“It’s sad to think that some of our countrymen will be spending Christmas not around a table filled with food for noche buena but in evacuation centers with other families who had to flee their homes.”
This was what was on President Benigno Aquino’s mind Thursday as the death toll from Typhoon “Pablo” climbed.
At the awards ceremonies in Malacañang for the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations, Mr. Aquino expressed alarm at the huge number of missing persons and wondered if the government could have done better to minimize the loss of lives.
The President appealed to youth organizations to make some sacrifice, say a little prayer and share provisions with the victims.
“Christmas is near, and my only request is that we don’t forget the families whose joy will not be complete this Christmas. Let’s include them in our prayers,” he said.
“If you plan to go on a gimmick with your friends this Christmas, your celebration will be more meaningful if instead of spending your money on a movie, you just share clothes, blankets or food with the victims. Let’s light our fellowmen’s lives with hope, and our joy will be doubled,” he said.
Mr. Aquino will fly today to the worst-hit provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
The President said he had been up all night thinking about the high death toll and the wide swath of devastation inflicted by the 16th typhoon to smack the country this year.
“I apologize for coming in late. Our thoughts are in Mindanao, especially on the number of the missing. We want to be certain that our countrymen who are missing will be found and rescued,” he said.
“Yesterday (Wednesday) morning, when the number of the dead ranged from 30 to 60, we were already wondering: Did we do enough? Is there anything else we could do to save the 30 or 60? As we speak, the estimated number of dead is over 300,” he said.
“Many questions have been bothering us from last night to dawn. Because I want to face every Filipino and be able to say that we did everything possible to save our countrymen. One dead is too many.”
Hours before the landfall, the President appealed to the public on national TV to heed warnings and move to safer grounds.
Mr. Aquino lamented that while the government made the necessary preparations, including preemptive evacuation, and managed to save thousands, more than 300 still ended up dead in the aftermath of the storm.
“We won’t stop in crafting new systems and mechanisms so that in the future, we will not only minimize the number of the victims. Our target is that no life should be sacrificed in times of disasters. Our hope is that Filipino families will always be whole when celebrating Christmas,” he said.