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PASEO DE CORO

In times of great distress

/ 08:14 AM November 15, 2013

Satan is happy now because lost in the vortex of “Yolanda” it is now easier for him to turn our heads around, remove  our sanity, and destroy one another.

In Tacloban city,  there is looting perpetuated by people with twisted minds. They stole not only food but  valuables as well. In Facebook, TV, radio and other forms of social media , heated debate goes on not only about whether the nation was prepared for Yolanda’s fury but also on whether the President is fit for his job in this most trying time. We forget that the most urgent thing to do now is to unite and  help in whatever way we can our unfortunate countrymen affected by “Yolanda”.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper commented that the government is almost absent or scarce in the field of disaster. He also said that he has not seen any sense of coordination in the government’s relief operation, adding that foreign donors also need to coordinate  work with the government which to him seems not to exist in the devastated areas.

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In other words, to Cooper, the Philippine government was unprepared for Yolanda and  the Aquino government will be defined and judged by what it is doing or not doing now. The Aquino bashers (many of us live with politics everyday) are only too happy to say Amen and demand the President and his trusted people resign. Some would even go to the extent of seeking  to replace the government with the US military to coordinate relief operation as if we are still a colony of the US.

I agree that the Philippine government was unprepared or failed to do its best to meet Yolanda’s wrath  but that was true also with the Oct. 15 earthquake that  devastated half of Bohol  province  and in most of the other major disasters that we suffered during previous administrations. But though CNN may not see the government at work, which is surely not true, there is also in every true Filipino a hero, who, despite his many limitations, will do everything to help in this time of misfortune any member of his or her family, relatives, friends and neighbors.
And they do not parade before CNN’s camera  just to prove that they are doing something.

No military presence at the scene? Because the Philippines is not a military garrison or warlike nation that hires anyone who is willing to kill for money?

No soup kitchens? Because every Filipino family, no matter how poor, can prepare their food anytime, anywhere and share it with every member of the family or others in need no matter how small, unlike the poor Americans who depend  on  soup kitchens or government food stamps in order to eat even if there is no calamity.

In this space, after the earthquake I mentioned the need for an Integrated Disaster Prevention and Management Plan that  covers all areas of the country from local to national levels which should be administered  under one line of command depending on the level of the disaster. This plan should identify in advance what and where major disasters are most likely to happen and how to minimize their destruction.  If local in extent, only the local government chief executive takes the lead to keep intact a  unity of command and execution of the plan; if the event is wide in scope as to cover many provinces, then someone representing the President should  lead and implement the plan. Such a plan, however, does not exist, as proven by  Yolanda.

From my own readings and observation, it is the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) in Manila that coordinates every effort to prepare for the coming of any calamity and the relief work that follows  but  the actual execution and responsibility  is vested on  LGUs  in their areas. This includes warning their people in advance to evacuate to safe places if needed  and take other precautions, including storing enough food to  last a few days before help comes. The national government through its various departments is there only to assist the LGUs when needed especially in rescue work and relief operation which the LGUs may not be equipped to carry out.

But if the damage is very severe and widespread like that of “Yolanda” and LGUs become ineffective or are incapacitated, is the national government ready and capable to take over the whole job? Theoretically, it is. It has the money and manpower placed in its various national government agencies not only in Manila but also in the regions, provinces and cities, including the army, navy, air force and PNP.

However, the national government, as pointed out by a UN spokesman was overwhelmed and paralyzed by Yolanda. This I believe was due mainly to the lack of a coherent plan to guide everyone’s action in responding to the calamity especially after the breakdown of communication structures in the devastated areas. There is simply too much to cover also – the three Visayas Regions, MIMAROPA or Region IV-B and parts of the Bicol region at the same time, not to mention  government’s  ongoing rehabilitation  work in Bohol that was destroyed by the Oct. 15  earthquake.

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There is a national debate  raging. Who to believe: CNN’s Anderson Cooper or ABS-CBN’s Korina Sanchez who happens to be the spouse of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas who is also the sidekick of President Benigno Aquino III?

Who to believe? None of the two is my answer. For what I believe  is that with the help of the Almighty, the Filipino people will rise again from the great disaster that we suffer now. There is no use debating who is right or  wrong, and who is fit or not to govern. Nothing will come out of that  and the election is still far away. We, the people, are the nation. We, the people, are the government and everything else good and bad that comes with it. The most urgent thing to do now is to help in whatever way we can our unfortunate brothers and sisters made  to suffer by ‘Yolanda’.
Foreign assistance pours in endlessly. We welcome them but they are useless if we continually bash one another. We have to  help ourselves first and  resolve our differences if we are to rise again.

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