Aquino's Christmas wish: No more calamity of this magnitude
MANILA, Philippines - After what has been a tough year for the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III has a simple Christmas wish: that there be no disaster of the same magnitude as Yolanda (Haiyan) next year.
Constantly challenged by a string of disasters both natural and man-made in 2013, the Aquino administration's crisis management skills have been put to a test.
The siege of Zamboanga in September, which resulted in 20 days of fighting between rebels and government troops, was followed by a 7.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Bohol in October. Just a month later, Yolanda, the world's most powerful typhoon to make a landfall, ravaged Central Philippines.
"I hope this book of problems ends this year… hopefully, there are no more challenges of this magnitude this [coming] year," he said at a media forum on Tuesday, December 2.
Aquino said the best and worst day of 2013 for him all happened in the past weeks.
"[The worst day was] when the aftermath was clearer, when we got the reports exactly on the extent of the damage, so perhaps the following day [after Yolanda struck]," he said.
But Aquino said the challenges have also brought a silver lining. The best day, he said, was also after a disaster.
"So far [my best day was] when I went to Bohol. Really, the marked change in the people and the attitude. I think that tells us really of the resilience of our people, but more importantly, the seeming wellspring, or bottomless wellspring of hope, and more importantly acting on that hope to really improve their lot in life," he said.
This, he said, is another Christmas wish he wants – that Filipinos remain optimistic and hopeful.
"Next year, especially the start of the New Year, one says there are so many opportunities that are coming, and I really hope that our people maintain the optimism in the current and the ‘can do’ attitude that is already being nurtured at this point in time," he said.
Thanks to Cabinet
The series of disasters has made 2013 Aquino's most difficult year so far since he became president in 2010. The government has faced constant criticism in its handling of recent calamities, reflected by the drop in satisfaction ratings of the President from 64% in June to 49% in the third quarter of 2013.
Aquino also took the time to thank his Cabinet and the work they have done, especially after the government's punishing year.
Among the Cabinet members he named specifically: Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman who he said were on the "front lines" leading the government's relief efforts in Zamboanga, Bohol and Yolanda-stricken areas. He also thanked Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo for his precision in detecting danger zones.
He praised the resilience of his own administration and said he is "very satisfied with the bulk if not the majority" of his Cabinet, who are "self-starters and advocates."
"They bore heavy loads, this year has been heavy, and the consecutive disasters both natural and man-made have been heavy too. But I think one of the things we can pride ourselves in is your government never gave up," he said.
"At the end of the day, you have the government that’s truly worthy of these people, who are so great, that they provided a milieu and they were virtually supportive that enabled everybody to reach their potentials."
Aquino also gave assurances the government has the plans, ability and resources to help those affected by calamities. - Rappler.com