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Philippine president's Typhoon Haiyan apology falls flat

Critics say Aquino needs to come up with actions not words

Philippine president's Typhoon Haiyan apology falls flat

Typhoon victims line up for aid in Tacloban City (picture by Vincent Go) reporter, Manila

March 14, 2014

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An apology by Philippine President Benigno Aquino to victims of Typhoon Haiyan over the government's slow response to the disaster was met with scorn on Friday by Catholic bishops and youth activists.

Aquino made the apology, his first to victims since the disaster struck the central Philippines four months ago, on Thursday during a forum at a Manila high school.

"I apologize if we couldn't act faster," Aquino said.

He said it should not have taken the government days to respond, but the extent of the damage was unprecedented.

At least four million people in 44 provinces were affected by the typhoon which struck on November 8.

Aquino admitted it was a mistake to heavily rely on local government units in affected areas but said he believed his government "did everything that could be done." 

The apology failed to appease critics in the Catholic Church and especially among youth activists.

"I hope it’s sincere, and it leads to faster action," Bishop Jose Oliveros of Malolos said on Friday. He described Aquino’s administration as a "no feelings government" for its alleged inefficiency.

"In spite of the outpouring of financial support from outside sources, we still have to see concrete actions and help," the prelate said.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, head of the Public Affairs office of the bishops' conference, said he hopes that Aquino's apology will be followed by changes in the way the government does things.

The youth group Anakbayan was more scathing, calling Aquino's apology "disgusting" for insisting the government could not have done anything to lessen Haiyan’s impact, or respond sooner.

"Time and time again, our president exhibits complete and total ignorance," Anakbayan chief Vencer Crisostomo, said on Friday.

He said the apology was "insincere and full of excuses and finger pointing."

He called for Aquino to quit, saying the Philippines “cannot afford to have a president who does not understand something as basic as disaster risk reduction, especially as around 20 typhoons hit the country annually."

The official death toll as a result of Typhoon Haiyan now stands at 6,245 while some 28,626 were injured, and 1,039 others are still missing.

The government has so far provided $27 million worth of relief assistance to affected families and deployed a total of 35,489 personnel to affected areas.

The total cost of damage to infrastructure and agriculture due to Typhoon Haiyan has been estimated at $895 million.

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