MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Benigno Aquino III arrived in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, on Sunday, November 17, praising its local executives while taking potshots at other local government officials whom he refused to name.
The President again emphasized local governments’ role in the disaster response after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), commenting on how some LGUs were more “prepared” than others.
Without naming names, he criticized local officials who were not prepared for the disaster as he was trying to control his anger.
“Bilang Pangulo niyo, bawal po ako magalit. Maski gaanong inis ko, dadaanin ko nalang sa asim ng sikmura ko,” the President said, without explicitly identifying any particular local government.
(As your President, I am not allowed to get angry. I’ll just suffer through it with an acidic stomach.)
Watch his statement below.
But Aquino praised the preparedness of the Guiuan local government for the disaster.
He visited the devastated town – the first area to be hit by Yolanda – to see first hand the damage in the southernmost municipality in Eastern Samar. It was his first stop in his second trip to the disaster zone, which stretches from Guiuan in the east up to the small islands north of Palawan in the west.
At least 99 people died in Guiuan, while 16 others remain missing, according to Guiuan Mayor Christopher Gonzales. More than 2,000 are injured, he added.
Guiuan, which lies in a narrow peninsula protruding into the Pacific Ocean, was where Yolanda made its first landfall in the early hours of November 8, destroying nearly the entire town. Some barangays (villages), particularly in the islands off the mainland, were without supplies for up to 4 days after the storm.
Aquino, accompanied by members of the Cabinet, arrived at the Guiuan airfield at around 11 am, 9 days after the typhoon struck. Among the officials who accompanied the President Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
He then presided over a briefing by local officials, led by Mayor Gonzales.
He said the death toll was lower in Guiuan compared to other areas because of preventive evacuation and other preparations that the town made prior to the killer storm.
He said damage in Guiuan alone is estimated at P7.17 billion, including damage to infrastructure, agriculture, and private property. This, he said is only a partial figure.
‘Easy to work with’
In his brief remarks, Aquino repeatedly praised the Guiuan local government for their quick response after the typhoon, based on Gonzales’ reports. He said the LGU is “easy to work with.”
“Madali kayong katrabaho, puwede nating paghatian ang trabaho,” he said. “Kung sino ang handa, siya ang unang makakakuha [ng tulong].”
(You are easy to work with, we can divide the work… The ones ready will get aid first.)
“Kaya ba nating ibangon [ang Guiuan]? Puwede… pero pag kayo nagkusa sa bawat lugar, mas mapapadali ang proseso,” Aquino said.
(Can we rebuild Guiuan? Yes… but if you initiate rebuilding in your areas, the process will be faster.)
He said government will rebuild the structures damaged in the typhoon, and should be able to withstand typhoons as strong as Yolanda. He also assured Guiuan residents that the government has resources to help them. He also said foreign aid will reach them.
Watch his message of encouragement below.
Aquino also said they might source funds for recovery from the controversial Malampaya fund, but said he cannot promise anything while government lawyers are looking into the possibility.
The focus now, he said, is how to bring normalcy into the devastated municipality in the quickest time possible.
Watch his explanation below.
Aquino has been emphasizing the role of local governments in the disaster response after the typhoon, which literally flattened entire cities and towns along its path through the Visayas region on November 8.
In an interview with CNN on November 12, Aquino said local governments are supposed to be on top of the initial response, but pointed out these LGUs were “simply overwhelmed” by the onslaught. (READ: A week after Haiyan: Dealing with the shock)
“The national government did not just have to augment what the local government could do, but also replace a lot of personnel with personnel from other regions, to take care of the government’s vital functions,” he said in the interview.
Aquino and his group also visited parts of Guiuan, prior to the briefing. The group then left for Tacloban City, the next stop of his trip. – With reports from Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com