The uncounted fatalities from Super Typhoon Yolanda should never be forgotten, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Tuesday, as he marked the ninth yearly commemoration of the killer storm that left more than 6,000 people dead.
“I come here because I must commemorate those uncounted dead that up to now we do not know how many that number is,” Mr. Marcos said in Tacloban City, Leyte, which suffered the worst effects of the super typhoon.
“If you remember, during the count of the casualties, the count was stopped and we knew that there were still thousands out there and for those thousands… those countless thousands… we come here, we commemorate. Because if we no longer commemorate, their memory dies and it is only up to us to keep that memory alive,” he added.
Mr. Marcos said the commemoration was also a demonstration and a manifestation of the strength and courage of Filipinos.
“To remind ourselves that Filipinos are brave, that Filipinos are kind, and that Filipinos will conquer all especially if it is for their community, and for their families, and for the land that they love,” he said.
Mr. Marcos questioned the official number of fatalities as tallied by the government after the catastrophe.
He said that it is unbelievable that only over 6,000 people died when the typhoon struck Eastern Visayas in 2013.
“I have questioned it from day one, 6,000 plus is what they said. It’s not 6,000 plus… It’s too late to determine the actual number,” Mr. Marcos told reporters.
In Tacloban City alone, the official count was over 2,200 but Mayor Alfred Romualdez, the President’s cousin said on Tuesday the number could be as high as 5,000.
Years after the destruction of Yolanda, the President said that Tacloban City had been rebuilt. He noted that even in times of calamities, Filipinos will surely recover.
“And it is a wondrous sight to see. And it always gives us hope that even if there are tragedies and disasters in other places, we know the Filipino spirit will never be quelled. The Filipino spirit will always burn bright and bring back normal life to their communities. That is what we commemorate,” Mr. Marcos said.
In 2013, Yolanda unleashed its wrath in the central Philippines, killing an estimated 6,300 people and leaving over 4.4 million people displaced and homeless.
Tacloban City, the regional hub of the Eastern Visayas region, was considered ground zero for Yolanda.
Speaker Martin G. Romualdez led the ceremonial distribution of various government assistance to citizens and the turnover of equipment and emergency vehicles to local government units and schools on the occasion, with the President as guest of honor at the Leyte Academic Center in Palo, Leyte.
“The helping hand extended by our national government could not have come at a more opportune time for our province has been visited recently by successive storms that made life even more difficult for many of our people,” Romualdez said.
The President, Speaker and in partnership with the offices of Tingog Party-list Reps. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez and Jude Acidre led the ceremonial turnover of 100 units of laptops from the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), which were given to Department of Education (DepEd) identified beneficiaries under the Tech4ED program.
A total of 20 ambulances from the Department of Health (DoH) were turned over to local government units under the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP)
For the financial aid to citizens, the Department of Agriculture (DA) distributed P5,000 each to around 1,200 farmer-beneficiaries under the Rice Farmer Financial Assistance program.
In addition, the DA also awarded one disinfection truck to the provincial government of Southern Leyte and the municipality of Allen, Northern Samar.
Cash aid were also given to 300 beneficiaries of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS), while a total of 200 citizens received P5,250 each from the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DoLE) Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD).
“We are fortunate and truly grateful that the current administration is not blind to our people’s plight and has seen fit to help us,” said Romualdez.