Despite the assurances of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas that the government has sufficient relief packs for victims of the earthquake, residents of some towns in Bohol province had started lining up on roads to beg for food and water.
The Red Cross said that people in Maribojoc town are going hungry after the mayor ordered Red Cross staff to leave when they refused to surrender food aid to local officials.
Hundreds of Maribojoc residents were left hungry and disappointed after lining up for Red Cross food packs, Philippine Red Cross secretary-general Gwendolyn Pang said.
Maribojoc, a town of 20,000 people, is about 15 kilometers west of the quake’s epicenter.
Mayor Leoncio Evasco said he asked the Red Cross to leave the town because the organization had disrupted Maribojoc’s aid distribution system.
The Red Cross said the local authorities had asked them to hand over aid to them, and that they had refused.
“They (local officials) wanted our people to surrender the goods to them. We can’t do that,” she said.
“It is one of the worst-affected areas . . . We see a lot of people suffering,” Pang said.
Local media have accused Evasco and other Bohol officials of wanting to take control of the aid for political gain, so that residents feel beholden to them, something that Evasco has denied.
“The whole town is an evacuation center,” the mayor said.
He said that under his system, all outside aid must go through the municipal government for “fair and equal” distribution among the town’s districts and villages.
While the government and private groups have made large deliveries of aid Bohol, some residents have complained that they had not received any from their local officials a week after a 7.1-magnitude quake hit the island.
Roxas on Tuesday ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to investigate reports that some local executives in Bohol have been hoarding relief goods as he gave assurances that the government has sufficient food supply for the quake victims.
“Hindi kailangang magtago ng relief goods dahil sa takot na maubos agad ito. May sapat na suplay ang DSWD para pakainin ang mga taong apektado ng lindol araw-araw [There is no need to hide relief goods for fear that we might run out of supply. The DSWD has enough supply of food for affected individuals even on a daily basis],” Roxas said.
He directed Chief Supt. Danilo Constantino, PNP director for Region 7, to help ensure that all relief goods delivered to municipal officials will reach residents displaced by the Oct. 15 killer quake.
“Hindi naman tama na itago sa mga opisina ang mga relief goods na bigay ng national at provincial government. Kung talagang may nangyayaring ganito, dapat managot sa batas ang sinumang responsible sa relief hoarding [It is not right to keep in their offices the relief goods provided by the national and provincial government. If the reports were true, those responsible for relief hoarding will be sanctioned],” the DILG chief said.
Roxas issued the order after the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reported to him that some residents displaced by the temblor have not received relief goods allegedly due to hoarding by municipal and barangay officials.
“Inaatasan ko ang lahat ang Chief of Police sa Bohol na tumulong sa pag-monitor ng delivery ng relief goods. Dapat siguruhin na makakarating ang mga ito kahit sa malalayong residente na apektado ng lindol [I ordered all chiefs of police in Bohol to help in monitoring the delivery of relief goods. We must ensure that they reach the victims even in the farthest places],” he said.
On Tuesday, Malacañang called for closer coordination between local government units and emergency response organizations in distributing relief goods to the earthquake victims.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. made the call after it was reported that the mayor of Maribojoc town also in Bohol attempted to stop Philippine Red Cross staff from distributing relief goods because they wanted the donations turned over to the local government.
Coloma said that they recognized that both parties have their own positions on how relief goods should be distributed to the people but he stressed that they should focus on helping quake victims instead of bickering over distribution rules.
”Ang dapat pong makita natin ay ‘yung paghahatid ng kagyat na pagtugon sa mga pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayang nasalanta ng kalamidad, lalung-lalo na ‘yung patungkol sa pagkain at ‘yung sa sisilungan nila [What we need to see is the prompt delivery of services to those in need, especially those who lack food and shelter],” he said
These efforts, Coloma added, “should not be jeopardized by any disagreements on the manner of distribution of relief goods.”
The official also said that they have coordinated with the local officials “to adopt a very proactive and a very positive outlook.”
The national government officials are there “to make sure that government assistance, private sector assistance is channeled in the most efficient way and the welfare of our people is not jeopardized further,” according to Coloma.