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Palace admits shortcomings in Yolanda preparations and response


(Updated 7:26 p.m.) Malacañang on Thursday admitted that it may have had some shortcomings in preparing and responding to super typhoon Yolanda, which devastated parts of the Visayas region last weekend.
 
"Kung meron pong mga pumupuna, tinatanggap naman po natin iyong kanilang pagpuna. Hindi po natin itinatanggi na maaaring nagkaroon ng mga pagkukulang. Pero iyon po ay bunga na rin ng mga severe constraints," Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio "Sonny" Coloma Jr. said during a press conference.
 
"Hindi naman po sinasadyang huwag pagtuunan [iyon] ng pansin," he added.
 
In a televised speech on Thursday night, President Benigno Aquino III said the government was prepared for the threat brought by Yolanda.
 
And despite Coloma's admission about the government's shortcomings, he still stood by Aquino's statement and said they tried to prepare for all "possible eventualities."
  
"If we review the transcript, the President warned of storm surge na maaaring umabot ng up to six meters. Kaya in terms of the framework that is prescribed by law, na-anticipate naman po ng ating pamahalaan iyong mga possible scenarios katulad din po nung mga nakaraang pagkakataon especially in the case of Typhoon Pablo," he said.
 
"So in terms of preparation, in terms of emergency alert, masasabi po natin na ginawa po ang nararapat at naaayon sa batas na tungkulin ng pamahalaan," he added.
 
But he said there are really just some things out of their control, adding that all that's left is to learn from what happened. 

"Sa isang malaking organisasyon, any complex organization will involve many permutations, many nuances of operations; at mahirap mag-imagine ng totally perfect world na lahat na lang will fall in machine-like precision," Coloma said.
 
"At dahil po nakakapulot tayo ng mga mahahalagang aral, gagamitin po natin ang aral na napulot natin para mas maging mahusay po ang ating pagtugon sa susunod na pagkakataon," he said. 
 
The death toll due to Yolanda went up to 2,357 according to the latest figures from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). About 3,853 were injured and 77 are still missing. Some officials, however, have projected fatalities to be as high as 10,000 if all can be counted. Many people are missing or washed out to sea. 
 
The NDRRMC also said a total of 1,732,477 families or 8,007,200 people have been affected in 8,819 villages in 43 provinces. Of these, 74,246 families or 359,574 people are staying in 1,099 evacuation centers. 
 
The government has been criticized by international media for the slow delivery of relief goods to areas affected by Yolanda.
 
Local governments, which usually provide the first responders and take the lead in delivering immediate relief, have been decimated, with many personnel killed, missing, or otherwise unable to perform emergency duties. 
 
Local police have also been paralyzed, resulting in a security vacuum in some areas and rampant crime.
 
In the absence of local government effectiveness, the national government has stepped in, but its exact role has been unclear. The lack of power and communications has slowed even assessments of the damage. 
 
On Wednesday, Malacañang declared Aquino is in charge.

On Thursday, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Sonny Coloma Jr. also listed what the government has been able to achieve in the days following the onslaught of Yolanda.

He said on the first day, they managed to establish contacts with local government units while they re-established connectivity on the second day.

On the third day, he said they completed the mapping of the hardest-hit areas using storm-tracking systems and identified the priority areas, which include Regions IV-B (MIMAROPA), V (Bicol), VI (Western Visayas), VII (Central Visayas), and VIII (Eastern Visayas).

On the fourth day, he said all national highways were re-opened while other transport operations resumed on the fifth day.
 
Coloma said among the government's priorities are the immediate delivery of food, water, medicine, and medical assistance to the victims; and the provision of temporary shelters for displaced residents.
 
He also said they are prioritizing the restoration of power and communication services; of land, sea, and air transportation services; and of the "normalcy" of essential government services in hardest-hit areas. —KG/KBK, GMA News
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