MANILA, Philippines—Taken aback by the mounting death toll in the wake of Typhoon Pablo, President Aquino on Wednesday hastily dispatched Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II to check on the extent of the devastation in Mindanao, as well as oversee government’s response on the ground.
The President also made available a total of P8 billion in “stand-by” calamity fund to augment the depleted calamity funds of affected local governments, after the typhoon pounded Mindanao since it made landfall in Davao Oriental Tuesday.
“There is at least P8 billion (in) calamity fund (which is) ready (for disbursement). These are revenues from unexpected sources. This is with the sale of the Food Terminal Inc. government property in Taguig City (worth P24 billion),” said the President.
He made this disclosure in a speech at the annual general assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines at Manila Hotel.
The President also appealed to politicians not to use the calamity to earn brownie points even as he veered off from engaging in a blame game this early.
“If you’re looking for Mar Roxas, he is now in Mindanao. He is checking on typhoon-ravaged areas, and we have a lot of questions that I want to provide answers myself. And that’s what he’s checking out,” said Aquino, who lamenting the loss of lives despite government’s repeated warnings ahead of the onslaught of the typhoon.
“Every time there is loss of lives (as a result of calamities), we always think, ‘Could we have done something to, perhaps, lessen if not prevent casualties?’ And we will know the answers in a short while,” said Aquino, who is planning to leave for Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental as soon as possible.
Asked if he was disappointed with the government’s response and mitigation efforts since the death toll stood at 274 as of Wednesday night, Aquino said: “Compared with (Tropical Storm) ‘Sendong,’ there is a big difference in terms of the number of casualties here. But any single casualty is a cause for distress. We would always ask if we could lessen the (death toll).”
Sendong struck Mindanao and parts of the Visayas in December last year, just a week before Christmas, unleashing floods that killed over 1,000 people and ravaged large areas in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.