Romualdez and Roxas

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013


MORE than a month after Yolanda hit Visayan shores, I still have to hear of a formal investigation being conducted on the preparation by the national and local government for the super typhoon and their response to the devastation it wrought. Instead, what we are hearing is Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez playing the blame game.

The closest we got to a probe was that hearing conducted by the Congressional oversight committee on the Philippine Risk Reduction Management Act last week. It was in this hearing when Romualdez shed tears while blaming Roxas and the national government for their lack of “massive” response in the aftermath of Yolanda.

I don’t know if there would be a follow-up to that hearing this week, with other resource persons, like Roxas and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, invited to answer Romualdez or to enlighten us further on what happened immediately before and after Yolanda.

As it is now, some of Romualdez’s claims have not been proven correct, which would make his testimony more of an attempt to deflect attention away from his shortcomings as leader of his city. Roxas is a good target because, like him, he also faltered during Yolanda. I would say both Roxas and Romualdez were weighed but were found wanting.

Without a formal probe that would have objectively assessed government’s preparation for and response to Yolanda and come up with more compelling conclusions from it, I find a Wall Street Journal article’s summation of what happened immediately before after Yolanda hit Tacloban City as a good starting point.

The article, posted last Nov. 26, 2013 on the Wall Street Journal website (online.wsj.com) was aptly titled “Typhoon Haiyan: How a Catastrophe Unfolded.” Here are interesting tidbits in the article about what Romualdez was doing at that time:
He was “on vacation the week of Nov. 3, motorbiking through rice terraces in the northern Philippines with pastors from his church.” This, even if “he already knew a storm was developing.” From Nov. 3 to Nov. 6 when Romualdez returned to Tacloban, he delegated much of the work for the super typhoon to City Administrator Tecson Lim.

Romualdez and other city officials, including his wife Cristina, who is a city councilor, “knocked on doors around the city or appeared on radio and television to urge residents to seek shelter in an evacuation center.” But only around 15,000 of the city’s more than 200,000 residents went to evacuation centers.

We all know where Romualdez was caught by Yolanda: in the city’s shoreline instead of at the City Hall to direct the operation there.

As for Roxas:

He was sent to Tacloban together with Gazmin to help in the preparation for Yolanda.

He arrived a day before the typhoon struck. He “advised local officials to batten and weigh down the metal sheet roofs of the city's schools. Teams of workers headed out around the city with blue nylon ropes, three-quarters of an inch in diameter.” Roxas did underestimated Yolanda’s strength.

He didn’t criticize the preparations for Yolanda done in Tacloban. “As he toured the city, Mr. Roxas seemed satisfied with what he saw. He wrote on Twitter that it seemed like the situation was in hand.

‘Crossing fingers,’ he wrote. ‘God bless everyone.’"

He was at the Leyte Park Resort Hotel when Yolanda struck. Then the windows of the hotel blew in.

“They rushed to the stairwell for safety. At the same time, their communications links collapsed, cutting off the Philippines's most senior disaster-response official from Manila and the rest of the country. Mr. Roxas hadn't brought a satellite phone—an oversight he later said he regretted.”

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 18, 2013.

Opinion

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