Access to aid in quake-hit Itbayat, Batanes remains a challenge – Robredo

Robie de Guzman   •   July 31, 2019   •   564

MANILA, Philippines – The deployment of relief goods to parts of Itbayat town in Batanes remains a challenge four days since two successive earthquakes jolted the area, Vice President Leni Robredo said on Wednesday.

Robredo made the observation after visiting the town earlier in the day to personally see the damages left by the temblor and to distribute relief packs to earthquake victims.

“Iyong pagkain, challenge. Iyong construction materials, challenge, dahil sa layo ng lugar. Mayroong mga barko na pumupunta, pero it takes a while bago makarating,” she said.

“Gaya noong dala namin, three days pa siya bago makarating. Halimbawa, iyong PAL (Philippine Airlines) nag-o-offer na makapagpadala sa kanila for free, pero hanggang Basco lang iyon, so kailangan pa din i-transport iyong mga goods. So ano talaga, mahirap. Kahit urgent, hindi talaga mamadali, dahil sa hirap ng pagpunta,” she added.

Robredo also noted that the steel bars, to be used for the rebuilding of damaged structures, are the most difficult to transport since these are too heavy for boats.

“Siguro iyong Navy ship iyong kailangan,” she said.

“Malawak iyong destruction. Iyong pinuntahan natin na barangay, iyong Santa Maria, tapos iyong dinaanan, San Rafael, sobrang dami ng bahay na nasira,” she added.

The vice president also stressed the need for the urgent building of shelters for affected residents.

“Siguro iyong first na pinaka-urgent, na may matulugan na sila na mas maayos. Mayroon naman tayong mga dala na gamit, pero mas pang-temporary siya. Siguro sa lalong madaling panahon, iyong pinaka-mahalaga, maka-build na ng temporary shelters,” she said.

Due to the damages sustained in Itbayat town, Robredo suggested for the local government unit to strengthen the prepositioning of relief goods and implement protocols for quick disaster response.

“Dapat mayroon na sanang, parang, protocols. Na kapag may nangyayari dito, paano iyong pagdala ng tulong. Kasi naaalala ko, in 2016, noong Typhoon Ferdie, nandito din ako, eh. Nandito din ako sa Itbayat, same problem. Iyong pinaka-problema talaga, kahit may sasakyan, mahaba talaga iyong travel time, eh. So siguro iyong kailangang i-consider din, magkaroon na ng… parang naka-store na provisions (of aid) lalo na sa pagkain,” she said.

“Iyong isa pa, talagang ang health services dito, iyong mga hospital, kailangan talagang paglaanan ng maraming tulong, para kapag may ganito, dahil malayo iyong mga dadalhan, dapat equipped noong mga kailangan,” she added.

The entire province of Batanes is listed in the UNESCO tentative list for inscription in the World Heritage list due to the intangible heritage elements of the Ivatan people, including their stone houses.

But Robredo said that following the quake, there is now a need to ‘tweak’ the design of stone houses in Batanes to withstand strong earthquakes.

Batanes residents are much prepared for tropical cyclones as the province, which sits in the northernmost part of the country, is usually in the path of storms entering the Philippines.

“Iyong sa akin, baka kailangan balikan na in preserving the stone houses, tingnan na kung paano niya mawi-withstand iyong ganito. Siguro kailangang i-tweak iyong design, iyong engineering design. Wala kasi siyang mga kabilya, eh. Talagang mga bato lahat,” Robredo said.

“Tama iyong sabi ni Gov, na for a very long time, ang pinaghahandaan kasi nila bagyo. Ngayon lang nag-strike itong ganitong katinding lindol, saka lang nila naisip na may problema pala iyong… parang iyong original design ng mga bahay dito,” she added.

The Vice President said they visited earthquake victims to extend assistance through its Angat Buhay initiative which partners with private companies in providing aid to communities in need.

They also donated an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine for the local hospital.

Drilon, Robredo camp hit Cayetano’s ‘all talk’ remarks

Robie de Guzman   •   November 12, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon hit House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for his “totally uncalled for” remarks against Vice President Leni Robredo.

“I am saddened by his statement. Such comments are totally uncalled for, especially coming from the Speaker of the House,” Drilon said in a statement.

Cayetano earlier said that Robredo is “all talk” since her appointment as the co-chairperson of the inter-agency committee on anti-illegal drugs (ICAD).

President Rodrigo Duterte last week designated Robredo to co-lead the government’s body against illegal drugs.

Since then, she has been meeting with several groups to float her ideas to address the country’s drug problem, such as scrapping the “Oplan Tokhang” and implementing a health-based anti-drug campaign.

Instead of criticizing Robredo, Drilon said everyone should support the government’s war on drugs and set aside politics.

“It cannot be denied that illegal drug continues to be a problem, notwithstanding the over 5,000 deaths from Operation Tokhang,” he said.

“The gravity of this issue on illegal drugs calls for everyone to set aside politics. In the remaining two and a half years of the administration, we should all work together to solve this problem,” he added.

The senator also noted that even Malacañang has vowed full support for Robredo as she undertakes this task.

“We expect the allies of this administration to do no less,” he added.

