Heat on looters, slow pace of relief | Inquirer News

Heat on looters, slow pace of relief

/ 10:09 AM November 17, 2013

More than a week after typhoon Yolanda ravaged many towns in the Visayas, many people are still suffering the consequences of the storm.

I am so happy with the immediate response of many ordinary people to calls for help especially here in Cebu. International relief items by the planeload have arrived for typhoon victims.


We are fortunate to have international aid after more people around the world see the extent of devastation.

What is unfortunate is the slow pace of distributing the aid to the victims especially in Leyte and Samar. Local and international media agree in their observations of the snail’s pace of the response of the national government.


Even ordinary citizens feel the government is wanting and that it seems no one is clearly in charge on the national level of distribution and direction of foreign relief goods.

Even cash donations to the government are discouraged because of red tape that slows release of the financial aid badly needed by storm-struck barangays.

But it’s not too late for the national government to get its act together in the distribution system.

This is no time to blame any one but to learn from our mistakes and make speedy corrections. In the case of the national government, President Aquino first said the local governments were supposed to be the first responders, however, many of them were also typhoon victims. It took a full day for the national government to step in and take over.

Looting in Tacloban City led to an exodus of residents, who fled by air, sea and land to Cebu and Manila to save themselves from hunger and a breakdown in peace and order.

Many people wanted to go to Tacloban to bring relief goods but were unnerved by reports of vehicles being waylaid by some people who would steal the items. Some reports point to a newly-formed gang of criminal elements taking advantage of the crisis.

The desperate situation led many to ransack department stores and houses in Tacloban City and cart away not just food but anything they could carry, including refrigerators, television sets and clothes.


One joke goes that when calamity victims ransack a store they are called looters but when government officials steal funds to be used for calamity victims, they are called senators.

Many are asking why looting is going on in Tacloban City but not in northern Cebu where towns and Bogo city were devastated or the situation in Bohol were an earthquake occurred Oct. 15?

Some say perhaps it has to do with the culture and behavior of Warays but I don’t buy that.

While I wanted to justify that hungry people acted that way out of desperation in order to survive, it’s difficult to justify how appliances are also stolen.

We can see in TV news that some people are also taking gasoline in gasoline stations without paying for the fuel, and that owners and the police can’t do much to stop the theft.

To get updates on what’s happening to places in Eastern Visayas devastated by the typhoon, I strongly suggest switching on cable station CNN for comprehensive news reporting.

Its reporters narrate what they see on the ground without fanfare or sensationalism. That’s why they get some flak from the government when their journalists air critical reports that show the slow pace of distributing relief goods although the government is doing its best to respond.

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TAGS: column, distribution of aids, looting, opinion, relief goods, Supertyphoon Yolanda, Visayas
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