Roxas admits overlooking satellite phones
MANILA, Philippines – Interior Secretary Mar Roxas on Thursday, January 23, admitted one of the government's biggest mistakes in preparing for Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan): “Overlooking” satellite phones.
This error isolated the country's top two disaster officials – Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, chair of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), and his vice chair, Roxas – at the height of Yolanda. (READ: Communications down, Mar can't be reached)
Senator Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr, cousin of Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, quizzed Roxas on this in a congressional hearing on Thursday.
“Secretary Roxas, many people are asking, ba't wala kayong sat phone? I would have imagined that pagpunta niyo roon, eh isang dosena ang dala ninyo,” Marcos said. (Secretary Roxas, many people are asking, why didn't you have a sat phone? I would have imagined that when you went there, you brought a dozen of these.)
Eliciting laughter, Roxas replied in jest, “Walang load eh.” (It didn't have load.)
“Siguro oversight, oversight namin 'yon,” he continued. “Hindi namin naisip.” (It was probably an oversight; it was an oversight on our part... It didn't cross our minds.)
Sat phone for barangays
Issues like this should be considered in amendments to the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (PDDRM) Act of 2010, Marcos replied. “We have many lessons to learn.”
Muntinlupa Rep Rodolfo Biazon, a former senator and retired Armed Forces chief of staff, said the “number one priority” after Yolanda should be “government infrastructure to establish lines of communication.”
In military lingo, Biazon said, this means building bridges, roads, airports, seaports, and lines of communication.
He stressed the need for satellite phones at the “lowest independent political unit,” perhaps barangays or villages.
“I think they should be provided that back-up communication, which is satellite,” Biazon said during the hearing.
“Of course, the military now, nasanay na yata kayo sa mga cellphone cellphone,” he added, noting they might have forgotten older means of communication. (Of course, the military now, you might have gotten so used to cellphones.)
Learning its lesson from Yolanda, the NDRRMC earlier said it will buy 17 satellite phones next year. (READ: Billions for jets but no money for sat phones?)
The Congressional Oversight Committee on the PDRRM Act of 2010 held the hearing more than a month after Romualdez slammed Roxas in the same setting.
Romualdez shed tears in the hearing on Dec 9, 2013 after he said the national government refused to help his city unless he signed an ordinance to do this. (READ: Politics, lack of command hound Tacloban)
On social media, a video clip appeared to support Romualdez's claim.
Roxas denounced the video as “malicious."
On Thursday, the two officials shook hands and posed for the media, as if nothing happened.
“I believe there's still a lot that we have to take up in as far as infrastructure is concerned... But I am satisfied,” Romualdez said in an interview with reporters, while he was beside Roxas.
Roxas, for his part, said he and Romualdez knew each other from their days in Congress. He said much of the conflict between them is “spin” on the part of media.
When asked if everything is ironed between them, Roxas replied, “Wala namang gusot eh.” (There's no difficulty in the first place.) – Rappler.com