What about Eastern Samar?
MANILA, Philippines – It has been 6 days since killer Typhoon Yolanda (international codename Haiyan) left the Philippines, but massive and sustained relief operations have yet to reach one of the provinces hit hardest by the calamity.
Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone said he had agreed with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman to set up a separate command center in his province when the 3 of them flew to the island province on Monday, two days after Yolanda left the country.
Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras said on Wednesday that aside from the one in Tacloban City in Leyte, two more relief distribution centers would be set up, and one of them would be in Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
As of Thursday morning, November 14, however, this had not been implemented, said Evardone, who arrived in Manila from Eastern Samar on the same day.
The congressman said that during his entire stay in Eastern Samar from Monday to Thursday morning, the delivery of releif goods had been limited.
"When we arrived on Monday, we brought some relief goods with us," the lawmaker said. "On Monday afternoon, that was the first time that the C130 flew to Eastern Samar. But on Tuesday, what it carried was PNP from Region III. On Wednesday, US choppers arrived."
Evardone could not provide a concrete response on how local government units nor the national government planned to address the need for relief services in the area.
Just like in Tacloban, local governments in affected areas are incapacitated. In the town of Guiuan, where Yolanda made its first landfall, Evardone said the mayor still could not account for most of his employees.
Rappler spoke on Thursday with the sister of Guiuan's mayor who was in Manila to seek donations and other forms of assistance. (READ: No food for 4 days in Guiuan islands)
Who is in charge in Eastern Samar? Evardone could not provide a definite answer.
"In Eastern Samar, the national command center is still not there," Evardone said. "I took it upon my self to appoint the DILG provincial officer as the head of the command center in Guiuan, hopefully, to set up a hub there."
The United Nations has identified Eastern Samar as one of its priority areas for humanitarian aid, but it has yet to reach the area as of Thursday morning. (READ: UN: Aid must reach survivors faster)
Extent of damages
Eleven out of the 23 municipalities in Eastern Samar were devastated by the storm:
At least 229 have been confirmed dead, Evardone said, while 45 individuals remain missing and about 2,470 are injured. As of Thursday, about 52,041 families are affected, with 5,917 houses totally damaged during the storm.
The estimated cost of damage in Eastern Samar is pegged at least P1.5 billion, a figure that is expected to rise as authorities survey other areas.
Towns located in the northern part of the province were largely spared from the typhoon.
Evardone confirmed there have been incidents of looting in Eastern Samar. One Mercury Drug Store branch in Lawaan had been looted, he said.
Psychology, logistics experts needed
It's not the resources that is the problem but how to deliver the resources to its destination.
Evardone said he has received a deluge of phone calls from various parties expressing their intention to donate and deliver aid to Eastern Samar.
But the main problem is logistics, Evardone said, as aircraft may have a hard time landing in the area due to inclement weather resulting from strong winds from the Amihan.
Eastern Samar has an airport in Borongan, which continues to be operational even after the storm.
As of Wednesday, Eastern Samar is already accessible via bus.
But it's not only food and other items for survival that Samareños need.
Evardone said the psychological impact of the storm has placed a strain on some residents. The Philippine coordinator of an international volunteer doctors' group said mental health problems are common in disaster areas.
"When I was there, while I was going around, it drizzled. People immediately ran for cover. The kids, the women were all screaming "Bagyo! Bagyo! (Storm! Storm!). I think they've developed phobia," Evardone said.
Asked whether he is disappointed by the slow delivery of aid, Evardone, who belongs to the President's Liberal Party, said with a cracking voice: "Nothing will happen if I feel bad. Looking forward, I don't know how we will be able to rise up again."
About 80% of Eastern Samar residents rely on coconut for their livelihood. With most of this toppled down, Evardone said he is unsure how his constituents would be able to recover.
The lawmaker said he supports the Congress' initiative to tweak the budget to give space for a rehabilitation fund worth P10 billion. – Rappler.com