Aquino visit to disaster area expected to clear relief bottlenecks

Aquino visit to disaster area expected to clear relief bottlenecks

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino is to return to the devastated capital of Leyte province on Sunday to remove the remaining bottlenecks in the distribution of aid to survivors of Supertyphoon "Yolanda" (Haiyan).

The President was last seen here on November 10, the third day after Yolanda battered the central Philippines, but he left on the same day and relegated to Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman the nitty-gritty of bringing relief goods to famished families on the islands of Leyte and Samar.

Vice President Jejomar Binay turned up at the City Hall here on Saturday and met with Mayor Alfred Romualdez.

The vice president said he coursed relief goods he brought along through the Archdiocese of Palo to which Tacloban belongs.

Officials have said that the main reason for the slow movement of relief goods was the logjam at Tacloban airport, which could accommodate only three planes at a time, and the heavy volume of debris that had blocked almost all roads. Much of the debris has since been removed from major roads so that relief convoys could now get through.

Monsignor Alex Opiniano, Tacloban parish priest, said the flow of relief goods into Leyte was "rather slow" even from private donors.

He said that his parish was told that all relief donations should pass through the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Opiniano explained that centralizing relief distribution was possible only if communication lines were working, the roads were clear and there was enough manpower and transport vehicles.

The DSWD has since relented, he said, allowing private institutions to give the goods directly to victims. Some international aid agencies have already partnered with private groups locally after complaining of government's initial attempt to centralize distribution under the DSWD.

In the days following Yolanda's onslaught, there was lack of effective coordination between the national government and aid groups, frustrating efforts to immediately provide food, water and medicines to as many victims as possible.

The pace of distribution of relief goods picked up speed on Thursday, allowing groups such as the United Nations Disaster Assessment Group and Australian Aid to finally set up shop.

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