Philippine President Duterte has apologized for delays in the distribution of aid to the victims of a typhoon that hit the archipelago country last week.
“My brothers and sisters, let me start by asking for your forgiveness because government’s relief operations were delayed,” Duterte told survivors of the typhoon in the Negros Oriental province.
Duterte was on a visit to the province on Wednesday to distribute aid.
“This is because there’s a law that hinders me from declaring a state of calamity that will enable me to use government funds to buy everything you need,” daily Manila Bulletin quoted Duterte as saying.
The typhoon left at least 389 people dead and 1,146 others injured, while 64 people are still missing, according to the country’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Assessment of the damages took time while other reports need to be submitted before declaring a state of calamity – to hasten rescue, relief, and rehabilitation efforts – the Filipino president said.
“So that’s the problem there. I can’t use the money without the report and neither can I make a declaration,” Duterte said.
“Please forgive us because government is very strict when it comes to that. I would not want to compromise also the people here distributing the aid if the system is not followed because they might go to jail for that,” he added.
During a meeting on Thursday with officials in the Cebu city, Duterte said the military and police military were given "instruction to use their assets in relief and rehabilitation efforts."
Rai is the strongest typhoon that hit the Philippines this year. The typhoon, which reached a speed of 195 kilometers (121 miles) per hour, caused power outages and serious destruction in the southeastern islands.
The typhoon brought disaster in many areas of the country where besides deaths and injuries, roads were broken up, electricity is off after poles were plucked out as the typhoon ravaged through townships.
The Filipino officials said electricity was restored in 154 cities and municipalities while only 115 have had telecommunications fully restored.
Philippines military soldiers were dispatched to support search and rescue efforts.
Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Davao, Mimaropa, and Caraga regions are the most affected.