EPA file photo by Edwin Malasig
MANILA, Philippines – As it struggles to bring back order to areas devastated by monster typhoon Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan), the Philippine National Police (PNP) is also looking for missing personnel in the affected areas.
"We have PNP forces – what's left of them – in north and south of San Juanico Bridge, acting as road security for relief efforts in that area," said Police Senior Superintendent R'Win Pagkalinawan during the media briefing of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Wednesday, November 13.
At the same time, some PNP personnel were deployed "to find out what happened to the rest of our personnel," Pagkalinawan said.
The San Juanico Bridge is a two-kilometer highway, spanning a body of seawater, that connects Leyte Island and Samar Island. It is critical in the supply route for relief goods coming from Luzon through the RORO (roll on-roll off) system.
In Palo town in Leyte, almost all of the 983 members of the Eastern Visayas police force were declared missing, according to a report by the Philippine Star. "We are just hoping that the missing policemen...are just out there busy attending to the needs of their families," the newspaper quoted its source.
The same thing happened to soldiers on red alert for super typhoon Yolanda who ended up as victims. (READ: Soldier floats at sea for 6 hours, 'saved' by a boy)
'Dramatic decrease' in looting
Widespread looting has become a problem in Tacloban City and other areas, where typhoon victims are going hungry because of delays in the distribution of relief goods. Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras earlier said the distribution is a "local problem that they are trying to address."
Panic spread in Tacloban Wednesday morning, November 13, because of rumors that armed outsiders were trying to enter the city purportedly to steal supplies. City officials have also been quoted blaming outsiders coming from as far as Samar to be behind the looting.
Residents of barangay Abucay scampered on the streets telling others that members of the New People Army (NPA) are inside the city, according to a live report by DZMM radio reporter Edwin Sevidal.
Pagkalinawan said there are no formal reports yet of NPA allegedly invading villages and ambushing relief goods in Tacloban City.
The incident in Abucay happened a day after reports that the NPA attempted to raid an aid convoy en route to Tacloban City. Two armed insurgents were killed. (READ: 2 NPAs killed in Yolanda looting)
There are also posts on social media about supposed NPA members attacking typhoon victims and demanding for food.
Central Command spokesperson Ltsg Jim Alagao denied reports of an encounter between the military and the NPA in Babatngon, Leyte. He also said there are no reports about encounters with the NPA in Tacloban City.
Pagkalinawan said there has been a "dramatic decrease" in looting incidents inside the city.
PNP has deployed 559 cops in Tacloban City. It is up to the ground commander to decide where to deploy them.
PNP also sent 120 cops to augment forces in Guiuan and 85 cops in Ormoc. At least 300 are scheduled to arrive in Tacloban City on Wednesday. – Rappler.com