Aquino flies to Bohol, Cebu to see damage | Inquirer News

Aquino flies to Bohol, Cebu to see damage

By: - Bureau Chief / @InquirerSLB
/ 02:32 AM October 17, 2013

Be careful what you say.

President Aquino on Wednesday cautioned officials to be careful with their choice of words, especially in describing the situation in earthquake-damaged Bohol and Cebu provinces, as an error could create fear and panic.

“Natural disaster is beyond everybody’s control. The absence of information (and), if we are not careful with the language, we add the general sense of malice and fear,” Aquino told Cabinet and local officials during a briefing in Tagbilaran City, Bohol.


Aquino corrected an official of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) who described the fuel supply in Bohol as “critical” when the supply was more than normal.


The President, with some Cabinet officials, traveled to Bohol and later to Cebu to personally assess the damage caused by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the two islands and Siquijor Island on Tuesday morning.

He first conducted an aerial inspection of the damage in Bohol and later met with the evacuees at the Tagbiliran City gymnasium before proceeding with the briefing with local and Cabinet officials.

From Bohol, he flew to Cebu City where he inspected the damage to the Basilica del Sto. Niño and the public market in Mandaue City. The belfry of the centuries-old basilica in Cebu City collapsed during the earthquake.

Fuel supply

During the briefing on the supply of goods in Bohol, Asteria Caberte, DTI director for Central Visayas, said the supply of fuel was “quite critical” because it was only good for eight days.

Aquino asked Caberte what the normal fuel supply was.


“One week,” Caberte replied.

“Now we have more than the normal?” the President asked.

Caberte replied in the affirmative and tried to explain but Aquino cut her off.

“[It looks like] we have a critical problem. What is the normal supply? Seven days. What do we have on hand? Eight days,” he said.

Caberte said seven days was the normal level.

Apparently irked, the President said: “Yes, seven days. You have eight days’ supply.”

Caberte said the eight-day supply was due to the remaining inventory.

“So the critical is not very critical,” Aquino said.

While admitting that the supply was “not really critical,” Caberte explained that it might not be enough because the demand for fuel had spiked.

There are 46 gas stations in the province, but 14 of them are closed.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who served as DTI secretary during the Estrada and Arroyo administrations, explained that the demand increased due to fears of a fuel shortage.

But Aquino said, “And [if] we [make] statements that the fuel is critical, the fear will increase, right?”

“Let us be careful. There is no issue. We are creating [panic],” Aquino added.

It was a holiday

The President cited an article he had read in the papers about an official who said authorities were checking on a school and its students in Cebu.

Aquino pointed out that there were no classes on Tuesday,  a national holiday, so there was no need to fret about students getting trapped in schools.

Creating panic, a sense of foreboding and giving an idea that the situation was not under control would only trigger panic buying, which in turn could diminish supplies unnecessarily, Aquino said.

The President reminded retailers that once a state of calamity has been declared, there is an automatic price freeze and those who increase their prices will be penalized.

“[T]here will be sanctions. And I assure you, we are monitoring everybody’s compliance with the law,” he said.

He also asked journalists to be careful about reporting the aftershocks because by merely reporting the number of aftershocks at 844, it would appear that the area had been hit by a lot of earthquakes.

Some papers reported on Wednesday that the region had been shaken by 844 aftershocks since the main temblor on Tuesday

Aquino cited a report of the Department of Science and Technology that only 14 of the 844 aftershocks were felt.

Check structures

He also asked the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the local engineers to thoroughly check out structures, including those that appeared to have not been damaged by the quake.

Aquino said the DPWH should take advantage of the presence of 12 structural engineers from the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE), who would help check the structural integrity of hospital buildings, school buildings, municipal halls and public markets in Bohol.

The new building code requires new buildings to be able to withstand 7.2-magnitude earthquakes. The older buildings will be retrofitted to make them compliant with the building code.

Aquino also asked the people of Bohol to stretch their patience, promising them that power would be fully restored in three days.

Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, during the briefing, said about 25 percent of Bohol’s 47 towns were still without power.

But he gave the assurance that power will be fully restored in three days.

Funds for evacuees

The President also told local officials to make sure that those living in landslide-prone areas were readied for evacuation, as there was a forecast of rain and the earthquake had loosened the soil.

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He assured the officials that there were enough funds, goods and materials for those who had been evacuated.

TAGS: Bohol, Cebu, Disasters, Earthquake, Government, Quake, Regions

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