MANILA, Philippines—With hundreds of families mourning their dead and searching for their missing kin in the aftermath of typhoon “Pablo,” some Malacañang offices are scrapping their Christmas parties and are appealing for “subdued celebrations” across the country.
As figures of the dead and missing continued to mount, the Office of the President, the Presidential Communications Operations Office and the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office have called off holiday parties, Secretary Edwin Lacierda said.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has also canceled its party, he said.
“How does one celebrate when you know that there is misery when people are missing? How can one celebrate and fully enjoy knowing that there are fellow brethren who have family members that cannot be found, cannot be accounted for?’’ the presidential spokesman said.
Taking cue from President
Lacierda said these offices were taking their cue from President Aquino who wondered amid the gloom: “How does one celebrate?”
“This is not an order; we’re taking our cue from the President. I think it’s important for everyone to know that the national government is in solidarity with the typhoon victims,” he said in a briefing.
The President has been keeping tabs on updates from areas in Mindanao, Visayas and Palawan battered by the supertyphoon last Tuesday, missing Manny Pacquiao’s fight with Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas Saturday night (Sunday in Manila).
From Day One, in his speaking engagements, Aquino has consistently appealed for help to the hundreds of families displaced by the storm.
If at all, celebrations by the rest of Christian Filipinos, especially the thousands of overseas workers coming home for the holidays, should be subdued, Lacierda said.
“I think the celebration should be more subdued. We can’t escape the fact there are those coming home to celebrate Christmas here. Secondly, we can’t escape the get-togethers during Christmas and New Year. So the idea here is to celebrate Christmas simply,” he said.
Shelling out donations
On top of calling off parties, some Cabinet officials are also heeding the President’s to shell out donations for the victims from their own pocket.
“In fact, our office and the office of Secretary Ricky Carandang have already made plans of donating to the typhoon victims. So I’m sure we are not going to be found wanting in sharing to our less fortunate brethren some measure of assistance,” Lacierda said.
“Instead of pouring our resources to a party, we’d like to use those resources for our assistance to the typhoon victims,” he added.
While government has ample supply of relief goods, Malacañang aired an appeal to the private sector to pour more aid for the typhoon victims.
“Certainly we welcome efforts from the private sector, the NGOs to provide any relief in whatever form,” Lacierda said. “Certainly we would like to do it as how they did—the multiplication of loaves and fishes.”
Lacierda singled out Manny V. Pangilinan and TV5 for its telethon that raised P100 million for the typhoon victims, and urged support for ABS-CBN’s Sagip Kapamilya and GMA’s Kapuso Foundation.
Call on all Filipinos
“We call on all Filipinos to continue being of service to our countrymen most in need, knowing fully well that together, we will persist and we shall overcome these difficult times,” he said.
As the public grappled with the aftermath of the typhoon, Lacierda said the government has begun looking into reports blaming mining and illegal logging for the devastation.
“Well, we’ve seen anecdotal videos of logs and so DILG Secretary Mar Roxas is starting an investigation. As to culpability, one thing is for certain: if there’s any culpability [found against anyone], we will pursue that. We will prosecute. That’s the purpose [of] the investigation,” he said.
Lacierda said local government officials should also ensure the use of the geohazard maps in implementing evacuation measures.
“Those geohazard maps were already present (since) last year and so I think Secretary Mar Roxas is going to be strict in implementing the danger zone areas,” he said. “The local government officials should be mindful of the geohazard areas within their municipalities, within their province, within the region.”
The Department of Transportation and Communications deployed more vessels for search-and-rescue operations for survivors, Lacierda said.
“The earlier the better, because the longer it takes, the more the chances of survival grow dim,” he said of the search-and-rescue operations.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development has begun building bunkhouses in Banganga, Boston and Cateel in Davao Oriental, and New Bataan, Compostela, Lacierda said.