Alot of people evidently believe that President Noynoy Aquino is to blame for the poor response to Super Typhoon Yolanda.
The criticism of the government response to Yolanda consisted primarily of condemnations of mismanagement and lack of preparation in the relief effort in its
PNoy was criticized heavily because the government was slow to provide relief aid, as many televised interviews of Yolanda’s victims by both local and foreign media showed that they were without food and water.
Reports said aid was coming in plenty but were not being shipped or distributed fast enough, and that both government and non-government organizations were having trouble coordinating and giving relief. Because people were desperate looting became rampant and even turned deadly at some point.
Public debate also arose about the local and national governments’ role in the preparations for and response to Yolanda.
Put issues into perspective
I am not saying the President is entirely blameless but let us also put these issues into perspective.
Right now, we shouldn’t even be playing the blame game. If you are not yourself part of the relief efforts, if you have not personally given time or money or both helping victims of Yolanda, then you just better shut up because you’re not helping, you’re being part of the problem.
Sure, we have to assess where we went wrong, and what could be done better—always
we need to do these. But this is the time to help.
But putting things in perspective, Yolanda (or Haiyan, its international name) was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded killed. There is almost nothing you can do to prepare for winds of about 315 kph.
Government authorities evacuated about 750,000 people, one of the largest such evacuations in our country’s history. It is not like they tried to down play the intensity of Yolanda. They did prepare and disaster preparation arrangements were far better than the ones in the past.
The President had directed the national government to extend all needed assistance to local officials. Early on, he issued a televised warning for people to leave high-risk areas, including 100 coastal communities where the storm was expected to produce waves up to 7 meters high. In fact, government officials were already broadcasting warnings starting two days before the typhoon hit.
Local and national authorities evacuated thousands of people from villages in the path of Yolanda. Schools and offices were closed. These preemptive evacuations definitely reduced casualties. Without these preemptive evacuations, thousands more could have died.
There were responders from the military, police, and the Bureau of Fire Protection in every village, town, city and province expected to be hit by Yolanda.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) had prepositioned family food packs in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), Bicol, Western, Central and Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, and Caraga region.
It also requested the National Food Authority (NFA) to provide 100,000 sacks of rice to eight typhoon-hit regions.
All the Cabinet members were ordered to take a hands-on role in the preparations by the President. President Aquino ordered Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas to personally go to Leyte to coordinate the government’s response to Yolanda.
Rubber boats and other newly purchased amphibious vehicles that can be used for evacuation were prepositioned in strategic areas. Cargo planes, helicopters, even 20 Navy ships were on standby.
The President said the government aimed for zero casualties.
But as Murphy’s Law says, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and amid a super typhoon, perhaps much more so.
Some coastal residents had been reluctant to leave until they saw the sea rise. Even Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez and his family decided to ride out the super storm at their beachfront property. Imagine, even the mayor of the worst-hit city didn’t evacuate his family.
People don’t always listen to the warnings. People are stubborn like that. It’s just human nature. In more than a few cases in the past, the government had often resorted to force so that much more might be evacuated if the worst predictions come to pass. But logistically, it is impossible to forcibly evacuate everybody.
That’s one of things that happened here. More than a few people were not willing to come to the shelters or seek safer, higher grounds because they were worried that they will lose their belongings. When the water came in, it was too late to flee.
Of course, many of them lost much more than their belongings. And of course, each of those who died in the flooding from Yolanda’s storm surge will be or has already been blamed on the administration.
Many blamed the flimsy construction of homes and buildings in Yolanda’s path. If they were built better, they could have withstood the storm. This is true. We need better, more technological infrastructure that could adapt to the worsening storms brought about by climate change.
But to blame the administration for the lack of brick-and-mortar houses and the greater number of flimsy wood and tin-roof homes in the worst-hit provinces is a bit unfair. Poverty and corruption are to blame, sure, but these didn’t happen overnight. Poverty and corruption predate the Aquino administration.
The delivery of relief goods was slow initially, but after a disaster, there will always be delays in the delivery of relief. This has happened not only here but even in rich countries like the US.
Relief usually can arrive only in 24 to 48 hours after the storm clears. Naturally, the media will be at the site much sooner to broadcast the dire situation.
We also don’t have enough planes and helicopters to go around the roads that were destroyed by Yolanda, and besides, massive deliveries of goods can only arrive by ship, which can take several days. It’s no excuse. It’s reality.
Distribution was difficult, and it was made more difficult by reports of rampant looting, which scared the aid agencies from going into the communities without adequate military or police escorts.
Like I said, help if you can. Blaming will only worsen the crisis.