.
Contrary to the mayor’s claim, Coloma said that President Benigno Aquino 3rd and his administration “took all necessary steps to prepare the people on the dangers posed by typhoon Yolanda, and after it struck, the government spared no efforts in addressing the needs of the people in the calamity areas.”
“All of the concerned frontline government departments and agencies, particularly the Department of National Defense, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health, and even the Metro Manila Development Authority were deployed in full force to ensure maximum delivery of essential services and assistance in the affected communities,” he added
The Palace official said that President Aquino also “addressed the nation to warn of its severity and magnitude on the night of November 7,” a day before Typhoon Yolanda made landfall.
“He [The President] specifically warned about the possibility of storm surge in over 100 areas and urged the local authorities and the citizens to take precautionary measures,” he said.
On the President’s instructions, Coloma said that both cabinet officials, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd, “were in Tacloban City before Yolanda made landfall in Samar and Leyte also on November 7.”
“Despite the breakdown of communications, instructions were relayed by the President to them via satellite phone on Friday, November 8,” Coloma said.
“Within 24 hours after Yolanda’s landfall, Tacloban airport had been cleared by AFP [ Armed Forces of the Philippines] and public works engineers. Military helicopters brought in troops and soldiers to replace the first responders who had been disabled. The Philippine Air Force flew in relief goods and troops,” he added
Coloma also noted that the President himself visited Tacloban City on November 10 “to make an initial assessment of the damage and to supervise relief operations.”
“He [Aquino] returned on November 17 and stayed until November 19 to ensure the speedy delivery of relief goods to the most severely affected families,” he said.
“In view of these empirical facts, the President believes that those engaging in a media campaign and putting the blame on the national government are performing a disservice to the people,” Coloma added. CATHERINE S. VALENTE