MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino on Wednesday said he intends to visit areas affected by typhoon Pablo in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental. He also appealed to local officials not to use the disaster for politicking ahead of the 2013 elections.
The date of Aquino’s visit to disaster-hit areas has yet to be determined. For now, Aquino has sent Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas to Mindanao to assess the damage caused by the typhoon.
The President is particularly interested to know the circumstances that led to the increase in the death toll. He mentioned the incident in Compostela Valley where a flash flood washed away an Army detachment, killing dozens.
Aquino has asked DOST Secretary Mario Montejo to find out if the site is located in an area already previously indentified as a danger zone.
Speaking to reporters, Aquino said that this is not the time to blame those who may be held liable for the casualties. He said the priority now is search and rescue and to make sure that the needs of evacuees are addressed.
“Nandito pa ang bagyo e. Unahin na muna natin kaya manigurado na kung merong kailangan pang ma-rescue nare-rescue; inaasikaso ‘yung ating evacuation centers.Tapos may assessment na ongoing rin na ‘yung mga previously parang less risky baka naman na-inundate ng tubig ngayon at doon naging very risky,” Aquino said.
“So may ongoing reassessment ‘nung areas (which) has the potential to be a dangerous place. So ongoing rin ‘yon. Maraming priorities at saka na siguro ‘yung kung may nagkulang.”
While noting that the casualty count this time is relatively lower than the number of deaths caused by tropical storm Sendong last year, Aquino said that every casualty is a cause of distress and that he wants to strive for better performance on the part of government to avoid casualties.
“We will always try to seek better and better performances,” he said.
He said the Philippine Coast Guard was “effective” in preventing maritime disasters by not allowing sea vessels to sail.
He also said that flood sensors worked.
“So malayo tayo sa ‘Sendong.’ Ang laki ng inasenso. Gumana ‘yung mga sensors na nakabit na ng Project NOAH especially for Iligan and Cagayan. It’s still an ongoing project. Sinabi naman na medyo matatagalan ‘yung 18 river basins na dapat imo-monitor. But, again, any single casualty is a cause of distress,” he said.
Aquino also lauded the performance of PAGASA, saying its weather forecasts have given local authorities adequate time to prepare for the storm.
Aquino defended the weather agency from allegations that it failed to identify the exact path of the typhoon, saying that this is why the people have been advised to closely and regularly monitor weather bulletins, pointing out that storms can change course anytime.
“Huwag nating kalimutan bagyo ito, hindi tayo nagmamaneho. At kaya nga hourly ang ginagawa nating advisories is dahil pwede ngang pumihit. Malayong-malayo naman siguro ang diperensya noong nag-umpisa tayo dito na sinabing nasa Aurora—na nasa hilagang parte ng Luzon—tapos tumahak ng Southern Tagalog at saka Metro Manila. Medyo malayo ang difference ‘non. At ‘nung nagsalita ako sa inyo noong isang araw, binanggit ko nga na walang driver ang bagyo kaya mag-monitor tayo at baka nagbabago,” Aquino said.
Aquino said there are enough funds available to cover expenses in the aftermath of the typhoon.
“Secretary (Butch) Abad informed me last night that there is at least P8-billion ready to take care of all of the expenses necessary here and also in the necessary emergency infrastructure—‘yung mga roads that were closed, etcetera, kung may damage. There is sufficient fund at this point in time,” he said.
The funds were augmented with revenues from the sale of the FTI complex in Taguig.
“These are revenues from unexpected sources. This is with the sale of the FTI,” Aquino said.
‘Don’t use disasters for politics’
In his speech before the League of Municipalities General Assembly held in Manila Hotel, Aquino asked local politicians not to use disasters as opportunities to promote themselves and urged them to ensure that the people’s needs are met.
“Umaasa ako sa kooperasyon ng bawat munisipalidad sa bansa: huwag po sana nating pagsamantalahan ang mga pagkakataon tulad nito para mamulitika, o magpapogi para sa susunod na eleksyon. Buhay po ng ating mga kababayan ang nakataya dito, at gaya ng muli’t muli nating pinatunayan sa mga nakalipas na bagyo, bayanihan ang susi upang mailayo sa panganib ang ating kapwa Pilipino,” he said.
He also renewed his appeal to concerned residents to heed the call of authorities for them to evacuate.
“Nakikiusap rin ako sa ating mga kababayan: Kung kinakailangang lumikas, lumikas na po tayo agad. Huwag nang maghintay pa ng pang-apat, o pang-limang bisita ng mga rescue units bago tayo lumikas. Buwis-buhay po ang trabaho ng ating mga rescue teams, kaya’t malaking tulong po kung manatili tayong disiplinado, may kooperasyon at mahinahon habang isinasalba nila tayo,” Aquino said.