Aquino: I know government could have done more

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines -President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday declared a state of national calamity and vowed to mobilize assistance for victims of the worst storm to hit his presidency.

"I need to ask myself. Did the government do enough to prevent this kind of a tragedy? I don't think I can accept that we have done everything," Mr. Aquino told evacuees at Cagayan de Oro Central School during a lightning visit to the disaster zone four days after Tropical Storm "Sendong" struck. "I know we could have done more."

The President himself has been criticized for attending a Christmas Party for his Presidential Security Group on Saturday as Sendong rampaged across Mindanao and the Visayas, igniting flash floods and causing death and destruction.

"My concern right now is specifically those missing," Mr. Aquino said. "Let us exhaust all possible means to try and find all of these missing individuals," he told national and local officials at the base of the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Group 10.

The President also stopped at the cities of Iligan and Dumaguete to inspect the devastation and help distribute relief goods at the evacuation centers.

"We will be assisting not only Cagayan and Iligan, but also Negros Oriental and Iloilo. We'd like to assure you that we are going to fine-tune all of the systems in place so that we can prevent a similar tragedy from happening."

The President said the calamity funds stood at P1.17 billion (S$34.5 million). He said he declared the state of calamity to start the mechanisms from which the government could get additional relief funding.

"We can get P3 million from the (Asian Development Bank) while there is P500 million on standby that the World Bank would loan in case the funds that have long been prepared for these kinds of calamities run short," he said.

"There are also offers of help from Japan, America, Australia, Russia, China and other countries."

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