Mar Roxas, Romualdez kiss and make up

Posted at 01/23/14 9:29 PM

Gov't shares lessons learned from typhoon Yolanda

MANILA -- Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez have finally ended their word war and even thanked each other for their relief and rehabilitation efforts in the typhoon-ravaged city.

Roxas and Romualdez faced off at the Congressional Oversight Committee on the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management hearing on the post-Yolanda rehabilitation on Thursday.

While both officials still mostly reiterated their previous statements regarding the alleged politicization of relief operations in Tacloban, it was evident that the two did not engage in heated arguments.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Roxas said he is happy to see Romualdez again two months after super typhoon "Yolanda" struck the country.

"Sa pagitan naman namin ay makikita naman na yung kapakanan ng mga mamamayan lamang ang siyang
nasa isip namin at tinrabaho namin. So natutuwa ako na nabigyan kami ng pagkakataon dito sa Senado na magkita muli," he said.

Romualdez, for his part, said he knows that the interior secretary has a "very good heart."

"I know him. I know his heart. He has a very good heart for people and he worked really very hard," he said, before shaking the hands of Roxas as they both expressed gratitude to each other.


During the hearing, government agencies involved in the relief and rehabilitation efforts discussed the following questions: what was done, what could have been done, and what should be done in the future.

According to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, the magnitude of THE damage caused by Yolanda was "unprecedented." It left over 6,200 people dead and more than 1,700 others missing.

"Parang winalis ng higanteng kamay ang mga barko... Parang may dambuhalang bola na pinagulong sa Tacloban," Gazmin said. Tacloban City, Leyte was among the worst hit areas.

When asked by Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. what could have been done to possibly speed up the relief and rescue efforts in typhoon-hit areas, Roxas' first answer was that the government should have ensured that reserve forces were deployed to safe areas where they could have easy access to places expected to be hit by the disaster.

"Yung dadalhin kung saan hindi sila tulala... Kasi paano ka reresponde kung ang pamilya mo hindi mo alam kung nasaan na ba," he said.

Roxas noted that in Tacloban, many of the police officers failed to respond immediately since many of them were victims themselves. As a result, they still had to airlift police personnel from other areas to augment the functional forces on the ground.

He said they even used bicycles to move around Tacloban.

"In fact, during the first day, yung aming communication system bisikleta. Pumunta ka dun, maglakad ka dun, alamin mo kung anong problema," he said.


The congressional oversight committee also grilled the Departments of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and National Defense (DND) over their lack of satellite phones and C-130 planes.

Power and communication lines were cut when Yolanda slammed into central Philippines last November 8, and satellite phones would have greatly helped in the immediate rescue and relief efforts, Marcos and Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon said.

Roxas admitted it was an "oversight" on their part. "Siguro hindi namin naisip na mawa-wipeout ang lahat."

Biazon also urged the DND to prioritize the procurement of more C-130 planes rather than fighter aircrafts to be able to immediately respond to calamities such as Yolanda.

He noted that many of the food and relief packs from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) were not delivered to the typhoon victims right away due to lack of C-130s.

Most of the relief goods had to be airlifted since roads and bridges were heavily damaged by Yolanda. Debris, fallen trees and toppled electric posts also blocked several roads.

Biazon also asked whether Republic Act 10121, known as the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, should now be amended to ensure faster response in the future.

He also raised concern over a possible "tug of war" for resources for various areas affected by calamities and disasters.

He said it will be unfair to allocate all resources just to areas affected by Yolanda while neglecting the needs of areas affected by other calamities -- tropical depression "Agaton" in Mindanao, magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Bohol, and the conflict between government troops and the Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga.

Soliman, meanwhile, said the DSWD not only needs to preposition more relief goods but also ensure better, safer warehouses and think of more efficient ways to repack goods.


Before their reconciliation, Roxas and Romualdez first faced off at the hearing, where the secretary once again denied that the national government politicized relief operations in Tacloban.

He said they just had to be "very careful" in taking over the typhoon-ravaged city so that nothing would be misconstrued later on.

"Non-stop po ang tulong na pinarating ng national government... Noong nagkaroon ng reports ng looting, ang curfew ay tinugunan ng PNP (Philippine National Police)," he said.

"Of course tutulong kami. In fact, kahit hindi niyo hiningi. Walang iniwan sa ere, binigay lahat," he added.

But Roxas also pointed out that the local government of Tacloban should have made it clear what help it needed from the national government, noting that they still had to respond to other 171 typhoon-hit areas.

Biazon then asked Roxas if "code red" was declared in Tacloban. Code red is issued when the local government can no longer function and needs national government to take over.

Roxas replied, " The code red was never uttered to me."

Romualdez lamented that in case of disasters like this where many people are already going hungry and there are reports of looting and jailbreaks, the national government should not anymore stick to bureaucratic hurdles.

He also noted that while they were still functioning as a local government, they obviously did not have the full capacity to conduct rescue and relief operations by themselves. That is why they immediately asked for more manpower from the national government, he said.

"Ang hinahanap namin dito tanggalin na natin yung red tape... Kasi we have to help immediately," Romualdez said.

"The national government should empower the local government so we can move. We can do it together," he added.

Meanwhile, the Tacloban mayor also suggested that the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) set up storm-proof headquarters in each region for proper coordination among government agencies in times of disasters.

He also asked that local government units undergo workshops when it comes to dealing with such calamities to prevent feuds with officials from the national government like the one he had with Roxas.

Moving forward, he said he hopes politics will no longer play a part in recovery efforts, adding that they only want to prevent the loss of lives and help those who survived the devastating typhoon.

"I hope wala nang spinning dito for politics or what. We really want to prevent more loss of lives. I've been there, we've been there. Nakita natin ang mga tao talagang ang inaasahan ang tulong," Romualdez said. -- With a report from Atom Araullo, ABS-CBN News