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Netizens blame lack of mass info dissemination in far-flung areas after Typhoon Ulysses

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Nov 17, 2020 3:08 pm

After seeing the wrath and devastation that Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) caused in far-flung areas of the country, many Filipinos were quick to point out the poor dissemination of information, which could have otherwise better prepared residents for its onslaught. 

Nearly 400,000 individuals experienced its impact in 26 municipalities, according to the latest report of the Cagayan Provincial Information Office.

Posted by Cagayan Provincial Information Office on Sunday, November 15, 2020

Philippine News Agency (PNA) stated in an article that at least 10 fatalities have been recorded in the province.

As stated in an ABS-CBN News report based on ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC)’s interview with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRMMC) spokesperson Mark Timbal, “they were informed of the flooding situation in parts of Cagayan Valley region after many Filipinos only heard reports of the devastating floods on (the) weekend.”

However, he claimed that aside from the ample warnings they issued on the typhoon's possible impact on the region via emergency alerts on mobile phones, they also asked local government units (LGUs) to make use of their tools for communication.

The slow dissemination of information in the area, he explained, "could be attributed to the local COVID-19 policy wherein outsiders in both media and private sector and even government officials are not allowed immediately within the borders of various local governments to ensure COVID protection."

A photojournalist tweeted that the local government "has mandated all visitors to undergo 14 day quarantine, media and aid workers are not exempted (even if we provide a negative swab test result)."

This was later denied by Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba in a press briefing. “Nagtrending pa nga po kami na ayaw daw namin silang pumasok. That’s not true po. Meron naman po kaming mga testing na nangyayari dito. At iyong sinabi nilang quarantine, that’s not true. They are all welcome dito sa amin,” Mamba stressed. “Ang dami pong media dito since the very start. National, international at local media are always welcome dito."

While some said people should stop finger-pointing and focus on reaching out to those in need, other netizens pointed to Congress shutting down ABS-CBN’s free TV and radio stations last July, including its regional networks that some Filipinos used to count on in different provinces. 

In a tweet, one called the lawmakers who voted to deny its franchise bid “heartless.” 

Another Twitter user recalled how TV Patrol Cagayan Valley used to cover typhoons in the area. 

A resident from Isabela tweeted that he “always knew this would happen. And it won’t be the last.”

Even Vice President Leni Robredo mentioned the same concern in an interview with ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo two days ago, saying, “It is important kasi, during crisis situations, iyong effective communication. Lalo na ngayon, wala na iyong regional network ng ABS-CBN na nasa malalayong lugar. Halimbawa sa amin sa Bicol, gaya sa Tuguegarao. Iyon ang inaasahan ng locals na naging source ng information, nawala iyon,” she declared. ““Si [Cagayan] Gov. [Manuel] Mamba mismo nagsabi na na-blindside sila. Kasi without proper information, iyong LGU, papaano niya macascade sa constituents iyong talagang danger?” 

Yesterday, November 16, the issue was again brought up by social media users when Rodolfo Albano III, an Isabela official, said in an appearance on ANC that the media giant should have considered it a matter of urgency and sent their news team to cover it immediately. He also forgot one thing: his brother, Isabela 1st District Rep. Antonio Albano, is the vice chairperson of the House committee that decided on ABS-CBN’s fate.

A netizen commented on how the governor laughed after he was reminded about his relative’s involvement in the failed franchise bid. 

“Well, Gov sometimes you have to fact check first before you demand something,” a Twitter user wrote in a post. 

Another one then pointed out how he had to learn the hard way and realize the importance of media in disaster prevention.

53 regional TV and radio stations, using six languages, were closed following the ABS-CBN shutdown. Among these were Northern Luzon, Bicol, Southern Tagalog, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, and Northern Mindanao.

Photos by the Philippine Coast Guard, taken from Philippine Star's official Twitter account