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Palace admits anti-Arroyo work distracted Aquino govt from flood warnings

Climate-change expert Esteban Godilano briefs journalists at last week's forum on the reports on Mindanao floods that were overlooked by the Aquino administration. JM TUAZON, INTERAKSYON.COM
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines – Malacanang admitted on Tuesday that its preoccupation with what it called “clearing the landmines” left by the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo distracted it from warnings by experts on the possibility of devastating floods like those unleashed by tropical storm “Sendong” that have killed more than 1,400 persons, News5 reported.

Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda admitted that the Aquino administration did not heed or give enough attention to the report of the Climate Change Congress of the Philippines, which had warned that Cagayan de Oro, the city that, along with Iligan, was most devastated by Sendong, could suffer what Metro Manila’s Marikina went through during 2009’s storm “Ondoy.”

Lacierda made the admission on Tuesday, even as a new wave of floods, triggered by more unseasonal rains in Mindanao, sent the military and civilian officials scampering to rescue hundreds of people stranded on rooftops in Northern Mindanao, which bore the brunt of tropical storm Sendong last week. The new floods are also now causing havoc in parts of Eastern Visayas and in Cebu City, which awoke to heavy floods on Tuesday.

By “land mines,” Lacierda was apparently referring to a series of moves by the then outgoing Arroyo administration to sign thousands of midnight appointments, restructure or reorganize key agencies, and pack the courts with appointees, partly to protect Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her minions from prosecution by her successor, who rose to power on a vow to fight corruption.

Mr. Aquino in recent weeks has been blamed by some analysts as having focused too much on pinning down Arroyo to the extent of neglecting the economy, which posted anemic growth rates in the first 11 months of the year.

Neglecting the climate agenda is the latest accusation against it.

CCCP expert Dr. Esteban Godilano had disclosed at a press conference recently that he had presented their report “three times” to government agencies during a river planning workshop in, ironically, Cagayan de Oro itself in July last year, or just after President Benigno Aquino III came to office.

"Three years ago pa namin sinasabi (we were saying) that we need to look at watersheds as a planning domain. Walang nakikinig. Itong mapa ay naipresenta ko na ng tatlong beses sa (No one listened. This map I presented three times in) Cagayan de Oro," he said.

Gadilano also presented maps that he said were more comprehensive than the geohazard maps produced by the environment department.

Critics of Aquino have time and again taken him to task for his perceived obsession with prosecuting Arroyo for the corruption that allegedly tainted her nin-year presidency to the exclusion of other pressing problems faced by the country.

This is the first instance when the Palace has officially admitted as much.