OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines – They’re here to help, set aside pork barrel controversy.
This was how the mayor of Olongapo City on Friday, September 27, announced the presence of 3 lawmakers who came to bring relief goods to the victims of the recent flooding that placed the city under a state of calamity.
Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr and his wife Bacoor Representative Lani Mercado Revilla, as well as Senator JV Ejercito Estrada, were at the Rizal triangle to meet with a few hundred residents.
“There should be no politics here today. They are here to give [relief goods] even if [some sectors] are criticizing them. Let’s put those aside,” said Mayor Rolen Paulino.
Bong Revilla is facing plunder complaints before the Ombudsman along with JV’s half brother, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, in relation to alleged misuse of their Priority Development Assistance Fund.
The Revillas and Ejercito were scheduled to go to other towns in Zambales to distribute relief goods.
Earlier this week, at least 33 people died in Subic, Castillejos, and San Marcelino, and Olongapo, mostly from landslides.
Asking for US help
Meanwhile, the United States government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Manila, provided P4.3 million ($100,000) to assist in the Philippine government’s relief efforts for victims of flooding and landslides in Zambales and Bataan.
Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr said in a statement: “On behalf of the US Government and the American people, we extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to those who have lost their loved ones, homes and livelihoods. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected.”
The assistance will provide for immediate relief items, including hygiene kits and water purification supplies, for up to 10,000 displaced and other affected people, he said.
“I would like to commend the ‘bayanihan’ spirit demonstrated by the communities in helping those in need. We will work with our Philippine Government counterparts to boost their relief efforts and help the victims overcome this tragedy,” the Ambassador said.
On Monday, however, there were no signs that the Americans responded to Mayor Paulino’s call for help.
At the height of the floods – waters reaching roof-high in some barangays – Paulino said in a statement: “I have called US ambassador Harry Thomas to help relief and rescue effort in our city. As of this writing (10 am Monday) US navy personnel have been gathering inside the ship waiting for the final instruction from the US Embassy.”
Paulino was in the US at the time, supposedly for a sister-city initiative.
At the time he cited in his statement, the US Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD-4) was docked at the Alava Pier inside the Subic freeport, while the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD-18) docked at the Rivera Pier nearby.
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority told Rappler that one of the vessels left that Monday morning, and another in the afternoon, without helping in the rescue efforts in the host province.
The US Navy vessels carrying around 4,000 American sailors and Marines arrived at the Subic freeport on September 16, for the joint military exercises with Philippine troops.
The two vessels are part of the Philippines–US Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX 14), which officially kicked off on September 18. – Rappler.com
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