By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte has designated Presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino as his “conduit” to ensure the efficient government-wide disaster response amid the entry of typhoon Ompong in the country.
As the government stepped up preparations for the onslaught of a potential super typhoon, the President also ordered the deployment of other Cabinet members to typhoon-hit provinces since he could not be everywhere at once.
“May I ask Atty. Tolentino si Francis just to be my conduit. I maybe around somewhere, I may decide to go out. I really do not know so tayo na lang,” Duterte said during the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRMC) command conference at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
Duterte said he expects Tolentino to give him regular updates on government’s calamity response and relief operations.
“Okay naman ang lahat. Everything that needs to be done is nandoon na. So all he has to do is to report to me the progress of the whatever is being presented by the typhoon there in those places,” he said.
Upon hearing the President’s order, Tolentino readily accepted his new task and committed to establish a command center at the regional disaster office in Tuguegarao. Tolentino, former Metro Manila Development Authority chair, previously served as the President’s point man during the government operations at the height of the Mayon volcano eruption.
In the same meeting, the President directed Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello to return to their hometowns Cagayan and Isabela, respectively, to make the government’s presence felt in the areas.
“Bello, kasi taga-roon sila eh. Bello is from Isabela, Tugade is from Cagayan. So it’s indeed proper that sabi — tama nga sila, sabi nila I would need a face there. But I cannot be everywhere and anywhere,” he said,” he said.
“So tutal taga-roon man sila I told them to go there,” he added.
Duterte also mentioned the names of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, and NDRRMC executive director Ricardo Jalad to visit the typhoon-hit areas too.
He said Piñol intends to visit Mindanao to look for additional food supplies before he visits the affected communities.
So far, the President said he was satisfied with the government’s disaster preparedness, citing that funds, food, and personnel have been placed on standby.
“I have dispatched everybody there including the Cabinet members who come from the provinces where it is expected to hit,” he said.
“The nitty-gritty was already discussed so I could understand already the apparatus being placed there in the meantime waiting for the crisis to happen because every typhoon is always a crisis,” he added.
But the President asked authorities to ensure a central communication line among government agencies, saying they should not always rely on commercial cellular phones.
He said these mobile phones could be easily hacked and were unreliable when disasters topple down cellular towers and power lines.
He also proposed the establishment of gym-like evacuation centers in communities. He said he was opposed to the frequent use of schools as temporary shelter since it disrupts the education of students.
Asked where he would monitor, he said he might stay either in Manila or Davao this weekend. He said he was monitoring the arrest of a communist rebel leader in Surigao
“Maybe but I’ll see. I have some commitments there pressing because… I’m glad to report that may isang front leader na naman ng Surigao — parang ang Surigao fronts bumagsak na,” he said.
“They are getting weaker and weaker. Dalawang fronts inabandon (abandon) na nila. So I’m also following up the progress of this surrender,” he said.