“IN times like this, finger-pointing should not be the name of the game.”
Thus declared Bernard Kerblat, representative in the Philippines of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as he defended the on-going relief operations of the government in super typhoon-ravaged areas in Eastern Visayas region.
The administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd has been widely criticized for the slow-paced relief operations to the areas affected by typhoon ‘Yolanda’ (international name Haiyan).
Although he admitted that there is still a bottleneck in providing relief assistance to the survivors of the calamity, Kerblat said blaming the government for this will not help at all.
“I am hearing some bickering and some finger-pointing, sorry this is not the time,” Kerblat told reporters during a press briefing.
He said instead of blaming the government, Filipinos should be united in extending assistance to the survivors and help them rebuild their lives.
“We have now to focus all of us, including and starting with your kababayans who demonstarted the spirit of bayanihan. That spirit of bayanihan must be preserved, strengthened and continue to exist,” he added.
For her part, Orla Fagan, Humanitarian Affairs Officer of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said it is difficult to tell at this point in time when the ravaged-areas will be fully recovered.
“It is very hard to tell at this time, our main focus today is life-saving and to give immediate assistance to the affected individuals,” she said.
She added that they will be conducting an assessment of areas which still have not been reached by the relief operations.
Kerblat echoed Fagan saying that it will take time before Eastern Visayas particularly Samar and Leyte could fully recover from the wrath of super typhoon.
“We are not talking about month, We are talking about years before that portion of the territory of this beautiful country can be back into its feet,” he said.
He said the rehabilitation will take long since the destruction left by the super typhoon is “massive and huge.”
He likewise denied reports that the United Nations has already taken over the relief operations because of the government’s incapacity to expedite it.
“The UN not a substitute of the (Philippine) government. The government is in charge in the emergency response and we are here to complement their efforts,” he said.
Kerblat added that more foreign aids are still pouring and they are now coordinating with concerned government agencies to expedite the distribution of relief goods and reach more victims of the super typhoon.
RITCHIE A. HORARIO