Aquino visits quake-hit Bohol, Cebu

ASSURANCE. President Benigno Aquino III (3rd L) speaks to evacuees at the CPG Sports Complex in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, 16 October 2013. Photo courtesy of the DSWD Twitter account @dswdserves

ASSURANCE. President Benigno Aquino III (3rd L) speaks to evacuees at the CPG Sports Complex in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, 16 October 2013.

Photo courtesy of the DSWD Twitter account @dswdserves

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday, October 16, gave assurances to survivors of Tuesday's earthquake that their needs will be taken care of, as the quake-hit region starts rebuilding.

Aquino, accompanied by members of the Cabinet, visited Bohol and Cebu, the two provinces worst hit by the earthquake, to assess the damage and oversee relief and rescue efforts.

The team first visited Bohol, where the epicenter of the magnitude 7.2 quake was located.

The President and his entourage arrived at Tagbilaran Airport at around 10:45 am, and proceeded first to the Carlos P. Garcia Sports Complex. 

Top government officials accompanying the President were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, and Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras.

Also with the group were Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) Director Renato Solidum and Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap. (Note: We earlier referred to Yap as the head of the National Food Authority. He is now the province's 3rd District Representative.)

There, Aquino told quake survivors that their needs would be attended to. He told them that power would be restored in two to 3 days, water supply would be continuous, and structures would be inspected.

Soliman said food packs, tents, and bunkhouses would be brought to the evacuees, while Ona promised to send medicines, medical equipment, and a team of physicians.

Command conference

Aquino then presided over a command conference at the Bohol Governor's Mansion with Cabinet members, local officials led by Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto, and disaster officers to assess the relief efforts in the province.

At the Bohol briefing, Roxas said local police are ensuring the security of houses, establishments, and buildings, especially those vacated or abandoned after the quake.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), meanwhile, is encouraging local businesses to open. "There is sufficient supply of the goods. It’s just that it’s not getting to the people because the retail step from wholesale, warehouse wholesale, the retail step remain closed," Roxas said.

The local DTI also said there is enough rice supply in Bohol, with one supplier in Ubay assuring them of a 30-day supply, according to Region VII Director Aster Caberte.

The only problem would be how the supplies will be distributed, given the severe damage to the province's road network.

"We are very thankful that we have this big supplier in Ubay, but we just have to work with DPWH to be able to come up with a more efficient network to bring the supply to the towns," Caberte said.

The DTI is also monitoring supply of bottled water, now a precious commodity due to problems in water supply.

DPWH’s Singson said they would need to build temporary structures where bridges were damaged.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya said they were still checking transportation facilities, but had reopened the area's ports and airports.

Fuel supply, meanwhile, is enough to last for 8 days, the DTI said. 

Cebu inspections

In the afternoon, Aquino and his team headed to Cebu and met with Governor Hilario Davide III, Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, and Cebu City congressmen Tommy Osmeña and Raul del Mar.

In Cebu, Aquino inspected the Provincial Capitol, the Sto Niño Basilica, and the Mandaue City public market.

Aquino then met with the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, which briefed him on the destruction in the province.

In Cebu, Aquino emphasized the need to look closely at the damaged structures, and urged everyone to "err on the side of caution rather than on the side of just pure economics."

Said the President: "There seems to be questions in the quality of the workmanship in some of the places that we went to. So there has be a review of the systems in place and dealing and coordinating with the local government units to not just look at the obvious areas with damage but also when the plans come in on how to either replace or…retrofit [it]."

Aquino added that the lessons from the quake should be used to aim for zero casualty in future disasters.

"That has to be the ultimate objective: how, where can we further fine tune our systems and all the procedures attendant to minimizing risks during disasters? The end goal will be zero casualties," he said.

In addition, Aquino assured the local government that the national government is "ready to assist," and that "necessary funds" are available. 

Aquino and his party left Cebu later in the day, and returned to Manila. He is set to leave for a state visit in South Korea on Thursday, October 17. –