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Water flows, more trucks of relief goods roll into Tacloban on 9th day after ‘Yolanda’

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Philippine Army soldiers load water and relief goods at a military truck for distribution to Super typhoon Yolanda victims at the Tacloban Airport.
RAFFY LERMA/INQUIRER

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, Philippines — Water is now flowing into this devastated city nine days after monster typhoon “Yolanda” struck.

More delivery trucks are also rolling into Tacloban, capital of Leyte province, and Ormoc in Eastern Samar, providing fresh relief goods and augmenting the transport capability of the severely handicapped Task Force Yolanda.

An official of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), Engr. Byron Carbon, said in a meeting presided over by Interior Secretary Mar Roxas that the water supply in the city was brought to “normal” on Sunday.

Carbon’s announcement was one of the few bright spots in the national government-led relief and recovery operations for hard-hit towns of Leyte.

This piece of good news elicited applause from national and local government officials who have been meeting daily to update and coordinate the various clusters engaged in government’s response to Yolanda’s devastation.

Roxas has been presiding over the daily coordination meeting at a small multipurpose hall of the Leyte Sports Complex that has been converted into a nerve center. He is the vice chair of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

According to Carbon, all the main pipes, with its delivery system, are now operational.

By operational, he was referring to the water pipes running along the road network, and not necessarily the water lines going to individual households.

He said yes when asked by Roxas if the water was “chlorinated,” with mud and residual dirt flushed out of the water delivery lines.

“The water is potable,” said Carbon, assuring everyone that the water would be safe for drinking.

Roxas, however, asked the Department of Health to check the quality of the water amid fears of contamination from decomposing bodies and debris that still dominated the city’s severely disfigured surroundings.

“Choose several points to ensure that water is safe,” said the secretary.

Typhoon survivors have been tapping into water pipes along the garbage-strewn roads a few days after Yolanda’s onslaught for their water needs, but many have been wise enough to boil it before drinking.

With the city’s water system up and running, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Francis Tolentino said he was moving the water treatment plant to the municipality Basey in Samar to provide much-needed potable water to residents there.

General Jet Velarmino, head of Task Force Yolanda, reported that as of Sunday, a total of 1,600 personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had been deployed for manpower support and security for personnel delivering relief goods to victims.

Besides its existing flatbed trucks in the province, a 22-vehicle convoy from “Bayanihan 2” would arrive soon.

He said the convoy would be bringing in relief goods and personnel.

The plan involved providing one truck per town in Leyte dedicated to the distribution of relief goods, he said.

Velarmino also reported that Sultan Kudarat Governor Pax Mangudadatu has brought in a convoy of 14 trucks carrying relief goods intended for Guiuan, Eastern Samar, but these were instead diverted to Ormoc, Leyte.

Roxas instructed the general to borrow these trucks for about a week to augment the number of delivery vehicles for the Ormoc hub of relief operations.

The Ormoc hub is serving the western side of Leyte, while the Guiuan center serves victims in Eastern Samar.

Roxas made the request after Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman confided that transporting relief goods to many towns of Leyte and Samar has remained a challenge.

“We still have to help them get more trucks so that they can get more goods,” she said.

Twenty trucks from Surigao City have been incorporated into the distribution chain, Roxas recalled.

For road clearing and cleanup operation, a total of 24 trucks in Tacloban, 16 in the rest of Leyte province, and four in Samar province have been deployed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The DPWH and MMDA have also deployed payloaders, backhoes and craters all over Eastern Visayas.

Various encouraging updates were reported at the briefing.

Starting Tuesday, the Landbank will put up four mobile Automated Teller Machines, which are set to arrive Monday, inside the Leyte Sports Complex.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is ready to roll out its emergency employment program for survivors, and has asked to partner with local government units (LGUs) for implementation.

DOLE will also offer, starting Monday, free overseas calls for victims wanting to contact their families and relatives abroad, while the Department of Trade and Industry will deploy rolling stores that sell basic commodities.

According to the Department of Health, seven hospitals are now operational with the help of international partners, and one tent hospital in the Tacloban airport.

The briefing ended with local officials thanking the national government and international donors for spearheading relief efforts on the ground.

Leyte Governor Dominic Petilla claimed that the situation in the province has “started to normalize.”

“It’s peaceful now. It’s very easy now to start rebuilding, to start all the operations that we’re about to undertake. And it may not be perfect, but we’re (getting help from the national government). Let’s help each other,” he said.

The Tacloban City administrator, lawyer John Tecson Lim, likewise thanked Roxas and Aquino, conveying the message from Mayor Alfred Romualdez that the city government would cooperate with the national government.

He said Romualdez was already looking into the “recovery process” phase to rebuild the city.

Roxas called the whole operation was a “team effort.”

“You can count on President P-Noy (Aquino). His whole government will not let you down—both the city and the people. We in the national government are setting up systems—not the knee-jerk and random (approach); not (a system) that gives you something now, but you’ll have nothing tomorrow. The system we’re setting up is something that people can depend on everyday,” he said.

He disclosed that the government would continue with the “rice brigade,” a scheme to deliver sacks of rice to every municipality, via the local government unit, daily.

Some 260 sacks of rice have been given to Leyte, and the allocation per LGU would increase with the arrival of more supplies, he said.

Roxas likened the whole relief distribution operation to a “conveyor belt,” and that people had no more reason to feel “stress and anxiety.”

“Everyday, the (victims) will expect rice and food packs to arrive,” he said, assuring the survivors that other elements of the relief and recovery operations would continue to function in the coming weeks.

The next phase would be “normalization,” with the government encouraging the private sector to come in, he said.

Although the government continues to rebuild Zamboanga City, Bohol province and areas devastated by typhoons “Sendong,” “Pablo” and “Santi,” “all forces are focused on” government’s response in the aftermath of Yolanda, according to Roxas.

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