After every major disaster in the country there is always the usual blame game, finding faults on the government’s preparedness and response to meet the people’s expectations of assistance and in ameliorating their needs.
The tragedy of typhoon “Ulysses” that struck Cagayan and Isabela provinces is not an exception. There is a need to explain why this super-howler that had killed scores of people, uprooted the lives of thousands of individuals, destroyed homes, farmlands and infrastructure projects worth billions of pesos, had to happen. But this can wait.
What we would like to underscore here is the valiant effort of our civilian and military personnel in responding to the disaster, especially in saving lives. What we have seen is our much-vaunted bayanihan spirit at its best.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) chaired by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana coordinated all the operations involving military assets. The AFP Northern Command shifted its anti-insurgency efforts and concentrated on rescue, retrieval and relief operations; the Philippine National Police dispatched hundreds of its own rescue and retrieval teams; the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy not just rescued residents in flooded areas but also used its helicopters for aerial extractions of residents stranded on rooftops. The AFP also sent rubber boats and helicopters to areas whose roads were impassable. It has also utilized its aircraft and helicopters in transporting relief goods to the Bicol region also hit by super-typhoon “Rolly.”
Other government agencies, such as the Department of Health and the Department of Social Welfare and Development provided immediate relief assistance to victims of the typhoon and flooding. Even during the typhoon, engineers and workers of the Department of Public Works and Highways continued to remove debris in roads affected by landslides to make them passable. In Ifugao, two engineers, a laborer and a driver of DPWH died in a landslide while in a clearing operation in the area.
These are only a few acts of heroism shown by our military and civilian personnel that we all have to be proud of. We salute all of you. Indeed, you have the gratitude of the whole nation.