NEARLY a month after Yolanda (or Haiyan) levelled Eastern Visayas to the ground, the administration of President Benigno Aquino III is scrambling to undo the damage to its image, primarily, and to uplift the stricken population.

First, it created a Cabinet task force oversee the operation and, second, it appointed a former senator and presidential buddy, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, as rehab czar (whatever that means).

This is all too little and too late.

The horses have already left the barn.

Where were the helpers (government officials) when their help was needed most?

In particular, where was President Aquino at a crucial time?

PNoy, as the President is better known, made a brief flying visit to Tacloban, and left posthaste without huddling with the local and foreign press covering the breaking story.

Perhaps he had nothing to tell the sweaty and sleepless journalists belonging to broadcast and print media the world over, leaving them to their own devices.

PNoy did return to Tacloban a few days later, to heed clamor for his presence.

At his handlers’ behest, a smiling PNoy handed out relief goods to outstretched hands with his close-in security watching the crowd with eagle eyes.

When photos of PNoy’s glad-handing were flashed worldwide, former President Fidel V. Ramos sat up and took notice.

“That’s a waste of the President’s time. He has more important things to do. That’s the job of his aides.”

Pausing, he quipped, “Of course that makes for a good photo-op,” his eyes breaking into a wink, while chewing his familiar unlit cigar.

As an elder statesman, FVR seldom talks on raging issues.

But this time, he made an exemption.

“There was a lack of leadership in the national and local levels,” he said in a pointed reference to PNoy.

He suggested that the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) be made into an agency, with a bigger budget.

While Yolanda destroyed about 90 percent of Tacloban, the Marcos-era San Juanico Bridge, the country’s longest, was only slightly damaged, according to Eleanor de Leon, wife of New York Consul General Mario de Leon, Jr.

She’s a native of Borongan City in Eastern Samar, also unscathed, although it was only a few kilometers from Guian town, which took the brunt of nature’s fury.

Built in 1969 and finished four years later, San Juanico Bridge links Leyte to Samar.

Also called the “Bridge of Love,” it cost $21.9 million to construct, said the search engine Wikipedia.

Its longest stretch is a steel girder viaduct built on reinforced concrete piers.

With a total length of 2.16 kms. (1.34 m.) it is part of the Pan Philippine Highway.

It is said to have been presented as a gift and “testimonial of love” by President Ferdinand Marcos to his wife, Imelda, a native of Leyte, and now a congresswoman from Ilocos Norte.

Experts estimate that it would take a decade before Tacloban could be restored to its former glory.

In the coming months, authorities will face the dilemma of determining who holds titles to lands and properties washed away by the water surge.

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