PNoy: Did gov't do enough to prevent 'Pablo' casualties?

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 14 2012 03:54 PM | Updated as of Dec 14 2012 11:54 PM

MANILA - President Aquino said government must assess if it has done enough to prevent the big number of casualties brought about by typhoon Pablo.

During the change of command ceremony at the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Aquino said that while the government’s rescue and relief operations have become better compared to previous efforts, there is still room for improvement.

Aquino lauded PCG personnel for their role in the search and rescue operations.

“Maraming, maraming salamat po sa inyong kabayanihan at pagkalinga. May mga datos at numero tayong magpapakita kung gaano karami ang ating naisalba, kung paano tayo naghanda, kung magkano ang halaga ng ating mga ayuda, kung bakit mas matagumpay ang ating rescue and relief operations ngayon kaysa sa mga nagdaang sakuna,” Aquino said in his speech during the Philippine Coast Guard’s change of command ceremony.

“Subalit oras na matunghayan na natin ang mga winasak na mga buhay, ang mga naulilang paslit, ang mga biktimang nalunod sa makapal na putik, hindi natin maiwasang tanungin ang ating sarili: Sapat ba talaga ang ginawa natin? Saan ba tayo nagkulang? Sino ba ang dapat managot? Ano pa ba ang dapat nating ginawa? Sa kabila ng ating mga paghahanda, bakit ganito pa rin ang naidulot nitong pinsala?”

Aquino added that government must do whatever it takes to prevent deaths in future storms.

“Kung kailangan nating doblehin ang ating mga babala; kung kailangan nating triplehin ang ating mga paghahanda; kung kailangan natin silang ilikas isang linggo bago pa man sumalanta ang malakas na ulan at pagbaha, gagawin natin lahat ito dahil tungkulin nating tiyakin na mailayo sa kapahamakan ang ating mga kababayan sa abot po ng ating makakaya,” he said.

DEFENDING THE TERRITORY

Aquino cited the PCG for its role in defending the country’s territory, saying it shows that the country is ready to defend what belongs to it and help maintain the peace in the region.

“Mulat si Juan dela Cruz sa inyong tapang, lalo na sa ipinamalas ninyong paninindigan sa Bajo de Masinloc. Sa kabila ng mga banta’t panganib, napanatili ng Coast Guard, hindi lamang ang seguridad at kaayusan sa ating teritoryong pandagat; naipaabot din ninyo sa ibang mga bansa na hangga’t nasa katwiran tayo, handang ipaglaban ng Pilipino ang tunay na pag-aari ng Pilipino,” Aquino said.

“Nananalig akong hindi kailanman magmamaliw ang inyong dedikasyon na manindigan para sa kaligtasan at kapayapaan sa atin pong karagatan.”

NEW COMMANDANT

Rear Admiral Rodolfo D. Isorena assumed his post as the new commandant of the PCG, replacing Vice Admiral Edmund Tan who is retiring.

During the turnover ceremony, PCG officer-in-charge Rear Admiral Luis M. Tuason Jr. stood in for Tan who is serving a 90-day suspension order from the Sandiganbayan.

A businessman accused Tan of graft for holding an iron shipment in 2007. Tan countered that he was just doing his job since the barge had no anchor, thereby violating safety precautions as provided by marine rules and regulations.

Aquino on Friday stood by Tan, thanking him for his leadership at the PCG.

“Napakaraming buwan kang nagsilbi. Hindi man umabot ng isang taon, Edmund. Sayang. Kahit 11 buwan lamang siyang namuno; kahit pasan niya ang ilang personal na pagsubok; matagumpay pa rin niyang naitimon ang Tanod Baybayin ng Pilipinas tungo sa pampang ng tuwid at makabuluhang paglilingkod,” Aquino said.

“Lubos akong nagpapasalamat kay Vice Admiral Tan: tirik man ang araw, o nagsusungit ang panahon, o kung minsan ng ilang kapitbahay, hindi siya nadiskaril sa mandato mong itaguyod ang kaligtasan ng ating pong baybayin, protektahan ang ating mga ari-arian, at tiyaking napapangalagaan ang ating yamang-dagat (APPLAUSE).”

Tan was seated in the audience. At one point, he appeared emotional when his successor thanked him.

Aquino enumerated the PCG’s accomplishments, including intercepting human trafficking and illegal drugs.

He said the government is determined to improve the PCG’s resources and capabilities.