“There was never an order to delay the release of relief goods to the people and to wait for Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s arrival before the distribution can begin. The relief operations in Surigao last weekend was not the first of the DSWD under my watch or under the Duterte administration – we never want those who need help to wait for it. Our call in the DSWD is ‘maagap at mapagkalingang serbisyo’ which translates to ‘prompt and compassionate service’. We strive to live by this as much as we can.”
This was the statement issued by Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo in response to comments and reports from netizens and media commentators that Surigao community residents were made to wait for relief goods last Sunday.
“We have gone on relief operations with Pres. Duterte in several areas hit by calamities such as Batanes, Tuguegarao, Isabela, Catanduanes, and Pili Albay and there was never any issue about the distribution. Neither the president nor DSWD officials are in the habit of keeping people wait for relief. The earthquake hit 10pm Friday night; the very next morning, DSWD Caraga staff and officials started to make the rounds in affected communities to determine the extent of the damage. The Field Office also immediately activated its Quick Response Team (QRT) to monitor and document requests for assistance. From our end in the Central Office, when news came out that the earthquake had damaged the water systems of Surigao City and outlying municipalities, I immediately asked DSWD FO OIC Mita Lim to distribute water and to closely coordinate with the LGUs regarding the release of DSWD relief goods we had prepositioned with them,” she said.
Sec. Taguiwalo, however, admitted, that there have been difficulties in the immediate release of the goods from DSWD’s end.
“Given that the LGUs are the first responder during times of calamities, in the case of Surigao, we were not immediately able to set up and implement an effective distribution system” she said. “We sought to remedy this as soon as possible when we conducted meetings with DSWD Caraga officials, the officials of the Surigao LGU, and barangay captains. Since Sunday, we have been distributing relief goods as well as water,” she said.
The welfare secretary also issued explanations as to why in the beginning, relief goods were distributed first to beneficiaries of the 4Ps program.
“This is the first immediate response of the Field Office because beneficiaries of the 4Ps program affected by the earthquake are easy to verify and validate. There is no truth, however, that we are helping 4Ps beneficiaries only: DSWD’s relief goods and calamity assistance give priority to the poorest and most affected citizens affected by calamities regardless of whether they are 4Ps beneficiaries or not,” she said.
Finally, Sec. Taguiwalo said that DSWD officials from the Central Office remain in Surigao assisting in the relief distribution and at the same time determining possible measures that can and should be implemented to improve the system of relief distribution, as well as the storage of relief goods.
“We learn ways to improve our processes with every calamity that strikes. We do not ignore or deny the flaws and weaknesses in our system because to do so will prevent us from putting together steps to correct them. Our goal is to provide relief assistance to Filipinos as soon as possible when they need it. The LGUs are the first responder, yes – but the DSWD also actively coordinates with them so we can provide augmentation support as soon as it is needed,” she concluded. ###