CEBU CITY -- At least 300 families from Tacloban City are now in Cebu, after losing their homes during Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is asking for the City’s help.
In a one-page letter dated Nov. 11, DSWD-Central Visayas Regional Director Mercedita Jabagat asked the City to convert the Cebu City Sports Center into an evacuation center for these families.
She said there is no room for temporary shelter in DSWD operation centers, where workers and volunteers are “frantically repacking goods” for distribution to thousands of hungry and homeless survivors.
Members of the business community, some of whom have also moved to Cebu for now, called on the government to protect other cities, before looters descend on them like they have in Tacloban.
“As a business community, we urge the government to be proactive and to secure the entire Region 8 (Eastern Visayas) before it is completely destroyed by looters,” said Leyte Chamber of Commerce and Industry Secretary Andrew Ng.
Ng’s business, a distribution company with an inventory worth more than P40 million, was one of the establishments ransacked.
As relief goods merely trickled to starving typhoon survivors, crowds of looters were seen breaking into stores not only for food and water, but anything they could get their hands on.
“Secure the whole of Region 8, because these cities are in danger of being attacked by looters. We don’t want to protect what is already destroyed; we protect something that is still there. The urgency is now, we cannot wait for tomorrow,” said Ng, in a press conference where he was joined by other Tacloban business owners.
The military flies C-130 planes from Mactan to Tacloban every day, though only at daytime, bringing relief goods. On the way back, these planes carry survivors in need of urgent treatment, along with evacuees.
According to Jabagat, the 300 families from Tacloban are currently at the Mactan Air Base.
Mayor Rama told City Administrator Atty. Jose Marie Poblete to connect with Ricky Ballesteros, but was told the venue was needed for the Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association (CVRAA) next month.
“It’s either we postpone CVRAA because we cannot postpone charity. We should help them to show that they can see light and hope here,” Rama said.
If the sports center will not be available, Rama said the displaced families can be temporarily housed in the Cebu City Coliseum or the sports complex in Barangay Tinago.
He said, though, that DSWD should also help in providing food to the evacuees.
Rama also asked other local government units to help in providing evacuation centers for those who have fled from devastated towns.
“We should help because they are our brothers and sisters. We cannot turn away from them. Now is the time to show our Christian values,” he added.
Police forces from other regions are now on the ground in Tacloban, but more soldiers and law enforcers are needed in Region 8, business owners said.
Mario Panganiban, a businessman who is a distributor of groceries in Tacloban and vice president for business development of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called for the stronger presence of military and police personnel to prevent looters from attacking businesses outside Tacloban.
Panganiban’s warehouse was attacked on Saturday by armed men. He said he lost enough supplies that could have sustained the region for three to four weeks.
“Their (looters) next target is Ormoc,” he said.
“The looters are actually organized groups hiding under the cover of the mob...they encouraged them to follow,” Panganiban said.
Although he had security personnel in the warehouse, he ordered them to allow the group to enter the place. “Life is more precious than goods,” he recalled telling the warehouse guards. He was stunned when the group took air conditioners and computers as well.
He also mentioned a bank executive in Tacloban who flew out after receiving threats of kidnapping.
“Top businessmen have a reason to fear now…it’s either they will extort from you or kidnap you,” he said. (Sun.Star Cebu/With Associated Press)