Aquino: 'Time to help each other'

Aquino: 'Time to help each other'

President Benigno Aquino III on Saturday ordered the military and all search and rescue teams of the government to all the communities that suffered devastation as Supertyphoon "Yolanda" roared across the central Philippines on Friday.

Mr. Aquino gave instructions to find everyone-the survivors as well as the dead-deliver relief and reestablish communication, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras told reporters after a meeting of the national disaster council in Quezon City on Saturday.

With power and telephone networks down, many of the worst-hit areas remained cut off from communications on Friday, and it was impossible even for the government to determine the extent of the damage Yolanda had wrought in central Philippines.

Mr. Aquino met disaster officials on Saturday afternoon and gave fresh instructions to rush relief to the survivors of the typhoon.

But Mr. Aquino was not prepared to make an assessment of the damage caused by Yolanda.

"It's hard to make an assessment because we have obtained incomplete data," Mr. Aquino told a news conference.

Asked where the government would get the funds for the mammoth relief effort after Yolanda, Mr. Aquino referred to the "heavily criticised" calamity and contingency funds, the President's Social Fund, and all other lump sums in the national budget.

The dwindling calamity and contingency funds stand at roughly P1 billion (S$28 million), while the social fund still has P6 billion.

Mr. Aquino said he would also draw from the quick reaction funds of the agencies.

"I'd like to assure everybody that although we have experienced many disasters-both man-made and natural-we have P16 billion in savings that [we can use for relief operations]," Mr. Aquino said.

The President hinted that he would take to task local officials in Leyte for failing to prepare for the supertyphoon. Tacloban City, the provincial capital, appeared to have taken the brunt of Yolanda's fury, with at least 100 people reported killed.

Early reports

As of Saturday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) listed four people dead and four missing, but the Philippine Red Cross said it had estimated that more than 1,000 people were killed in Tacloban alone.

"The damage is significant. This is the time for all of us to help each other," Almendras said at the NDRRMC briefing.

He said that the government was getting calls from private companies and individuals volunteering services and equipment for the disaster response.

Mr. Aquino also called up local officials and gave instructions to begin the implementation of response plans that had been prepared before Yolanda hit land early Friday.

Two C-130 transport planes of the military left Manila early on Saturday carrying relief supplies, power and communications equipment for Tacloban City, also heavily damaged by storm surges.

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