Politics

Marcos considers taking helm of disaster response

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PHILIPPINE STAR/ MIGUEL ANTONIO DE GUZMAN

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Tuesday said he would put the local disaster agency under his office to streamline the government’s calamity response.

“There has been a suggestion that has been going around for many years now that we will put the disaster response team, the national response team under the Office of the President,” he told a news briefing in Tacloban City in central Philippines, based on a transcript sent by the presidential palace. 

“I think that we are headed in that direction because of the weather that we are suffering now [and] the effects of climate change,” he added.

The president made the remarks at an event commemorating the ninth anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), which killed more than 6,000 people and destroyed 90% of Tacloban and after Typhoon Nalgae (Paeng) killed at least 150 people.   

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) is under the Office of Civil Defense, and the state could not ask agencies to “respond any more quickly,” Mr. Marcos said.

“We can only do more in terms of actually bringing the assistance, putting the infrastructure together and making sure that the local government units are functioning, that there’s communication, that there’s power,” he said.

“There’s the NDRRMC and they are the ones who are tasked to do this but I think it would be equally, if not, a more robust system if we put it under the Office of the President.”

“We are continuing to refine the procedures, to refine the processes, the organization, so that we will do even better than we have so far,” he added.

The NDRRMC, created in 2009, is the agency that leads calamity response. It is headed by the secretary of Defense, while the secretaries of Interior and Local Government, Social Welfare, Science and Technology and the National Economic and Development Authority serve as vice chairmen.

Tacloban City was among the areas badly hit by Typhoon Nalgae, which killed at least 158 people. 

In a report, the NDRRMC said 142 people had been hurt, while 34 people were still missing. Nalgae damaged 53,210 houses, 4,974 of which were totally destroyed. The estimated cost of damage to infrastructure has reached P4.51 billion. 

In a speech at the Tacloban event, Mr. Marcos questioned the government’s tally of deaths from the super typhoon.

“I come here because I must commemorate those uncounted dead that up to now we do not know how many that number is,” he said. “We must come to these commemorations so that we will remember those who we were told not to remember.”

He said there was a time when the government had stopped counting victims. “We knew that there were still thousands out there. And for those thousands, those countless thousands, we come here, we commemorate. If we no longer commemorate, their memory dies.”

Haiyan affected more than 16 million Filipinos from nine regions, majority of whom were from the Visayas in central Philippines. It was the most powerful storm in 2013 and one of the most powerful typhoons of all time.

With winds reaching upwards of 314 kilometers per hour, Haiyan was classified as a super typhoon. However, massive storm surges of up to six meters high were even more destructive.

The typhoon affected more than 14 million people across 44 provinces, displacing 4.1 million people, killing more than 6,000 people and leaving 1,800 missing, according to worldvision.org. 

Haiyan damaged 1.1 million houses, destroyed 33 million coconut trees that was a major source of livelihoods and disrupted the livelihoods of 5.9 million workers, it said. Overall damage was estimated at $5.8 billion.

The typhoon forced the government of the late President Benigno S.C. Aquino III to craft a program called Yolanda Recovery and Rehabilitation Plan. Allegations of corruption and inefficiency had hounded the Aquino administration’s Yolanda response. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza