Cotabato execs disappointed with Aquino over flood aid

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 22 2011 11:56 PM | Updated as of Jun 23 2011 05:47 PM

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Cotabato officials are dissatisfied with President Benigno Aquino III's response to the massive flooding in Mindanao.

Aquino inspected flooded areas of the city on Wednesday.

Instead of welcoming the visit, local officials were dismayed as the President supposedly did not bring with him any help for flood victims.

The officials thought that Aquino would lay out a plan to solve flooding in the region.

They were disappointed when the President could not give a concrete answer for their problem.   

"Sa ngayon pag-iisipan natin, gusto ko lang makita personally, dun sa mga parating binabaha. Paalala ko lang, ise-celebrate pa lang namin ng first year ng aming administration," he said in a speech.

Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani said they did not expect the statement from the President.   

"Dapat, whether 1 year or 6 months ka palang, iyung ganitong problema may immediate solution na," he said.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu also could not exactly say what help and solutions that the President brought with him.   

"Ang tulong relief goods. Ang solutions wala, coming pa daw," Mangudadatu said.

However, Guiani said that the relief goods that the President gave was part of the city's stock.

Funds not the problem

When asked why there was a delay in the release of funds for clearing the river of water hyacinths, Aquino asked Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson to answer the question.

"The fund is not the issue. It's there, but I don't want to release  because I want to make sure tama ang pupuntahan ng pondo," Singson said.

"Malaking pera ho ang kailangan. Gusto ko lang mavalidate kung tama yung kanilang mga assumptions," Aquino explained.

The DPWH earlier discovered that a lot of projects that were given funds did not push through.   

The President also ordered an investigation into why water hyacinths collected at the delta bridge. He also ordered the social welfare department to check on the well-being of evacuees.

Local officials, however, complained that the President did not give or pledge any additional funds to help feed the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the floods.

The number of families affected by floods has risen to 34,000, from 31,000 last Tuesday.

Many evacuees are housed in tents because schools, which serve as evacuation centers, are full.

Officials said their biggest problem now is providing clean drinking water for the evacuees.

Waiting for help

Many evacuees were also hoping that Aquino will help them.

"Hindi ako nabigyan ng card kahit nakapalista ako, pero umaasa ako na mabibigyan pa rin ng tulong mula sa Pangulo," said flood victim Fortunata Pampolma.

Another evacuee said Aquno should also solve poverty in the region.

"Sana matulungan talaga kami ng Pangulo kasi naghihirap kami. Iyung mga tao walang trabaho," said Ludia Tarnate.

Aside from government help, relief goods from ABS-CBN's Sagip Kapamilya have arrived in Cotabato.

Aided by the Philippine Army, Sagip Kapamilya was able to reach remote areas.

The number of families affected by the flooding in Cotabato City has gone up, but the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said they still have funds for relief operations.

"Hindi tayo kukulangin, sapagaka't ang calamity fund ay malaki pa," DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman said. - Reports from Ron Gagalac and Bernadette Sembrano, ABS-CBN News; Lerio Bompat, ABS-CBN News Central Mindanao; ANC