MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III made an appeal to mayors on Wednesday, December 5, not to take advantage of rescue and relief operations in times of disaster to boost their candidacies for next year’s polls.
The Chief Executive was addressing the general assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines at the Manila Hotel, where he noted that many of the members from Mindanao and the Visayas had to cancel their attendance to prepare for Typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha).
Disasters, Aquino said in Filipino, are not a time for politicking, and campaigns should not piggyback on mitigation efforts. People’s lives are at stake, he said.
“Umaasa ako sa kooperasyon ng bawat munisipalidad sa bansa: huwag po sana nating pagsamantalahan ang mga pagkakataon tulad nito para mamulitika, o magpapogi para sa susunod na eleksyon. Buhay po ng ating mga kababayan ang nakataya dito,” the President said.
“Pablo,” which made a landfall Tuesday morning, has hit 37 provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao. As of last count, 238 had been killed in floods and landslides in towns in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.
The President reminded the local executives that laying down an efficient and responsive disaster reduction program is not something constituents owe elected officials. “This is not sacrifice on our part; we call this duty. We call this obigation—something we have to carry out in the name of those who put their trust in us and continue to give us the mandate,” he said in Filipino.
He said the disaster mitigation efforts of the national government will be useless unless the local governments, the “frontliners,” complement them. “Citizens run first and directly to you. That means, the success and usefulness of the programs that the [national] government has been crafting depend on you, whether all this will come to nothing,” Aquino said.
Citing that around 20 typhoons batter the country every year, the President said that while humans cannot control the strength and direction of typhoons, the government can do something to lessen the damages they bring.
Republic Act 10121, which was signed by President Gloria Arroyo in May 2010, mandates the creation of disaster risk reduction and management councils in every province, city, and municipality, which should convene every 3 months.
The law ensures the “integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into local development plans.” It empowers local governments to implement “forced or preemptive evacuation of residents.”
Aquino also appealed to residents in disaster prone areas to follow the orders of authorities when they have to flee to safer grounds. As late as Monday afternoon, some residents in the areas expected to be hit by the typhoon were hesitant to evacuate, saying it was “still sunny and the weather’s still warm.”
“Nakikiusap rin ako sa ating mga kababayan: Kung kinakailangang lumikas, lumikas na po tayo agad. Huwag nang maghintay pa ng pang-apat, o pang-limang bisita ng mga rescue units bago tayo lumikas,” he said.
The President also reminded locals that members of rescue teams are also putting their lives on the line, so there will be less risk when constituents cooperate. “Buwis-buhay po ang trabaho ng ating mga rescue teams, kaya’t malaking tulong po kung manatili tayong disiplinado, may kooperasyon at mahinahon habang isinasalba nila tayo.” – Rappler.com