Guiuan mayor vows to feed people, solve fuel crisis in obliterated city

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notes from Christopher Johnson interview with Guiuan mayor Christopher Sheen Gonzales:

It’s a big challenge. I did manage to have a pre-emptive evacuation bfore the disaster. And did manage to give food to the people. Manage everything and do the system, to reach the inferior barangays.

Guiuan was first hit, first landfall. The strongest wind came here. 312 to 315 kph. I never thought I would survive. At 2:30 in the morning. I stayed here. Forced evacuation to tell the people that this is not the same typhoon that we have been experiencing. This is where typhoons always enter. I told the people this is different, this is very strong, so I have to force them to evacuate.

We had three days preparation. We have central command here — in the collapsed area. At 2:30 in the morning I went down, I was supposed to inspect the evac enter. But at 3 am in the wind was very strong. I went to secure my family of course. I have a one-month baby boy. And two-years old baby girl. I was concerned about my wife, she just had a caesarian section. I told myself that I’ve already helped people evacuate, I also have to help my family. My hand was hit by a door. I made it possible that we will survive.

Downstairs, near the bathroom. At 6:30 am Friday morning. Strongest wind was between 5 am and 6:30 am.

Oh my God. I was shocked. I got first aid for my hand and feet. I closed a room just to myself. I was thinking: what will I do as the mayor. I was thinking “where will I start”. So immediately, first thing that I came to my mind was the basic needs of peope: food, shelter, water, clothing of course. If I can’t provide food to people, they will panic. I have to give them hope, inspire them.

All of us have a mission in this world. The government will provide the food that we need. I was afraid of looting, chaos, all of that. I told my men, the local police, assigned here in my town. “Keep calm. Implement. I was afraid of the nearest municipalities are dependent on our economic services. This is the center for business. So what I’m afraid of, all of our food is gone, they flew away. The food that was left in the stores, that it’s just for the people of Guiuan, if it’s not for the people outside. People will come here, and we cannot provide anymore. I instructed the national police, the Armed Force, deployed here, to have check-points, to maintain peace and order. We have 30 policemen. More arrived after 2 days. During that time, I managed to keep people safe. Their was looting first day. But I signaled the Philippine National Police to control them.

If disaster came, first shock for the people. Second, you will organize how to get pieces from your house to shelter your family.

If you cannot provide food by the fourth day, there will be chaos. That’s what I was afraid of. These things should not happen in my town.

In the first 3 days, we were able to provide food to the peole from the local source. On the third day, I was so happy that the national government came. I told myself, I was safe now.

They sent 120 from Region 3 Luzon, others. I told the secreatry of defense: Please give the police first before the goods. You cannot give the relief goods without police. I cannot control the crowd.

I had enough relief goods for the 3 days. I was expecting on the fourth day, the national govt will provide food. I told the Sec of Defense, first provide the police before the food. They did that.

When the police came from outside, I immediately had an emergency meeting. I organized the pace so that when the food will come.

President and VP came two days before (on Sunday).

We didn’t have any communications. Even if I had his number, we had zero communications, electricity.

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If it hits badly in the Phils, I’m sure it’s not only Guiuan. This is the strongest typhoon ever in the whole world.

I have a meeting every day with municipal planning council and building engineer. My initial plan is to give people materials to rebuild houses, in the same places. They have titles for the land. They need construction materials so they can build their own houses. I’m just happy that there’s a lot of foreign aid coming.

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I need to implement it.

The electric cooperative can answer that. I’m hoping that in one month time they can rebuild it. I’m telling them to fix it immediately.

I already talked with them a day ago. I’m going to hold a meeting tomorrow with the DTI , to talk about those who are taking advantage of the situation, to reduce their prices to suggested retail prices.

We need to stand up as a family, not as inviduals.

They’ve doubled the prices of roofing also. They know that they are in need of that.

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If not, I will implement my power, and do the job myself.

We have special emergency powers. If they don’t cooperate with me, it’s useless. I won’t use police powers if they cooperate. You cannot take advantage of the situation.

I have the power to have the police arrest them or confiscate their goods.

These are local people, not on a national level. National level not on a crisis.

If ICRC can provide remaining set of generators, it will work immediately. They’re going to test it tomorrow in the town plaza.

Resources of the national government are drained. I’m just happy that international aid is coming.

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The people on Victory Island are like a fifth class. They are very poor fishermen. Their houses are simple Nipa huts. Some of them also evacuated. But they have no mountains, no high land. The storm surge washed over the island. “They had nowhere to go.”

All 155 households were affected. The evacuation center collapsed. Two confirmed dead, 16 missing, at least 30 injured.

“I talked to the barangay captain, Lorenzo Chavez. He said there were only 10 houses left. They are asking for tents. The US helicopters made an air drop of food there on the third day.”

One local, one provincial jail here. Some tried to get out but we captured them, 20 in total. When the roads were clear on the third day, I had escorts transfer them to a safer town in the province.

I hear there are rape cases in Tacloban area. (he confirmed that 700 escaped).

My system is now a model for the whole area.

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