A military general in charge of relief operations in areas hit by Typhoon Pablo in Mindanao on Wednesday denied reports that looting and rioting have characterized the situation in calamity areas there. Facing the media at a Palace press briefing, Lieutenant General Jorge Segovia said the reports were “hardly true,” as he himself was there to supervise relief efforts. “Some of the rumors of mobs and rioting, and the lack of so many things [are] hardly true. I’ve been there... I was there during the first delivery in Baganga, I saw the relief goods on trucks,” Segovia told reporters. Segovia, who is chief of the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command, had been designated head of overall rescue and relief efforts by President Benigno Aquino III.
Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras likewise defended the military, saying the organization has done its job adequately. “There have been criticisms as to the effect of what the military has failed to do. I have been to Davao, and from where I sit and what I have seen, I think our uniformed personnel have done a fantastic job in Davao,” Almendras said “I know that there will always be criticisms because there is always not enough that can be done,” he added.
A week earlier, reports from the ground revealed that hungry survivors of the deadly typhoon looted shops and warehouses in a hard-hit town to stay alive amid stalled aid deliveries. But Segovia maintained that there was no truth to the report, which itself came from a rescue official. “Except for a minor incident involving the locals, the governor of Davao Oriental is very much in command of the situation. The rest of the province is very well organized. In fact, most of the provinces, even Banganga and Caraga is doing well in terms of relief operations,” he said. Baganga and Cateel are two of the towns hardest hit by Pablo, which has claimed 740 lives so far and has left 890 missing. A total of 1,906 people have been reported injured.
Segovia added that in addition to orderly distribution of relief goods, medical aid for victims remains accessible--a far cry from the images presented in media. “I personally talked to the doctors and I saw—they expressed no problems. Of course, they need more medicines but on emergency situations, they are able to go through their business. In fact, during my visit to Baganga, there were hardly long lines ‘no, where the doctors attended,” Segovia said.
At the same press briefing, Almendras reiterated a call for additional volunteers, citing a need for more doctors to treat victims who have lost nearly everything. “What we need to do is work together. Government will do its share but we need everyone’s help as well. We have resources but it’s not a question of resources. It’s a question of hands and feet that will help bring these goods to where they are most needed. It’s a question of people, doctors,” Almendras said.Still, Segovia praised victims of the typhoon, saying in the midst of adversity, they have remained strong. “The people of these devastated areas are very resilient, they are very patient,” Segovia said.
NDRRMC chairperson Benito Ramos, who was also present at the briefing, expressed optimism that most, if not all of the missing are still alive. Ramos particularly said he has high hopes of recovering lost fishermen. “Basing from our [previous] experiences [with other natural calamities], there are still fishermen that are alive. We recovered fishermen from Camarines Sur last time in the Babuyan Islands of the northern Philippines; 21 days alive,” he said.
Meanwhile, asked about the possible threat of communist rebels known to prowl the area, Segovia admitted that the military is more concerned with relief efforts rather than confronting rebels.“[In times like this] internal security operation takes a back seat. But we know the threats and we make sure that security precautions are made because, of course, syempre baka i-take advantage tayo ng mga rebelde while we are undergoing our relief operations,” Segovia said.