President Rodrigo Duterte rejected criticisms that death and destruction experienced during Cagayan Valley’s worst flood in 40 years was the result of negligence of local government units (LGUs).
In an interview on Sunday, November 15, 2020, Duterte defended LGUs’ response to Typhoon Ulysses saying they have been prepared long before the typhoon made its landfall.
“Don’t believe in that. That’s garbage. Alam mo (You know), the one in-charge sa mga yung (of) preparations for emergency, long before dumating yung typhoon naka-deploy na ang mga tao dito (the typhoon arrived, they were already deployed here),” he said.
Contrary to what critics say, Duterte said LGUs have been quick in responding to the needs of typhoon-hit victims, but also had to keep track of their spending.
“You go right away and spend money, you land there with the Ombudsman. So, give them time to make the proper assessment. Saan ang bagal dito? Nandyan ang pagkain, the housing nandiyan (How are they slow? The food is there, housing is there), they are ready to implement,” he added.
He also defended the decision to release water from Magat Dam which flowed toward Cagayan, causing the flood.
“You have to release it otherwise we’ll have a catastrophe kaya you have to release. Every dam in this world pagkapuno na yung tubig ire-release talaga yan, otherwise magkalat yan pag nasira (if it’s full of water, you have to release, otherwise it will be a mess when it’s destroyed), you will have, as I said, a catastrophe)” he said.
Asked if a proposed Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) could have prevented the extent of damage brought about by successive typhoons, Duterte did not give a clear answer.
He said Congress is resisting the creation of a separate department to streamline government humanitarian response to disasters.
“We are having a resistance. Sa Congress mismo. May iba doble na daw, a duplication of work, tama na daw yang isa (In Congress itself. They say there’s duplication of work, that it’s enough to have one),” he said, referring to the existing National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
Duterte, however, noted that the government could still respond to calamities as long as there are enough funds allocated.
“Sa akin, okay lang (For me, it’s okay), I can do it in the meantime na maski yan lang (with just that). What is important is that you have the machineries, and you have the equipment, and you have the money, and people are there deployed before the typhoon comes,” he added.
Duterte has been calling on Congress to pass legislation creating the DDR in his previous state of the nation addresses.
The House of Representatives approved its version of the DDR bill last September, while similar measures remain pending in the Senate. (Azer Parrocha, PNA)