Romualdez laments lack of gov’t support for Tacloban
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - December 10, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez yesterday lamented the lack of support from the national government a month after the devastation from Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Testifying before the congressional oversight committee on the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 at the Senate, Romualdez expressed his frustration over the destruction of his city and said politics injected into rescue and relief efforts added insult to injury.

“People were already frustrated seeing all these military planes and trucks and yet just beside them, they heard voices of people who could be rescued... there was never ever any rescue up to today,” he said.

Romualdez insinuated that President Aquino and Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II engaged in partisan politics after Yolanda wreaked havoc in Tacloban City and other parts of the Visayas.

Romualdez said a month after Yolanda, he and his team were still recovering 60 to 80 bodies a day, with less help from the national government. He said he had to bring  heavy equipment from Manila for the operation.

“I wanted additional help from the very beginning. I was not getting (any), and we kept begging for that help,” he said.

Romualdez said he asked Aquino during a second meeting to deploy more soldiers in Tacloban City to help retrieve bodies.

“He didn’t listen to me,” Romualdez said in Filipino. “The chief of police was removed. We were practically begging already... we were picking up the pieces.”

Romualdez said Roxas asked him to prepare a city ordinance imposing a curfew. 

“I said it’s difficult to have an ordinance for a curfew because we have no fiscal office, there is no court, there is nothing functioning here,” Romualdez said. “If people get arrested, how can they post bail? Why don’t we just have checkpoints? This went on and on and on... everyday we were meeting. We were meeting every morning. I could not understand why we could not get that support.”

Romualdez said Roxas asked him to “legalize everything” so the national government could come to their rescue.

“I told him: why is it illegal?” Romualdez said. “As far as I know, the President is the president of the Philippines and he is also president of Tacloban City.”

He said he did not see any reason why Aquino or Roxas needed a document that would enable the national government to come in and help Tacloban City.

Romualdez said Roxas reminded him that he and Aquino come from different political backgrounds.

“ ‘You have to remember: we have to be very careful because you are a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino’,” Romualdez quoted Roxas as saying.

Replying to a question of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.,  Romualdez said, “We need a letter to define already... We were arguing... We are addressing the immediate concerns. The city even in normal times cannot function alone. We have to depend also on national agencies to open. We opened 10 days after.”  

Marcos said under the law, if two or more barangays are affected, the provincial government must take over; if two or more cities, regional offices should respond, and if three or more provinces, the national government comes in.

“The situation about the letter is really baffling,” Romualdez said.

He broke into tears as he recalled the onslaught of Yolanda.

“I looked out and I saw there was no more land,” he said. “Everything was water. So we stayed there for about an hour and 45 minutes.”

Before this, he received a call from his wife, Tacloban City Councilor Cristina Gonzales-Romualdez, who informed him that she and their children had relocated to their old residence in the city. 

Two of the close-in bodyguards assigned to his wife and children were swept away in the storm surge.

Romualdez said he saw many bodies in the debris of cars, trucks and shattered houses when he and his team braved a storm surge as high as 20 feet to get to his family.

“There were bodies all over... people were... in shock,” he said.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, chairman of the Senate panel, asked Romualdez why Roxas asked for a letter six days after the disaster when Aquino had already declared a state of calamity.

“If there is already a declaration of a national state of calamity, there shouldn’t be any ambiguity as far as responsibilities are concerned. I think (Secretary Roxas) must clarify that issue on why he was asking the letter from the mayor,” he said.


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