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Noy apologizes for slow response to Yolanda

MANILA, Philippines - Admitting the government’s slow response to Yolanda’s devastation, President Aquino apologized yesterday to high school students from Tacloban City who had survived the deadly howler.

“I apologize if we couldn’t act even faster,” Aquino told the students at the Hope Christian High School in Sta. Cruz, Manila. The school has adopted 180 students from Tacloban City.

The President issued the apology while being grilled by his young audience on his statements and actions during and after the onslaught of the super typhoon.

“We are also students, we want to learn from this experience and do even better next time,” Aquino said, noting that they also picked up lessons from past disasters like Typhoon Pablo during which many key government officials were not around to take charge. The government did not expect the typhoon to strike in Mindanao in the first place.

One of the students, Zar Agustin Yu, told the President that based on his own experience in Barangay 48 where he lived, there was “no relief, no medical care, nothing” for three days.

Aquino felt the need to visit the students because they had written him letters titled “My Best Piece of Advice” to express their concern for fellow victims of Yolanda as part of an exercise in Journalism class.

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The students quizzed Aquino on his not staying in Tacloban City long enough, the irregular flow of relief goods, and even on his blaming the local government for the overall confusion in the typhoon’s aftermath.

“I want to be able to impart with you what I believed and perceived to be the truth and I think the truth shall set us all free,” explaining that it took so long before relief operations picked up because the magnitude of Yolanda was unprecedented in history.

He said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II were in Leyte before Yolanda’s onslaught and he himself had warned the public about what to expect from the typhoon.

Aquino explained at length that the devastation was very massive and even the airport and ports were damaged along with the system of communications.

He also said that even evacuation centers and pre-positioned goods were destroyed.

He reiterated that 44 provinces were affected by the typhoon with close to four million families or about 20 million people displaced.

“Now, getting all of the food, getting all of the water, getting it from where it was to bringing it there. Clearing the roads so that the trucks will be able to get there, not just in Tacloban, but even if we use the land route coming from Sorsogon and crossing through Samar, we had to also clear all of those roads. The plane, a C-130 aircraft can carry about 1,500 food packs, not enough. We have only three C-130s, I think I should add that,” Aquino said.

Best efforts

Despite the difficulties, Aquino said the authorities did their best to respond, even flying to affected areas when it was not safe. Jess Diaz, Mayen Jaymalin



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