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.
Philippine News Agency (PNA) stated in an article that at least 10 fatalities have been recorded in the province.
LOOK: A member of the Philippine Coast Guard Public Affairs captured these photos a few minutes before the actual aerial rescue and extraction in the municipalities of Amulung, Alcala, Lal-lo, and Gattaran in Cagayan on Saturday afternoon.
(Photos courtesy of PCG) pic.twitter.com/sqEO6SsD4o— The Philippine Star (@PhilippineStar) November 14, 2020
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)."
For everyone tweeting #CagayanNeedsHelp and asking media to go cover I'm really sorry to be the bearer of bad news but your local govt 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)— Ezra Acayan (@eacayan) November 13, 2020
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.”
ABS-CBN Cagayan Valley is the region's biggest local news source. Imagine if they didn't shut it down. Edi sana ang lawak ng media coverage. This is on you 70 heartless congressmen.#CagayanNeedsHelp #IsabelaNeedsHelp pic.twitter.com/xkdZT0E7aU— ???? ?????? (@krizzy_kalerqui) November 13, 2020
Another Twitter user recalled how TV Patrol Cagayan Valley used to cover typhoons in the area.
This is how TV Patrol Cagayan Valley used to cover typhoons.— #ʟɪʙᴇʀᴀᴛᴇʜᴏɴɢᴋᴏɴɢ//ɢᴀʙʀɪᴇʟ (@gavreel_) November 13, 2020
Now that #CagayanNeedsHelp, may I remind those who shut down ABS-CBN that you are to be blamed for you have deprived Cagaynons the crucial information they needed in trying times like these.
Sana masarap túlog niyo! pic.twitter.com/6XLldUSpTp
A resident from Isabela tweeted that he “always knew this would happen. And it won’t be the last.”
Im from Isabela (Cagayan valley). I always knew this will happen. And it won’t be the last. This was my tweet last July. pic.twitter.com/b7HEvSSITt— D_mockingJay (@ImJB787) November 14, 2020
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.
Isabela gov says ABS-CBN should have sent news team right away to cover Ulysses onslaught, forgetting the House committee vice-chaired by his brother killed network’s franchise bid.— ABS-CBN News Channel (@ANCALERTS) November 16, 2020
ABS-CBN Tuguegarao and Isabela stations among those shut down as a result. | via @IanEsguerra pic.twitter.com/zeNaZeCEpy
A netizen commented on how the governor laughed after he was reminded about his relative’s involvement in the failed franchise bid.
Tawa na lang Gov?!? You sow what you reap!— gen vera (@genvera3) November 16, 2020
Saan na nga yung mga Congressmen nyo na pumatay sa ABS franchise? Ano ang ginagawa nila nung maraming tao ang humihingi ng rescue? Nagpaparty, kumakain, natutulog?!? Hindi po ako natatawa!
“Well, Gov sometimes you have to fact check first before you demand something,” a Twitter user wrote in a post.
And all of a sudden you're all over the news now. Well, Gov sometimes you have to fact check first before you demand something. If I'm not mistaken 6 of your Congressman say No to Renewal. Oh yes, Gov. We never forget!— ???????? ⚡️ (@black_kcath) November 16, 2020
Another one then pointed out how he had to learn the hard way and realize the importance of media in disaster prevention.
Blame ang news station kapag pumalpak sa preventative disaster thru coordination. Now you've learned the hard way - how media can help in disaster prevention. Explain it to lakay & ading— FilCanPam (@FilCanPam) November 16, 2020
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