TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – What tension? As far as Tacloban City Administrator Tecson Lim is concerned, the local and national governments have a “very good working relationship,” he told media on Tuesday, November 19.
Lim was reacting to a report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer that said Interior and Local Secretary Mar Roxas asked Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez to write President Benigno Aquino III a letter “to inform him that he can no longer function as mayor and he is surrendering authority to [Roxas].”
The newspaper was quoting Alex Avisado, who is supposedly Romualdez’s lawyer.
“There is no inkling na talagang gusto niya, or nag-express na gusto niyang matanggal si mayor,” he said. (There is no inkling nor did he express it in any way that he wants Mayor Romualdez out.)
Lim also denied receiving a letter to investigate what the local government did wrong in preparing for Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and in responding to the devastation it caused.
“We have not received any letter of such form. The mayor and I talked, and I think we really need to take a look at what the President meant. At this point in time, he’s probably being misconstrued,” said Lim.
The past few days, President Aquino and Romualdez have traded barbs over Tacloban’s supposed lack of preparation for the super typhoon. Aquino praised local executives of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, where Yolanda first made landfall, but talked about “other” local governments that were not as prepared.
Aquino said the Guiuan local government was “easy to work with.” Romualdez, meanwhile, shot back, the President blaming the victims in Tacloban for supposedly being unprepared was an insult to the dead.
So far, at least 1,052 dead have been retrieved in Tacloban City. Lim said the figure is expected to rise, as search and retrieval operations continue.
The city administrator downplayed the tension between Aquino and Romualdez. “I think both the President and everyone here wants to move forward, focus on what we need to do,” he said.
Romualdez and Aquino belong to rival clans in Philippine politics. Romualdez is a nephew of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos, whose husband, the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, put Aquino’s father Benigno Aquino Jr in jail. The older Aquino was assassinated during the Marcos regime.
Systems between the national and local government, Lim said, are properly in place. In relief distribution, for example, the task is split between the two. The local government distributes per barangay (village) while the Department of Social Welfare and Development focuses on those in evacuation centers around the city.
Even as local and national government focuses on relief efforts, Lim said the local government is also spearheading the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s “normalization” arm.
“[After Yolanda], even local governments were incapacitated. Right now we have to restore the local government so that the burden won’t be solely on the national government,” he said in Filipino.
Nine of the 13 Tacloban city councilors are still out of town, said Lim. But they are expected to fly in again by Wednesday, November 20, to hold a session.
Lim said they will follow what the President wants. “He is the commander-in-chief, he is the president of Tacloban City, of Palo. He is our ultimate leader. Susunod tayo kung ano man gusto niya (We will do what he wants),” he said. – Rappler.com