Cebu News

In Tacloban City armed groups ‘lead’ looters

Grace Melanie L. Lacamiento - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Business communities are urging the government to adopt an immediate security response because it fears that the rampant looting in the city might have been initiated by organized, armed groups.

Mario Panganiban, vice president for business development of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the looters, who started their spree Friday evening, are said to be led by lawless elements.


Panganiban owns a distribution business company that has branches in region 8. He said they have prepared a stock inventory good for four weeks in Tacloban. Three of his warehouses in Tacloban were already ransacked.

He said that his company lost an estimated P400 million of 35,000 to 40,000 cases of goods that are good for a one-month inventory of supply.

“This is a modus operandi of armed groups who are hiding with these innocent people. They have guns. They got everything. They even searched for money. They have vehicles waiting for them outside. In a condition like this, there is no reason for looting those that could not be used for emergency needs,” he said.

It is observed that the looters take everything they could get their hands on.

Leyte Chamber of Commerce and Industry secretary Andrew Ng, who also owns a distribution company, echoed Panganiban’s sentiments, about P40 to P50 million worth of products have been ransacked in his warehouse after the typhoon.

Ng and his family had to fly to Cebu since they did not feel safe in Tacloban anymore.

Panganiban said they also received reports that subdivisions in Tacloban have already been ransacked while armed groups have been reportedly seen along the highway leading to Ormoc and Southern Leyte.

“Their next target now is Ormoc. We have to fix Tacloban and the rest of the region. I believe that food supply and security could be done simultaneously,” he said.

Panganiban said residents need not to worry of their basic needs since there is an influx of relief goods into the region from different concerned groups and individuals.

He warned other manufacturers and distributors in the region to be alert for looters who might spread in other areas, and reminded groups conducting relief distributions to be careful in eastern Visayas.

Ng likewise urged the government to be proactive in ensuring security of the people and save the entire Region 8 from the danger of pillage.

He said policies should be immediately put in place to prevent the looting incidents now rampant in Tacloban from eventually occurring in the rest of the region.

Not only Ng and his family have left Tacloban for Cebu.

About 300 families have fled Tacloban and are in Cebu seeking safety, as their city was destroyed by super typhoon Yolanda.

In a letter sent to Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Department of Social

Welfare and Development Services (DSWD)-7 Mercedita Jabagat asked for help in accommodating the typhoon victims who lost homes and loved ones in Tacloban.

Jabagat asked Rama to help DSWD-7 in providing temporary shelters for the displaced families from Leyte province.

“We have just been through the 7.2 intensity quake in Bohol and as of the present are still frantically repacking goods in its several disaster response operations centers. All our centers have been maximized and are fully packed with activities, right now in response to both Bohol and Region 8 disasters,” read Jabagat’s letter.

She suggested using the Cebu City Sports Center as evacuation center for the typhoon victims, who left Tacloban for Cebu onboard a military C-130 plane, which originally airlifted relief goods.

Jabagat further reported that the 300 families are in Cebu because their homes were destroyed.

With this, Rama directed City Administrator Atty. Jose Marie Poblete to make arrangements for the Tacloban evacuees.

“We will meet tomorrow (today) with DSWD and city officials to clarify some points as to the extent of help from the city,” Poblete said.

Among the considered evacuation centers include the Cebu City Sports Center, Tinago barangay sports complex, as well as setting up of a devotee-city-like temporary tent camp.

The 300 families, however, cannot expect free medical help at the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC).

Dr. Pilar Duterte, CCMC chief, said the temporary city hospital only has a 105-bed capacity and cannot cater to patients outside the city, considering that is is also in a difficult situation.

“Limited ra gyod ang atong beds, so atong i-prioritize ang mga patients nga constituents sa Cebu City,” she said.

A Bureau of Fire Protection-7 building currently serves as the city’s temporary hospital, after the CCMC building across it was declared unfit for use after the 7.1 magnitude earthquake on Oct. 15.

Rama had already raised such a possibility with the city’s medical groups two days ago.

“It will become a problem if mo-increase ang evacuees muanhi sa Cebu from typhoon-hit areas like Negros, Ormoc and neighboring provinces nga needing medical checkup and the like,” he said.

Rama said other hospitals with a state-of-the-art facilities can provide adequate medical remedies, though they are quite expensive compared to CCMC.

“Kadtong mga dato maka-afford, kadtong mga pobre pwede man gihapon sa mga mahalon na hospital kay naa may charity,” he said, adding that the unprivileged people asking medical help need not be driven away.

Duterte said despite the situation, their current admission increased after they deferred accepting patients for two weeks due to the quake.

Meanwhile, the 16-man team from Cebu City that left for Ormoc City,

Leyte Monday evening has successfully conducted initial relief operations while also conducting rapid assessment.

The team was primarily tasked by Rama to connect with local government unit counterparts, deliver food and water, look for strategic location for a possible Cebu City Civic Action Group command post, and identify the lead for communication link between the two cities.

The group, led by City Councilor Dave Tumulak, Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council presiding officer, together with former CCDRRMO chief Cathy Yso, took the Roll-on-roll-off vessel trip back to Cebu City last night and are set to report to the mayor the results of their rapid assessment today.— Jessa J. Agua, Kristine B. Quintas/ RHM (FREEMAN)

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