On the first anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda’s devastation, President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Friday lashed out at those who continue to criticize the government’s efforts the rebuild the hardest-hit areas.
Instead of flying to Tacloban City, where the commemoration of the tragedy is centered, the President went to Guiuan, Eastern Samar, where typhoon Yolanda made the first of six landfalls on November 8, 2013 before unleashing its full fury on Central Visayas.
In his speech, President Aquino outlined what the administration has done to speed up recovery, but he also hit at his detractors.
“For those who don’t get tired of criticizing our every move, I will let God deal with them. The day might come that God will give them additional knowledge and kindness, that they may straighten up,” he said.
Aquino anticipated his critics’ tirade about his not having visited Tacloban instead.
“Despite all these initiatives, I have a strong feeling that first thing tomorrow, someone will still say I’ve neglected Tacloban. It’s up to you to recognize who would say such things,” he said.
The President said some people look only for quick fixes and not long-term solutions that would prevent massive devastation in the future.
He rejected monetary dole-outs to typhoon victims, saying it would not sustain their needs.
“There are those who say I should just give P40,000 to every family instead of these long-term solutions. Let me ask you, is it right that I just try to impress you? I hand money to every family that would have been spent for these projects: ‘Here, cash. You’re on your own,’” he said.
“Then what will happen? After the P40,000 is done, I won’t have to worry anymore. But how long will the P40,000 last after food, school, all the expenses of the family?,” he added
Aquino said he would rather get criticized for doing what he thinks is right for the typhoon survivors.
“So go ahead, curse me, criticize me, but I think we should do it right. My conscience won’t be able to bear leaving you on your own, to allow tragedies to keep happening and say, ‘My job here is done.’ You are my bosses. I won’t be able to deal with that,” he said.
The President’s remarks were a response to criticisms that the government’s assistance to typhoon survivors was not enough.
He stressed the difficulty of feeding 1.47-million displaced families every day.
Considered as the strongest typhoon to hit land in 2013, Yolanda devastated Eastern Visayas.
With record winds that spawned tsunami-like storm surges, Yolanda flattened entire communities and left thousands homeless.
More than 6,300 were killed, about 1,000 went missing while thousands more were injured due to the typhoon.
Aquino decided to forego a stop at Tacloban, and go to Guiuan instead, a decision that he defended at a news conference in Villamor Airbase upon his return from Guiuan, where he was briefed on government preparations for possible Ebola cases in the country.
Responding to questions about his choice of Guiuan over Tacloban to commemorate the tragedy, the President said, “At the end of the day, this is not politics.”
He was apparently referring to speculations that he skipped Tacloban to avoid its mayor, Alfred Romualdez, with whom he has traded barbs over Yolanda preparedness and recovery.
Asked to comment on criticisms about his choice, Aquino answered: “Can anybody claim that [they]were the worst hit?”
The President noted that he has already visited Leyte many times, but his visit on Friday was only his second time in Guiuan.
According to Aquino, the government has done everything it can to address all the needs of the typhoon victims, which includes providing them food, clothes, shelter and livelihood assistance.
He said the Department of Social Welfare and Development has distributed about 12.2 million family food packs, also with the help of non-government organizations.
He also noted that the Department of Labor and Employment has provided livelihood assistance to about 33,000 people, while about 21,000 have graduated from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority’s vocational education and training programs.
The President also said that schools being built in the disaster areas are expected to be finished by June next year.
Three airports and 14 ports damaged by the typhoon have been repaired or rebuilt, he said.
The President thanked the private sector for contributing P12.98 billion to Yolanda recovery efforts.