Palace disagrees with Robredo, again denies typhoon info gap after ABS-CBN shutdown

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 16 2020 06:54 PM

Palace disagrees with Robredo, again denies typhoon info gap after ABS-CBN shutdown 1
A man carrying a bucket of water walks past debris following the flood brought by Typhoon Vamco, in Marikina, Metro Manila, Philippines, Nov. 16, 2020. Lisa Marie David, Reuters

MANILA — Malacañang on Monday rejected Vice President Leni Robredo's statement that victims of typhoon Ulysses suffered from an information gap due to the shutdown of ABS-CBN regional networks, which had reached far-flung areas.

"I’m sorry but I beg to disagree with the Vice President yet again," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters.

"Wala pong information gap dahil kami po, Sabado, Linggo, Biyernes, kahit anong araw kung kinakailangan ng impormasyon ay iniimbitahan po namin lahat ng mga miyembro ng Gabinete na dapat may kasagutan at magbibigay ng tulong para po magkaroon ng emergency and special press briefings," he said.

(There is no information gap because we, even on Saturday, Sunday, Friday, no matter the day, if information is needed, we invite all members of the Cabinet who should have the answers and help with emergency and special press briefings.)

Effective communication is important in a crisis situation, Robredo told TeleRadyo over the weekend, after she helped coordinate rescue efforts in the Cagayan Valley, where floods from Ulysses left residents on their roofs.

“Si [Cagayan] Gov. [Manuel] Mamba mismo nagsabi na na-blindside sila. Kasi without proper information, iyong LGU, papaano niya ma-cascade sa constituents iyong talagang danger?” Robredo said.

(Gov. Mamba himself said they were blindsided. Without proper information, how can they tell the dangers of the typhoon to their constituents?)

"Wala na iyong regional network ng ABS-CBN na nasa malalayong lugar. Halimbawa sa amin sa Bicol, gaya sa Tuguegarao. Iyon ang inaasahan ng locals na naging source ng information. Nawala iyon,” she added.

(ABS-CBN regional networks have closed. For example in Bicol, as well as Tuguegarao, our locals depend on them for sources of information. These were lost.)

Before 70 lawmakers, mostly allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, denied ABS-CBN's franchise application in July, the network had 53 regional television and radio stations across the country that broadcast in 6 languages, providing millions of Filipinos local news and entertainment.

Early this month, Roque also claimed that ABS-CBN's shutdown did not cause any "vacuum" on information dissemination as super typhoon Rolly lashed the country, contrary to comments from the public and former officials, including Robredo's predecessor Jojo Binay and former election commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal.

For decades, ABS-CBN's regional network played a vital role in broadcasting information on natural disasters, such as typhoons, and health crises -- including the coronavirus pandemic -- to isolated communities that have little or no internet access.

For many, it is their only source of news.

Fishermen in some regions have long relied on their local broadcaster to know if it was safe to go out to sea, ABS-CBN News chief Ging Reyes had said.

"Not everyone has access to the internet, to radio or newspapers," said Micaella Ilao, a TV reporter in Baguio. "Removing (TV broadcasters) deprives the people of the privilege to receive proper information."

Earlier Monday, Isabela Governor Rodolfo Albano III said ABS-CBN News should have sent a crew to cover the impact of Ulysses in his province following delayed reporting of massive flooding.

“Everybody was cut off here. Everyone going in and to Cagayan and Isabela na-cut off na sila (they were cut off). So how can we give you such information?” he told ANC.

“Sana kung maron kayong mga crews dito. ‘Yung crews nga ng ibang station pinalipad ko pa para tignan ‘yung damage dito sa Isabela and Cagayan.”

(If only you have a crew here. I allowed crew of other stations to conduct aerial inspection to check the damage in Isabela and Cagayan.)

Even the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Albano said, “was not aware of the situation.”

The governor’s brother, Isabela 1st District Rep. Antonio Albano, is the vice chair of the House panel that junked the ABS-CBN franchise application.

- With a report from Agence France-Presse is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.