Duterte message after Ulysses: No one will be left behind
MANILA, Philippines—President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday (Nov. 12) assured residents of areas battered by Typhoon Ulysses that help was on the way government agencies had been ready to respond to emergency cases on the ground even before the storm struck.
Aircraft and sea vessels from the Coast Guard, Air Force and Navy were on standby to be deployed for rescue work and were only waiting for strong winds and rough seas to abate, he said.
The President also repeated his call to local government units and agencies “to ensure that the well-being and safety of our people remain the top priority.”
“My countrymen, while we are facing the heavy downpour and strong winds of Ulysses, I assure everyone that your government is on top of the situation,” Duterte said at a brief national address.
The President and several members of the Cabinet monitored the government’s responses to the onslaught of Ulysses at the Malago Clubhouse across Malacanang while they were attending the opening of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations online summit.
The clubhouse grounds were slightly flooded due to the overflowing Pasig River. After delivering his remarks at the summit through videoconference, Mr. Duterte put Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. in charge and skipped the summit program to focus more on the government’s typhoon disaster responses.
He said rescue personnel, including soldiers, had been deployed while those in charge of relief goods are on standby.
“As President I guarantee you that your government will do its best to provide assistance in the form of shelters, relief goods, financial aid and post-disaster counseling,” he said.
“Rest assured, the government will not leave anybody behind. We will get through this crisis. I assure you as one nation let us all hold on and help one another,” he added.
Duterte said he would have wanted to go around the typhoon-stricken areas in person but Cabinet members, the Presidential Security Group and his doctor forbade him from going out because he could drown or catch COVID-19.
He said he only wanted the people to see him and wade through the floodwaters, even go for a swim, adding that if something happened to him, the Vice President can take over.
“They said there are already many government officials outside and that there is only one President,” Mr. Duterte said. “I want to go and swim with you in the flood but they are preventing me because if I die, there’s only one President.”
“When I said there is a Vice President, they could not reply and just looked at each other, then they said, ‘You can’t die in a time like this. If you drown, all of us who are working for you will also drown,’” he said.
He added that he also would not mind if he catches coronavirus and, if he survives, would just recount how it was like to get sick with the respiratory disease.
In an update, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said all departments and agencies of the Executive were working to provide relief, rescue and assistance to those suffering from the storm’s impact.
Roque said the Philippine National Police deployed 3,261 search and rescue personnel, including 291 from Metro Manila, in anticipation of Ulysses, as early as last weekend.
Philippine Coast Guard personnel, on the other hand, were deployed to various areas like Cavite, Manila, Marikina, Montalban and Rodriguez in Rizal province to aid local government units in rescue and relief operations, he said.
Roque said the Department of Social Welfare and Development has more than P800 million in stockpile and standby funds.
The standby funds are worth more than P226 million, with more than P184 million available as quick response fund for the DSWD central office, he said.
The stockpile is composed of more than 282,000 food packs worth more than P130 million, other food items worth more than P177 million and non-food items worth more than P271 million, he added.