Congressman appeals for help for Tacloban, Leyte in aftermath of ‘Yolanda’
MANILA, Philippines – Representative Ferdinand Martin Romualdez called on his colleagues in the House of Representatives and international agencies on Saturday for help to get Leyte back on its feet, saying the little information he has received indicate Supertyphoon “Yolanda” caused massive destruction and he feared for the worst once communication lines are re-established.
Romualdez, whose congressional district includes the badly hit provincial capital of Tacloban City, said the government’s calamity funds may have been nearly depleted already by previous equally serious calamities in other parts of the country and he feared Leyte would need a lot more than what is currently available.
Thus, he said, he was appealing to his colleagues in Congress and international aid agencies to help provide funds for relief and rehabilitation.
“On the heels of the Zamboanga crisis, the numerous typhoons and the devastating earthquake in the Visayas, which came one after the other, we can imagine a lot of resources are being depleted. We shall be most appreciative of international donors,” he said in a telephone interview.
“The situation in terms of rehabilitation and rebuilding will take several months or years,” he added.
He said there was an immediate need for the basics, such as water, food, medicine, and tents, especially since many residents are now left with very little cover.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said he would urge members of Congress to study all possible means to contribute as an institution to the provinces affected by Yolanda, the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year and one of the fiercest ever on the planet.
Belmonte also said those who were spared Yolanda’s wrath should help those now reeling from it.
“I call on everyone to take on whatever constructive role they can and join us in government to assist our countrymen in these affected areas,” he said in a statement.
“We who have been spared have an even greater role to play towards recovery so that no challenge can get in the way of our goals for this nation,” he added.
Romualdez, who was in Metro Manila, said the last contact he had with his district and with his relatives there was on Friday morning. But he has been able to get limited updates from Ormoc Mayor Edward Codilla and Southern Leyte Governor Roger Mercado.
The initial reports hint of worse devastation, he said.
The reports reaching him said the new roof of the Palo Cathedral and the roof of the new Ormoc City Hall were blown off as Yolanda swept through the province.
“These structures are very new and very strong. Can you imagine what happened to other structure of lighter materials?” he said.
There were also reports that evacuation centers located close to the coast which officials had thought would be safe were swamped by storm surges.
Mobility problems have also been reported. In his district, many roads were impassable due to downed power lines and trees, as well as debris from destroyed houses, he said.
The Tacloban airport was also damaged, and downed power and communication lines limit its use, he said. Helicopters would need to land at their own risk there, he added.
He said the downing of communication lines in Leyte has also resulted in him getting many frantic phone calls from desperate relatives of his constituents, worried about their loved ones back home.
But with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas in Leyte, he said he believed the national government was doing everything to ensure that communication lines would be restored and relief goods would come.
Leyte Representative Lucy Torres-Gomez has also been unable to get in touch with officials in her district.
She said the last contact she had with Ormoc was on Friday night, and reports she got told of homes being “completely damaged.”
“Property damage is catastrophic,” she said in a text message.
She has had no report yet on casualties.
Belmonte said he empathized with the people reeling from Yolanda’s onslaught and hoped they were at least comforted by the fact that people were very willing to help.
He also said the challenges facing the country, which include the aftermath of the massive earthquake that struck Bohol and Cebu, and the pork barrel misuse controversy, test the Filipino people’s resilience and determination.
“We must be up to the test once again and not let this catastrophe destroy our resolve to pick ourselves up. This is a time to work together. It is a time for all of us to work in unity and in bayanihan to come out even stronger than before,” he said.
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