Romualdez: How can I evacuate 250,000 people?

By Dharel Placido,

Posted at Dec 10 2013 05:49 PM | Updated as of Dec 11 2013 01:56 AM

MANILA – Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez on Tuesday lamented how his city is being described as the least prepared area when super typhoon "Yolanda" smashed into Eastern Visayas last month.

Speaking to ANC's Headstart, Romualdez said no amount of preparation could have spared the city from the sheer strength of the typhoon.

He said he also wonders why all the blame is being put on him when almost all key officials from the national government were on the ground as well.

"Nasaktan lang ako noong sinabi ng President na Tacloban City was least prepared. How can that be? We have two secretaries there. If you were hit by a storm, the best person to have would be the Secretary of National Defense with you, the Secretary of Department of Interior and Local Government with you, then you have all the resources of the country already. That did not happen in our case. Ang nangyari, they blamed the city mayor," Romualdez said.

"I pointed this out because parang lumalabas na Tacloban City did not do anything. But you know, we have to remember that the chief of the DND and the chief of the DILG were there before, during and after."

Romualdez added that things were beyond the the city government's control as Tacloban's geographical features and Yolanda's monstrous winds that spawned the deadly storm surges were ingredients for a perfect disaster.

"We have a data on population of more than 500,000. How can I evacuate 250,000 people? Where will I put them? Because in the map, if you look at it, the storm surge area which they pointed out that will be hit, they only pointed out less than one-fourth of the peninsula in San Jose. The entire peninsula disappeared," he said.

Partisan politics

Speaking before the post-disaster assessment at the Senate on Monday, Romualdez complained that the national government did not grant his request for additional troops during the first days of Yolanda's aftermath, accusing the national government of engaging in partisan politics.

He noted that many businessmen in the city complained that no one was guarding their businesses from looters.

"I mentioned that immediately, when we found out that 25 policemen only reported out of the 293, I requested the national government, the national security. Obviously, the secretary of DILG was there before, during the storm and after, and he controls the entire police in the country. What is sparing us a little police so that we can guard those establishments that had food?" he said.

"Friday was the storm. Sunday, the President arrived. In front of the Taclobanons and the businessmen they saw, they were able to mobilize thousands of soldiers and police for his security. Bakit hindi naman binigyan yung Tacloban City ng kahit konti man lang para na-gwardyahan naman iyung mga establishments nila? Iyon lang naman ang hinihiling nila, so medyo nasaktan sila doon. I have to reflect that. I have to tell that because that was for the people."


Romualdez earlier said DILG Secretary Mar Roxas asked him in one of their meetings to pass an ordinance that will "legalize" the national government's taking over of the relief efforts in the city.

But the mayor said there was no need for him to sign a letter saying that he could no longer do some of the functions as mayor of Tacloban.

"From what I understand, [President Aquino] is the President also of Tacloban. If he goes there, he can take over anytime without even telling me," Romualdez said.

Roxas, for his part, said he asked for the letter since President Aquino was just being very careful about being seen as taking over Tacloban when the mayor is a known political enemy of the president, and that there is a protocol to be followed under the law.

"Ito yung sinasabi ko sa kanya. 'You have to understand. You are a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino.' He is being very careful in just taking over because he does not want anything to be misconstrued. Ang sinasabi ko nag-iingat kami (kasi baka masamain)," Roxas said.

Responding to Roxas' explanation, Romualdez said, "He factored it in, not me. In fact, I was too busy doing what I had to do. That’s why I said ‘Okay, if you are factoring that in, because you are afraid because what you’re doing is illegal, then there is a problem with the law. Why are we facing this problem now when I have a disaster on my hands? You have a disaster on your hands. Then there is a problem with the law.'"

Roxas, meanwhile, belied claims that the national government ignored Romualdez's request for more troops.

The DILG chief said the national government was able to respond to the calamity by sending 1,713 Philippine National Police Special Action Forces elements, 3,300 soldiers, 282 trucks and over 2 million food packs.

He said at least 300 additional policemen were flown in to Tacloban on November 10, two days after the typhoon.