PNoy wants no failure on Ruby preps

By Alexis Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Dec 05 2014 09:05 AM | Updated as of Dec 05 2014 05:05 PM

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino yesterday warned concerned government agencies that he would have no patience for excuses in failing to prepare for Typhoon Ruby.

Speaking with members of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Aquino said any failure in the performance of their duties would be “quite unforgivable.”

“I will not be very patient with excuses after this event,” the President said during the NDRRMC meeting held at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

“We are more experienced now (because of Yolanda) so we should be able to do more,” he added.

Aquino said each agency should check on one another to ensure that all the necessary preparations are in place.

“I like everybody to be a busybody or pakialamero. You should not assume that everything will trickle down,” he said.

The President presided over the NDRRMC meeting that lasted for more than two hours.

Member agencies presented their preparations for the typhoon, which is expected to hit practically the entire country.

During the meeting, Aquino quizzed officials about their efforts to respond to the typhoon to avoid a repeat of the devastation of Super Typhoon Yolanda last year.

Among the concerns raised by the President was the stability of the prices of goods and possible looting incidents.

Aquino asked officials of the trade and interior departments to determine if the government could declare a state of national emergency to prevent unreasonable price increases in affected areas.

Such declaration would allow the President to issue rules to protect the people from hoarding, profiteering, price manipulation and other practices affecting the supply, distribution and movement of food, clothing, medicine, and other essential goods and services.

Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla reported to the President that some stores in Leyte are no longer selling goods for fear of being looted.

“Everybody’s panicking at this point including the groceries,” Petilla said.

Aquino asked Trade Undersecretary Victorio Dimagiba to check if they could send rolling stores or discount caravans to areas that may be hit by the typhoon.

The President also instructed the military and the police to send personnel to groceries and retail outlets to prevent looting and other criminal activities.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. assured the President that they are prepared to send troops to guard commercial establishments.

“Our forces will secure supermarkets so there will be no more repeat of what happened during Yolanda,” Catapang said.

Aquino also ordered the Philippine National Police to declare all policemen not in their designated posts as absent without leave (awol).

“The minute that there will be checking of attendance and one is absent, declare him as awol. It is not acceptable if someone assigned to the post is not there,” Aquino added.

The President also directed concerned agencies to find a safe area where assets being used for response can be pre-positioned.

Officials said the assets could not be placed in Guiuan and Hernani in Eastern Samar and Tacloban because they are located along the typhoon’s expected path.

Aquino ordered an inventory of all military assets that can be used for response.

Catapang said Cebu could be designated as repacking center because of the availability of C-130 cargo plane.

The President said that warehouses should be available for the stockpiling of relief goods.

Social Welfare Assistant Secretary Vilma Cabrera said around 100,000 family food packs are on standby at their national warehouse and are ready for distribution. She reported that 3,000 food packs have been sent to Borongan while 2,000 more will be given to Marabut in Samar.

Aquino wants safe evacuation sites for residents in disaster-prone areas.

The President also wants prompt and timely communications in affected areas.

For the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Aquino proposed the possible exemption from the truck ban of trucks carrying relief goods.

“Ruby presents a challenge. We have to be conscious of the sensitivities of our people,” Aquino said.

In a press briefing, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said authorities were doing their best to ensure the safety of people when asked if the zero casualty target remained and if there would be forced evacuation.

“In every opportunity we learn our lesson and what I can say for sure now is we learned our lesson from the Typhoon Yolanda experience,” Coloma said.

Coloma said the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s regional offices had prepared some 270,000 food packs amounting to P18 million along with other food and non-food items totaling P270 million.

He said they had been appealing to the people to follow the warnings of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council right away and its local units.

Coloma added preemptive evacuation was being implemented since any delay in removing people from low-lying areas could endanger the residents and even the rescue volunteers.

He stressed that local officials led by governors and mayors were expected to give utmost priority to people in danger areas.

Earlier, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said local government units have also learned to follow the safety guidelines set by the NDRRMC following the onslaught of Yolanda.

“If we always have an aspirational goal of zero casualty, then the attitude of the government and the ordinary citizens would be in a manner that would make sure that we are kept safe or we ourselves make the initiative to keep ourselves safe from the calamities,” he said.

On the possible storm surges that could affect coastal areas, Lacierda said they would let the Department of Science and Technology give more accurate predictions on their possible occurrence.

He said the government wanted proper information to be disseminated to the public to avoid panic and mass hysteria.

Meanwhile, the Department of Budget and Management said the NDRRMC funds were pegged at P2.61 billion while the balance for the Quick Response Fund (QRF) was P4.69 billion.

The breakdown of 2014 QRF per agency includes: Department of Agriculture - P405.8 million; Department of Education - P563.87 million; Department of Health - P500 million; Department of National Defense (Office of the Secretary) - P447.85 million; DND (Office of Civil Defense) - P764.47 million; Department of Social Welfare and Development - P1 billion; and Department of Transportation and Communications - P1 billion. With Aurea Calica, Lalaine Jimenea

Read more on The Philippine Star.