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Even Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s office in Metro Manila was not spared from Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) as he promised stranded Filipinos that government assistance is on the way.
“My countrymen, mga kababayan, while we are facing the heavy downpour and strong winds of Ulysses, I assure everyone that your government is on top of the situation,” he said in recorded remarks aired around 1 pm on Thursday, November 12.
“As President, I guarantee you that your government will do its best to provide assistance in the form of shelters, relief goods, financial aid, and post-disaster counseling. Rest assured, the government will not leave anybody behind,” he added.
Murky grey water from Pasig River overflowed into a riverside walkway near Duterte’s office at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse and his Manila residence, Bahay Pangarap.
The Pasig River cuts through the Malacañang complex and is often in danger of flooding during strong storms.
In his 6-minute speech, Duterte ordered the police, military, and Philippine Coast Guard to deploy all their resources to help people stuck on their rooftops.
Badly-needed search and rescue choppers can’t take flight yet because of bad weather, he said. But Interior Secretary Eduardo Año earlier reported that once the weather clears up, the helicopters will be sent off.
Duterte stressed that the govermment was prepared for the typhoon, which came at the heels of Super Typhoon Rolly (Goni).
“Iyon pa lang yung dumating ang advisory sa atin, nakapondo na ang mga tao. The goods are there, people have been mobilized and deployed kaya pagdating ng bagyo, nandiyan na, nagtrabaho na sila,” he said,
(When the advisories reached us, the people were given funds. The goods are there, people have been mobilized and deployed so that, when the storm arrived, they were there, working.)
‘Wala kaming tulog dito’
In the latter part of his speech, Duterte responded to social media posts that used an old photo of him sleeping in his bed in Davao City to claim that he was slumbering through the storm.
“May mga nagsasabi na walang ginagawa, natutulog. Wala kaming tulog dito (People are saying I’m not doing anything, just sleeping. No one here has has had any sleep),” said Duterte.
Hours before his speech, the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo (where is the President) trended on Twitter.
Right before recording his remarks about the typhoon, Duterte had spoken at the 37th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit plenary, an annual gathering that was held virtually this year due to the pandemic.
In his speech in front of other Southeast Asian leaders, he said he had to excuse himself from the meeting since he had to attend to the government’s typhoon response.
Other Cabinet members in attendance had also left the virtual gathering to supervise rescue and relief operations. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr remained to represent the Philippines.
‘Gusto kong lumangoy’
If he had his way, Duterte said he would be out there commiserating with flood victims. But his guards, personnel of the Presidential Security Group, have asked him to stay inside Palace grounds for his safety.
“Gusto kong lumabas; gusto kong lumangoy. Matagal na akong hindi naligo eh kaya lang ayaw nitong mga sundalo. (I want to go out; I want to swim. I haven’t taken a bath for a long time but the soldiers here won’t let me),” said Duterte.
In the last storm to ravage Luzon, Super Typhoon Rolly, Duterte and Malacañang as a whole had also been criticized for appearing to be “missing in action.”