MORE than two years after Super Typhoon “Yolanda” flattened Eastern Visayas, President Benigno Aquino III has ordered that water supply to relocation sites and bunkhouses be cut off by the end of this month, hampering efforts of the city government to get back on its feet, Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez said Monday.
At the Kapihan sa Manila Hotel, Romualdez said he vehemently opposed the directive to cut off the water supply.
“After thousands of our people have transferred to the relocation sites and bunkhouses, for the past two years, they have yet to see a faucet. The water for cooking and drinking is still being rationed,” Romualdez said.
“And now, they wanted to stop the water rationing. I strongly reject that. It’s like killing them all over again and the culprit would be water again, after thousands perished in floodwaters and seawater,” Romualdez said.
“Our people have been traumatized enough. Enough already,” Romualdez said.
Three days after Yolanda, relief and rescue operations were delayed because Aquino was in Tacloban and the government declared a no-fly zone while the President was there, Romualdez recalled.
“While President Aquino was in Tacloban, the airplanes and helicopters carrying medical and relief goods coming from the United States and all over the world could not land because the government declared a no-fly zone all over Tacloban. The choppers could not even drop the much-needed relief goods and crucial medical help,” Romualdez said.
The mayor said it was only his cousin, independent vice presidential candidate Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who was able to defy the order and insisted it was urgent that he fly to Tacloban to bring in relief because people were already rioting and looting due to hunger.
The mayor said rampant looting occurred because the handful of policemen tasked to secure the business establishments and major streets had been pulled out to secure the President, instead.
The afternoon that the President was in Tacloban, Romualdez said, some 150 inmates escaped from jail because the police forces left to watch them were summoned to secure the President.
“And when I asked the President to help us augment and beef up the security forces since our policemen were victims, too, he simply said: ‘I will think about it’,” Romualdez said.
The looting and rioting lasted for seven days and stopped only when donations… started pouring in, he said.
“Where can you see in the world that looting and rioting were happening right under the noses of the President and his men because they refused to grant our request for outside help like the police and military force augmentation, emergency powers and state of calamity,” he said.
It took the President four days to declare a state of calamity in Tacloban, he said.
A day after Yolanda struck, he said, the President was quick to blame him the mayor for the more than 6,000 deaths.
“I was blamed for being unprepared when his official family who came to Tacloban were even more unprepared as they did not bring with them the most important person to have told us accurately when Yolanda would hit land. Then DILG Secretary Mar Roxas did not bother to seek the crucial forecast and carelessly made his own forecast that Yolanda, the strongest typhoon to hit the planet, will strike at noontime. Yolanda hit land as early as 7 a.m.,” Romualdez told the forum.
He also said Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman did not do her homework and prepared relief only for 240,000 people, the total population in the city, not realizing that Tacloban was a financial hub that attracted many more people from outside the city.
“We have three major universities there, major hospitals are there and all kinds of business are there. That’s why we have many hotels in the city. So during the day, the population of Tacloban swells to about a million,” Romualdez said.
“Looting was inevitable because the national government came unprepared,” he added.
He said Liberal Party presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II has aggravated these prolonged frustrations and pain by mocking the world and all the volunteers that responded to the Yolanda crisis by twisting the truth in a 28-page comic book, which portrayed Roxas as a hero.
Romualdez, who was depicted in the Roxas comic book as “partying” the night before Yolanda, said it was irresponsible and insensitive of Roxas to mock and hurt Taclobanons with his lies when the city is still reeling from the massive devastation and the city continues to find three to four skeletal remains a month, two and a half years after Yolanda.
The mayor presented witnesses during the forum to attest that he was with Roxas and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin the night Roxas’ comic book said Romualdez was partying.
As President Aquino continued to show his lack of compassion for the Yolanda victims, Romualdez said he was compelled to contract a P390-million loan with high interest rates at 5 percent to 6 percent because the President shot down the P3-billion concession loan (90 percent grant and 10 percent loan at 1 percent interest) offered by the World Bank.
The P3-billion World Bank grant was meant to rehabilitate and reconstruct Tacloban, he said.
But the President refused to grant sovereign guarantee for the loan, the mayor said.
Romualdez said it was not right for Roxas to put down Taclobanons and use them to advance his failing presidential bid.
The mayor dared Roxas to be “man enough” to distribute hiscomic book in Tacloban.
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