Meanwhile, Robredo’s spokesperson and legal counsel, Barry Gutierrez, said the vice president has only begun doing her new task and told Cayetano to stop criticizing if he can’t help her do her job.

Gutierrez also said the entire government should unite to eradicate illegal drugs in the country.

Lacson advises Robredo not to join anti-drug ops; focus on cutting drug supply

Robie de Guzman   •   November 11, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson has advised Vice President Leni Robredo to focus more on reducing the supply of illegal drugs in the country instead of joining an anti-drug operation.

Lacson gave the advice after he met with Robredo on Friday to discuss what she could do in her new role as the co-chairperson of the inter-agency committee on anti-illegal drugs (ICAD), which President Rodrigo Duterte handed to her last week.

The senator said Robredo’s presence in drug stings might compromise the operation due to security protocols as the country’s second-highest official.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director-general Aaron Aquino earlier challenged Robredo to join one of the anti-drug operations, to which she accepted.

READ: NCRPO chief prepared to let VP Leni join drug busts

“Sa security pa lang, nakakalat na security niya, mate-telegraph ang operation. But they could make some arrangements paano isasagawa yan,” he told UNTV News in a phone interview.

“Pero from briefing sa jumpoff tapos sa mismong operation, di pwedeng pabayaan mo Bise Presidente ng bansa. Pangalawang pinakamataas na opisyal ng bansa natin, ilalagay mo ang buhay sa alanganin dahil susugod siya roon,” he added.

Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police, said the focus of the drug war has been on the demand side which mostly targets drug users and peddlers on the street.

He pointed out that cutting the supply would make the street value of drugs prohibitive and take down big-time dealers.

“Kapag supply yung focus mo, concentrate mo, unang una magiging prohibitive ang presyo, Pangalawa, siyempre mga big-time drug dealers ang mga mahi-hit mo,” he said.

Lacson also said that further strengthening the process of intelligence gathering against those involved in the narcotics trade would also help in the anti-drug campaign.

He added that during his stint as PNP chief, he maintained close coordination with his foreign counterparts and drug enforcement units in the United States, Australia, Hong Kong, and Macau.

Lacson also said that he gave names of some people who could help Robredo with the law enforcement part of the job but did not elaborate on who these are. – RRD (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

VP Robredo wants Oplan Tokhang scrapped

Marje Pelayo   •   November 8, 2019

A Filipino who had exhibited suspicious behavior raises his arms in front of operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) during an anti-illegal drugs operation in Makati City, east of Manila, Philippines, 06 April 2017.Operatives were in pursuit of two alleged drug pushers in the area, as one female suspect was arrested and at least three other individuals were held by authorities after exhibiting suspicious behavior while the anti-illegal drugs operation was conducted. EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo has started her duty as the newly appointed co-chairperson of the government’s anti-drug campaign.

First in her agenda was to convene all members of the Interagency Committee on Anti-Drugs (ICAD) together with her co-chair, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino.

During the press briefing, Robredo called for a replacement of the Operation Tokhang or Oplan Tokhang as a method of apprehending drug personalities.

“Because of the many senseless killings that accompanied Operation Tokhang, parang naka-reach siya ng certain level of notoriety na kapag sinabing ‘Tokhang,’ it is a war against the poor,” Robredo said.

(Because of the many senseless killings that accompanied Operation Tokhang, it seems to have reached a certain level of notoriety that when you say ‘Tokhang,’ it is a war against the poor.)

“It is incumbent upon us na mabago iyong kaisipian na iyon. Baka panahon na para pag-isipan natin iyong pagpalit ng isang kampanya na mas epektibo pero walang namamatay senselessly,” she added.

(It is incumbent upon us to change that notion. Maybe it’s time to think about replacing this with a more effective campaign that is without the senseless killings.)

Robredo said she wants to believe that President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to hand over the anti-drug campaign implies that the Chief Executive is “open to listening to a fresh perspective about the entire campaign.”

And although she said she wants a vigorous campaign against illegal drugs, it should be within the bounds of the rule of law.

Robredo also emphasized the need to consider the problem of illegal drugs as criminality but a medical and sociological problem.

The Vice President requested to be briefed on the current status of the government’s anti-drug campaign and be provided with access to all data and documents in relation to the program.

“Gusto ko pong malaman kung saan ako magsisimula (I want to know where to start),” she said.

Despite being a staunch critic of the campaign, Robredo commended the ‘successes’ of the administration’s drug war specifically the recent haul of illegal drugs from various operations.

But Robredo expressed concern over the increasing number of drug dependents despite the efforts and resources that have been exerted by all anti-drug agencies working on the campaign.

“Why don’t we re-assess? Ano ba iyong mabubuting ginagawa? Para iyong mga effective na ginagawa ay ipagpapatuloy natin. Pero ano ba yung mga ginagawa na hindi nagbibigay sa atin ng desired results?” she said.

(Why don’t we re-assess? What are the good things being done? So that the effective ones will be continued. But let us think also of the things that we were doing that didn’t bring us our desired results.)

“Iyon ang pag-isipan natin (We should think about those things),” she said further.

After Robredo addressed the media, Aquino requested them to leave to give the Committee time to discuss important matters in relation to their duty.

The PDEA chief promised to take questions from the press alongside Robredo after the meeting.

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