Aquino Pledges to Stay in Typhoon Area Until Satisfied

The Philippine government imposed further rationing of fuel in areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan, with aid bottlenecks remaining even as supplies started to reach more remote areas.

Authorities are limiting gasoline sales to 500 pesos ($11.46) per purchase, Department of Energy director Zenaida Monsada told reporters today in Manila. Eighty-three of 128 gasoline stations in the area are now operational, she said. “We’re asking the oil companies to rush delivery and flood the market with supply.”

President Benigno Aquino has remained in the region as pressure mounts over the slow unlocking of food, water and medical aid to survivors more than a week after the storm hit. The government and military are grappling with airport gridlock and damaged roads, with large swaths of territory suffering power failures plus a lack of running water.

“We’re still facing coordination problems and bottlenecks,” Bernard Kerblat, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representative in the Philippines, told reporters in Manila today. “The situation we’re facing in the Philippines is unprecedented in magnitude.”

The typhoon was one of the deadliest in Philippine history. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in its latest bulletin put the death toll at 3,976, with 18,175 people injured and 1,598 missing.

‘Respond Faster’

The Philippines is “trying to improve all the processes” when it comes to natural disasters, Aquino said in Alangalang, Leyte today, according to a transcript from his office. “We want to be able to respond faster, more efficiently and more completely.”

Paul Lobrigo, 45, said power is still off at his home in the town of Dagami, about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from Tacloban city in Leyte province, the biggest city in the storm-damaged region with a population of more than 220,000. “Fortunately we had moonlight at night, just good timing,” he said after arriving today in Cebu, the major staging point for relief to the area. “After that, it will be all dark.”

Some shops are selling gasoline for vehicles for 200 pesos per liter, almost four times the usual price, Lobrigo said.

Policy makers raised inflation forecasts for this year and next, estimating consumer-price gains to average 3.2 percent in 2013 and 4.5 percent in 2014, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. That compares with an October forecast of 3 percent for 2013 and 4 percent for 2014.

Tapping Donors

“While the impact on the economy is not expected to be very significant, the impact on the affected population is of more concern,” Tetangco said. Economic growth could still be within the government’s target of 6 percent to 7 percent this year, he added.

President Aquino may seek changes in the proposed 2.3 trillion peso budget next year to fund post-typhoon rebuilding, Budget Secretary Butch Abad told reporters in Manila.

The cost will be “beyond the government’s capacity,” Abad said. “We may have to look at tapping donors, as well as reasonable loan packages.” The World Bank has pledged $500 million in financing for reconstruction.

The government estimates that 4 million people have been displaced by the storm, with 10.3 million affected. The cost of the damage rose slightly to 10.4 billion pesos, the disaster agency said, with the bulk of that in agriculture.

“Relief operations are really starting to ramp up,” David Carden, country head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters in Manila today. “Aid is starting to get out to the people that need it.”

More Trucks

Aid has reached the towns of Guiuan, Mercedes and Salcedo in southeastern Samar, where the storm swept away several coastal communities, the International Committee of the Red Cross said in an e-mailed statement last night.

“We have to clear up the congestion so that we can increase the flow of food packs and other relief goods to the victims,” Ricky Carandang, Aquino’s communications secretary, said in Palo, Leyte, according to a transcript from the president’s office. “We’re trying to bring in more trucks.”

Banking services will resume in Tacloban this week, Office of Civil Defense Administrator Eduardo del Rosario said in a televised briefing in Manila. Highways in Tacloban are now open both ways, he said.

The Department of Energy targets restoration of electricity in the Visayas region by Christmas Eve, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla told reporters in Palo today, according to a transcript from Aquino’s office.

‘So Expensive’

Jenny Lin Hayag, 46, from Tacloban, said the price of gas has jumped and before she left for Cebu she had to use firewood for cooking and candles for light. “There is gasoline, but it’s so expensive,” she said. “Three hundred pesos per liter.”

Her family of seven walked to the airport in Tacloban as their motorbikes ran out of fuel. “I cannot say right now if the government is doing a good job, but from my observation, the distribution is scattered. We don’t know where to get our relief goods.”

Aquino, who presides over an economy that has matched China’s pace as the fastest growing in the region for two quarters, has seen his popularity suffer over the government’s response to Haiyan.

“The Aquino government is often portrayed to have integrity but has issues with efficiency,” Nicole Curato, a sociology professor at the University of the Philippines, said by phone. “Public confidence can be regained not only if the administration is able to guarantee that there is no corruption in relief operations but also through leadership that can quickly respond to contingencies.”

Medical Teams

There are 32 medical teams for Typhoon Haiyan, with 12 fully operational, 11 to be up and running today, and nine in Cebu awaiting deployment, Julie Hall, the World Health Organization’s representative in the Philippines, said at a Manila briefing.

Helicopters were being used to drop food in remote areas still isolated by washed out or damaged roads. The military sent dozens more trucks to the region at the weekend.

“The relief doesn’t get to the people in Palo, the only town they were focusing on was Tacloban,” said Marielle Guzman, 20, who came from Palo to Cebu. “The people there in Palo were very angry.”

Aquino “is trying his best to help the people in Palo, but somehow they didn’t feel it. Some people there were homeless, and they don’t have work,” she said. “I think it’s very difficult for them to overcome those obstacles.”