Media reports of desperate survivors pushed to loot supermarkets and warehouses by hunger are largely inaccurate. Looting by armed groups complete with trucks began Friday evening a few hours after the storm struck on November 8, 2013.
“Our warehouse was hit Saturday morning after they ransacked one (owned by another businessman) the night before,” said Mario Panganiban, vice president for business development of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI). He owns a distribution company with branches in the provinces of Leyte and Samar in Eastern Visayas. Three warehouses in Tacloban City were looted.
His warehouses that contained such grocery items as toothpastes and washing soaps had a stock inventory good for four weeks. Tacloban City is the trading and economic center of the region. The security guards were instructed to back off after they reported that the looters were armed.
His company lost an estimated P400 million of 35,000 to 40,000 cases of goods that are good for a one-month inventory of supply.
“This is a modus operandi of armed groups who are hiding with these innocent people. They have guns. They got everything. They even searched for money. They have vehicles waiting for them outside. In a condition like this, there is no reason for looting those that could not be used for emergency needs,” he told members of the Cebu media.
The CCCI and businessman Wilson Ng hosted a press conference to provide an opportunity for alarmed businessmen doing business in Tacloban City to appeal for stronger government action against the looters.
Leyte Chamber of Commerce and Industry secretary Andrew Ng, said some P40 to P50 million worth of products have been looted from his warehouse. Ng and his family fled to Cebu since they did not feel safe in Tacloban anymore.
They said received reports that subdivisions in Tacloban have already been ransacked while armed groups have been reportedly seen along the highway leading to Ormoc and Southern Leyte adding that they next target is Ormoc City, located at the western side of Leyte island.
While stressing the need for security even for the distribution of relief goods, the businessmen called on government and the private sector to maximize and help the other urban centers in Region 8 like cities of Ormoc and Maasin in Leyte and the cities Catbalogan and Borongan in Samar.
The businessmen pointed out that there is a good airport in Ormoc City that serves flights from Manila and Cebu. Planeloads of relief goods could be landed here to help survivors in Ormoc City, which is a two-hour drive from Tacloban City located at Leyte island’s Pacific side, and neighboring towns.
Doris Mongaya of PRworks Inc., said there are three 2GO Supercat trips from Cebu to Ormoc daily. A bigger ship also leaves Cebu for Ormoc on Monday and Friday.
She said the 2GO officials are also offering free transport of relief goods to Ormoc although they would remind donors to ensure somebody will receive and unload the goods when these arrive in Ormoc.
In Tacloban City, armed groups ‘lead’ looters (Philstar.com)
300 families in Tacloban flee to Cebu (Sun.Star Cebu)
Traders seek help v. looters (cebudailynews.ph)
AirAsia Zest launches relief campaign (prworksph.com)
‘Bangon Visayas’ emerges; Cebu as hub for relief (prworksph. com)
Video clip of Mario Panganiban answering a question from a member of the Cebu media: