Relief Operations of Progressive Partylists:

Bayanihan ng Masa Relief Mission by Gabriela Women's Partylist


Posted: October 8, 2009


Bayan Muna      Kabataan Partylist       Migrante International     Serve the People Brigade    Dita tree saved 36 lives


All UP Workers Union    Gabriela    AllUPWUAEU    Salinlahi     Anakpawis1     Anakpawis2     Bayan Muna in Brgy. Maybunga




Photos courtesy of Gabriela Women's Partylist
Bagong Silangan, Quezon City


Letter to the editor
Press Release Posted on October 2nd, 2009.
For Reference:
Francis Uyanguren (Public Information Officer) 0915-9329407

This pertains to Ramon Tulfo’s article published today where he challenged militant partylist groups like Anakbayan, Bayan Muna, Gabriela and Anakpawis to rally their constituents not victimized by the typhoon to help the victims of tropical storm Ondoy. He also posed a question asking about presence of the representatives of party-list groups at this time when they’re most needed.

While we would like to keep our efforts behind the lens of the cameras, it would only be most fair to recognize the support of the volunteers and partners of Gabriela Women’s Party and Rep. Liza Maza who have selflessly shared their time and resources in the ongoing Bayanihan ng Masa Relief Drive and Mission.. This relief drive has been launched last September 27 to call for volunteers and donations to respond to the immediate needs of thousands of victims of this disaster, most of whom are women, children and the elderly.

Since Monday, the Bayanihan ng Masa and Gabriela Women’s Party have visited and delivered relief goods in Brgys. Bagong Silangan, Nagkaisang Nayon, and Batasan, Quezon City; Brgy. Sta. Ana, San Mateo, Rizal; Sitio Olandes, Brgy. IVC, Marikina City, and Brgy. 86, Caloocan City; among others. Together with Makabayan Coalition, we have also conducted a cleanup drive in Brgy. Tumana, Marikina City.

Bayanihan ng Masa Relief Drive and Mission will continue to call for volunteers to gather support and extend aid and services to the victims.

In the same light, Rep. Liza Maza has also challenged President Arroyo to immediately release the still-unreleased Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for the relief and rehabilitation of calamity
victims. ###




By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

Disaster waiting to happen

We Filipinos, as a people, have yet to learn our lessons well in the wake of one of the most devastating floods to hit Metro Manila and outlying provinces brought by low-intensity typhoon Ondoy that most of us had simply taken for granted. It will not do to accept the lame excuses - from “climate change” to “overstrained government resources” and “unusually heavy rainfall”. Even more unacceptable and condemnable is the tack of blaming the victims, the people who built their houses on or beside riverbanks, creeks and floodways and who were washed away, for their current miserable plight.

For government to cite the record-level rainfall and other unusual weather disturbances presumably induced by climate change as the main reason for being caught flat-footed is a clear and pathetic attempt to escape responsibility and justify criminal neglect and inutility of those in charge.

Worse, it perpetuates the backward idea that we can do nothing but cope with what nature brings, including periodic calamities that are our lot because the Philippines is located in a typhoon belt or the oft-mentioned “inter-tropical convergence zone”. Consequently, the necessary and vital measures that need to be put in place to avert disasters or at least mitigate the destructive affects of natural hazards such as storms and earthquakes are left undone or only haphazardly done.

It is precisely because we are sitting smack on the intersection of a typhoon belt and an earthquake-and-volcano belt (the Pacific "rim-of-fire") that calamities are already second nature to us. We are not lacking, then, in technological and administrative know-how and expertise on the dangers of these calamities and how to deal with them. Rather, the roots of the disasters are both historical and social.

In truth there is no longer such a thing as a "natural calamity" anymore. Humankind has so interacted, in fact, interfered with nature, without fully comprehending its laws and the implications of his interference or even imagining that he controls nature and bends the laws of nature to conform to his will.

It is a harsh lesson that humankind has learned from the time man discovered how to use fire and water, then steam and much later, nuclear power. Man has come to understand that the forces of nature can be tamed to make life less brutish and more comfortable, but always according to its own laws. The lack of understanding of those laws, or failure to abide by them (usually in an arrogant attempt to ignore, if not foolishly defy these laws) invariably end up in disaster.

The laws of nature are hard, unbending and immutable. They only appear to change because man's understanding of those laws are unified, simplified and rendered more precise. With nature, the dictum "ignorance of the law is no excuse" is absolute and unforgiving.

Yet, the real transgressors get away literally with murder because nature has a much more dilated time line relative to ours; the forces of nature take time - even eons - to act. But when a certain threshold is reached, all hell literally breaks loose. Most often the real causes of the disaster can be concealed or forgotten, deliberately or not, buried along with the corpses or disposed of unceremoniously along with the debris and garbage.

Concretely and historically in the Philippines, those transgressors include the despoilers and plunderers of the country’s natural resources especially during the American colonial period, post-independence and up to the present time. These include the foreign corporate interests and their local partners in mining, logging, agribusiness and real estate development including their financiers and the series of supine governments that failed to protect and conserve the national patrimony.





Government policy is unchanged. The Arroyo regime has closed its eyes to the continuing wanton and over exploitation of our natural resources alongside the accelerating degradation of the environment. It has pushed for more and more liberalization of laws and regulations governing foreign investments in the country.

In fact, the kinds of disaster inflicted by government policies on our people cover not only physical disaster but economic backwardness and impoverishment as well. These are exactly the conditions that create our people’s vulnerability to the effects of so-called natural calamities.

It is no accident that the poor are the worst hit by these calamities. The iniquitous social system is such that those who have less in life become the most vulnerable. Notwithstanding all the hype that calamities are "great equalizers" and victimize rich and poor alike, the reality is that the rich are well-protected and insulated from disaster or have the wherewithal to quickly recover most losses, while the poor, already destitute and deprived, lose everything and are at a complete loss on how to pick things up and start all over again.

To make matters worse, the Arroyo administration had not put in place the plan and the resources to deal with even half of Ondoy's rainfall, just as it had failed, like other administrations before it, in enforcing the laws and undertaking the measures that would have mitigated, if not prevented much of the damage Ondoy could bring.

Seen in this light, the lavish spending on the de facto President Arroyo’s innumerable trips abroad, the still unaccounted for millions of dollars in Overseas Development Aid intended for disasters and calamities, the corrupt-ridden government projects and the wasteful expense on government’s failed counter-insurgency programs are certainly more plausible reasons for the kind of unprecedented disaster that befell our people rather than the 12-hr, 400+ millimeters of rainfall.

Disaster preparedness is a distinctly government function that necessitates a comprehensive, scientific study of disaster risks and coming up with a plan on how to deal with them in all respects. These include measures to remove aggravating conditions and effectively mobilizing not just the government machinery but the entire people for the gargantuan effort needed for preemptive action, rescue, relief and rehabilitation.

While past governments have their share of responsibility in failing to undertake the measures that would have mitigated, if not prevented, these disasters, the GMA regime has made the task even more difficult by destroying government credibility, which is required for any attempt to mobilize the people themselves for disaster preparedness.

The solution then is not “bayanihan”, “balikatan”, international humanitarian aid nor even private relief efforts ala ABS-CBN’s “Sagip Kapamilya”. The solution is to bring about a government that truly serves the people, a government that people can repose their faith and trust in and can mobilize both human and material resources to face natural calamities and prevent them from becoming man-made disasters.#

*Published in Business World
9-10 October 2009

Sitio Olandes, Brgy. IVC, Marikina City


Militant lawmakers speak on 'calamity fund'
In The Press Posted on October 5th, 2009.
Read the whole story

BAYAN Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño on Monday questioned the P10-billion supplemental budget as calamity fund for victims of Tropical Storm Ondoy.

Last week, the government, through the Senate and the House of Representatives, agreed to approve the P10-billion which would be for the repairing of the damage brought about by the storm, aside from aiding the victims.

Sun.Star accepts donations for victims of Typhoon Ondoy

“We share the concern that there has to be additional budget... (However), we are not sure that a supplemental budget in the amount of P10 billion is the proper way to do it,” Casiño said.

He said there should be steps taken before the budget would be passed.

First, there should be an accounting of the P2-billion initial calamity fund for the year, Casiño said.

“Why was the P2 billion depleted? If it was not used properly in the past, there should be an assurance that the P10 billion will be used in the proper way,” he said.

It should also be determined why the proposed amount is P10 billion, where it will come from and if the funds can be sourced from the present budget, Casiño added.

“Will this come from additional tax?” he asked.

The lawmaker then recommended that the funds could be taken from the special purpose savings of the 2009 budget. “This way, this calamity fund won't be added to the deficit.”

Akbayan Representative Walden Bello, for his part, called for the fast passage of the Disaster Preparedness Bill that is still pending in the House.

“There is no more excuse not to push this immediately to the plenary for approval,” Bello said.

Earlier, Gabriela Representative Liza Maza pledged her unreleased P70-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” to the Ondoy victims.

This is in lieu of the P20,000 contribution, which Speaker Prospero Nograles requested from each congressmen, for relief operations.

Gabriela lawmakers, along with the Bayan Muna lawmakers, have not been given their share of the PDAF since 2006. Akbayan has also not been given theirs since 2005.

Bello and fellow party-list representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel shelled out P20,000 each. Bello however said the Speaker should have consulted the House members first on the said request. (Justine Paredes/Sunnex)





News Release
October 12, 2009
Reference: Shiela Ferrer, National Council Member (0926-6446402)

Gov't held accountable
Ondoy Victims Storm HUDCC

“More than storm Ondoy, what placed the poor at risk is the Arroyo government’s ineffective housing programs and services, and worsened by its inept disaster response,” stated Shiela Ferrer, GABRIELA National Council member.

Led by the militant women’s group GABRIELA, women and their families who were victims of the freak flood triggered by Ondoy staged a protest action in front of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) to demand the government’s accountability over its failure to address the issues of housing and calamity.

According to GABRIELA, the present situation is being used to further displace communities. The group strongly condemned the plans to demolish urban poor communities located in what the government calls “danger zones” such as those under the bridge of San Mateo and along the Marikina Floodway, without clear and definite plans of genuine relocation. They also criticized the palliative solutions of the government such as the “balik-probinsya”.

“If the victims are relocated to an area, just so the people in government could show they are not sleeping on their job, but without livelihood and social services, it is no different from a calamity hitting the victims again,” said Ferrer.


The protest-action was held in time to mark the first year of implementation of RA 9507 or the Socialized Low-Cost Housing Loan Restructuring Act of 2008. According to GABRIELA, RA 9507 is an example of the government’s ineffective housing programs.

“Through RA 9507, the poor are buried in debt. They are made milking cows by the government through increasing interest rates and penalties. Instead of being a social service, housing has become a business. As what happened in Katuparan and Smokey Mountain Housing Projects in Tondo, the residents are unmercifully forced to pay rent despite the dilapidated state of their homes. There, storm or not, the poverty-stricken residents are in constant danger,” explained Ferrer.

“Further, many of the victims are paying amortization fees under the Community Mortage Program (CMP), like in Bgy. Bagong Silangan, Quezon City. This proves that not only is the government’s housing programs are profit-oriented, but are also inutile and unsafe,” added Ferrer.

GABRIELA demands that adequate housing be provided to the victims of the recent calamity. They also demand for decent and safe housing for all, so that no Filipino has to continue living in vulnerable conditions. ###

Public Information Department
GABRIELA National Office
(+632) 3712302

Brgy. Tumana, Marikina City


Lawmakers question P10-B calamity fund
In The Press Posted on October 5th, 2009.

Read the whole story

Opposition lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Monday thumbed down Congress’ plan to immediately approve a P10-billion supplemental budget that is being sought by the national government to augment the country’s depleting calamity fund.

They said that before they support such measure, the government and the leaders of both houses of Congress should explain first, among others, how the P2 billion calamity fund this year was suddenly down to only P24 million.

"Before we give in to that demand for additional budget, may gusto pa tayong ilinaw (There are things that we have to clarify first)," said Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño during the weekly press conference of the House minority bloc.

He said details like how the P10-billion figure was arrived at, how it would be spent, and from what sources it would be taken from should also be clarified.

Congress leaders last week agreed to augment the country’s calamity budget in the wake of tropical storm “Ondoy," which left millions worth of damages in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. Close to 300 people died in the storm.

Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III, however, said there was no need for a supplemental budget. He said the government's P140-billion savings in 2008 could be used to help the victims of Ondoy.

"The savings came from budgeted amounts which have been impounded and not released by the President. The savings of P140 billion in 2008 alone is more than enough to augment the calamity fund," he said in a statement.

The minority congressmen proposed several possible sources of the supplemental budget – from allocation for debt servicing to their own “pork barrel."

Anakpawis Rep. Joel Maglunsod proposed a moratorium on the country's payment of foreign debt to prioritize the provision of relief goods to victims of Ondoy as well as typhoon "Pepeng," which lashed Northern Luzon over the weekend.

Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza and Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said lawmakers' pork barrel (Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF) should be allocated for relief operations.

Maza and Bello said their respective organizations are willing to have their pork barrels allocated for the cyclone victims, but lamented that they have not been receiving their pork barrels for the past few years.

Every lawmaker is entitled to a P70-million pork barrel each year.- GMANews.TV



Solon willing to give ‘pork’ to flood victims
In The Press Posted on October 5th, 2009.
Read the whole story

GABRIELA Rep. Liza Maza yesterday challenged President Macapagal-Arroyo to release the Priority Development Assistance Fund of some militant lawmakers so that it can be used to help flood and typhoon victims.

Maza said she is willing to donate all her unreleased pork barrel funds amounting to P350 million. Congressmen have a yearly pork of P70 million.

Maza refused to join the fund drive at the House of Representatives where solons were urged to donate P20,000 for the relief operations of the Lower House.

“The P20,000 share is a measly donation. Why can’t Speaker Nograles order the release of my pork and all of this will be donated to the relief operations?” Maza told reporters.

According to her, the pork barrel of militant congressmen have not been released since 2005, when the group started supporting the impeachment complaint against President Macapagal-Arroyo.

“I’m challenging President Arroyo, iutos niya ang pag-release ng pork namin, wag ninyo na kaming ipitin. Sa akin lang P350- million pork ang hindi na-release.

"Malaking tulong yun sa mga biktima kung ma-release lang,” Maza said.

“Kung talagang may political will ang Congress, ang leadership, gagawa ito ng paraan para ma-release ang PDAF namin. The P20,000 donation is just a publicity, kung seryoso talaga pwedeng malakihan ang ipapamigay sa pamamagitan ng pork,” she added.

Brgy.Sta. Ana, San Mateo, Rizal


Party-list solons seek release of pork barrel to flood victims
In The Press Posted on October 5th, 2009.
Read the whole story

MANILA, Philippines—Opposition party-list lawmakers are willing to donate millions of pesos in their pork barrel fund for the victims of Tropical Storm “Ondoy” (international codename: Ketsana) and Typhoon “Pepeng” (Parma), if they would be released at all by Malacañang.

The Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or more popularly known as the pork barrel of known critics of the administration, has been “unreleased” since 2006, according to Gabriela Representative Liza Maza in a news conference Monday.

The progressive bloc of party-list groups in the House of Representative include Gabriela, which has two representatives, Bayan Muna, which has three, Anakpawis, which has two, Kabataan, which has one, and Akbayan, which has two representatives.

Each congressman was supposed to get P70 million per year in PDAF.

Pork barrel funds are not released in lump sum to congressmen, but are given through projects proposed by the lawmaker.

Maza lamented that since 2006, not one of the projects they have proposed, including road repairs and new classrooms, had been approved.

In the case of the two representatives of Gabriela, she said their pork barrel for a year would amount to P140 million.

The President should release the fund and give these to the (typhoon) vicims, she said.

Akbayan Representative Walden Bello also said that his group has not received pork barrel since 2005.

He said many typhoon victims would benefit from their “unreleased” pork barrel.

“We would like Malacañang to stop playing politics and release those funds,” Bello said.

Maza said that despite the absence of pork barrel, party-list groups were able to launch their own fund drive for the typhoon victims. She said she and her fellow party-list representatives also participated in the clean-up drive in Marikina, Bulacan, Pasig and Quezon City.





October 9, 2009

Reference: Terrie Cervas, Sisters of Gabriela, Awaken! (SiGAw),, 213 270 4982


Los Angeles Filipinas Share Their HERSPECTIVE and Raise Funds for GABRIELA-Philippines and Victims of Typhoon Ondoy

October 4, 2009 - Stories of hope and resistance by women resounded during HERSPECTIVE, an event organized by Sisters of GABRIELA, Awaken! (SiGAw), a member organization of GABRIELA-USA, the overseas chapter of GABRIELA-Philippines.  HERSPECTIVE marked SiGAw’s first performance and art showcase and served as a fundraiser for GABRIELA-Philippines' 25th anniversary activities, as well as for relief efforts for victims of Typhoon Ondoy.  Over 100 people attended and contributed over $1,000 in donations.


“Philippine President Arroyo’s administration has proven unprepared and untrustworthy in the handling of calamity funds,” stated Terrie Cervas, member of SiGAw and one of the Vice Chairs of GABRIELA-USA.  “We can be sure that the funds raised from HERSPECTIVE will reach the people in need, as GABRIELA organizers immerse themselves on the ground, in communities.  The burden of families’ survival rests largely on women, so the money will help GABRIELA to continue to advocate and fight for their rights, as they have done over the last quarter of a century.” 


HERSPECTIVE featured DJs Em-1 and Michelle Q, as well as performances by singer Asa Lianess; poet and BAYAN Southwest Regional Coordinator, Daya Mortel; emcee Peklat; dancer Danielle Parish; emcee/singer Jumakae; singer Anne Marie Ceralvo, and more.  Peklat stated, "This event was so beautiful. To see sisters get up, share of themselves and their art with the community is a beautiful thing. Everyone who came out blessed the space with their energy and spirits." The event also featured artwork from members of Habi Arts (including two full-sized murals depicting the strength of revolutionary Filipina women and the struggle of Filipinas against militarization and sexual violence), as well as local artists, including Sistargirl, and an array of vendors from homeopathic women's healthcare to vegan cupcakes. "Herspective was not only a means to raise funds for a great cause, but a result of a collaborative effort to create a safe, fun, and artistic space for womyn of color and queer womyn of color who constantly have to fight to be recognized in spaces that can be very male heavy and straight-centered," said Em "DJ Em-1" Baraan, also a member of SiGAw.


Kuusela Hilo, Vice Chair of BAYAN-USA, highlighted the efforts of BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA-USA's relief work through BALSA (Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan or "People's Cooperation for the People") during the program. "This is a critical time for the Filipino people. It is imperative that we contribute to the efforts which the Arroyo regime is unable to provide for its people. Having taken over $17M of the people's emergency relief funds, it is up to us, the community, to help."

HERSPECTIVE, along with other events coordinated by BAYAN-SW are part of the regional efforts to raise $10,000 for BALSA by the end of October.


For more information on Sisters of Gabriela, Awaken! (SiGAw):

For more information on BALSA and the relief work of BAYAN-USA/GABRIELA-USA:, or


Brgy. Nagkaisang Nayon, Quezon City

xPoor Are Worst Hit by Ondoy; Inept Political Leadership Makes Them Suffer Even More
Published on October 2, 2009

A disaster-prone country like the Philippines should by now be a nation of experts on calamities and how to deal with them. But, as Ondoy has shown, Filipinos are almost always caught unawares. And often, the high cost of these calamities are caused not so much by lack of knowledge or resources as by poor governance.


MANILA – In a Third World country like the Philippines, it is probably not surprising that the poor are always the first to suffer the worst of any disaster. The havoc that Ondoy (Ketsana) wrought the past week not only added to their suffering – it underscored the reality that interventions to mitigate the impact of calamities hardly work, if at all, for the poor.

“Poor people in much of the world are constantly threatened by the variability of the weather that they experience from year to year,” said a report last year by the United Nations Development Program.

“Poor people have become very good at adapting to the vicissitudes of their weather,” it said. Unfortunately, the report added, they “are already close to the limits of their capacities to cope, and the added effects of climate change may push them beyond their coping capacities unless real efforts are made to prepare for changes in climate.”

A disaster-prone country like the Philippines – it is battered by storms and typhoons at least 20 times a year; volcanic eruptions, landslides and earthquakes are fairly common – should by now be a nation of experts on calamities and how to deal with them. But, as Ondoy has shown, Filipinos are almost always caught unawares. And often, the high cost of these calamities are caused not so much by lack of knowledge or resources as by poor governance.

“We were all caught by surprise,” Gwendolyn Pang, secretary-general of the Philippine National Red Cross, told Bulatlat in an interview.

Pang’s assessment may baffle many. After all, Pagasa, the country’s weather bureau, had issued warnings on Ondoy as early as Thursday last week, even raising alert levels the next day. The warnings had been unheeded. It is understandable for the poor not to immediately vacate their homes. The same cannot be said of the government’s apparent failure to anticipate the magnitude of the calamity.

As a result, while Ondoy did affect severely the middle class and the rich, the poor suffered much more greatly. (Read sidebar: Tales of Woe from Those Who Had It Worse). Even cities that prided themselves with orderliness and disaster preparedness proved unable to cope with the ravages of Ondoy. (Read sidebar: In Marikina, Ondoy Shatters a Myth)

To be sure, the volume of rain Ondoy poured on Metro Manila and several nearby provinces was unusually large – a month’s worth of rain in just 12 hours, the most since 1967 – and experts said Metro Manila would have been inundated anyway even if it had the best sewerage and drainage system in the world.

“There are not enough infrastructures to cope with the problem of high volume of precipitation,” said Arjun Thapan, the director-general of the Southeast Asia department of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which has been financing programs in the region to improve sewerage and drainage systems. But, he added in an interview, “no matter how sufficient the system is, it was probably not enough to handle” the flooding of Metro Manila.

“Even if the infrastructures were in place, it would still be overwhelming,” said Anthony Golez, the vice-chairman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council. He defended the government by saying that it had always been prepared for calamities. But, he added, “Let me put it this way: We were preparing for an Intensity 7 earthquake but Intensity 8 came.”

Critics may chafe at Golez’s statement but what is not in dispute is that Ondoy’s toll could have been much lesser had government agencies and local governments done enough preparations and had they not been merely reactive, as one expert put it. Metro Manila, after all, is a disaster waiting to happen.

Choked by Garbage

Metro Manila is groaning with overpopulation — more than 12 million people. Its waterways – most of it are old, narrow and ill-maintained — are choked.

According to the ADB’s “Garbage Book,” a book on solid-waste management in Manila published in 2004, Metro Manila generates more than 6,700 tons of solid garbage every day. Only a small fraction of it — 720 tons — is recycled or composted. Nearly 4,500 tons are hauled into dumpsites that local governments maintain. But the rest — about 1,500 tons — end up in lakes, rivers, creeks, even in the Manila Bay, or burned openly.

Such a high volume of solid waste has proved challenging to local governments units, with some LGUs fighting over the dumping (the “not in my backyard” argument) and often with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the superbody tasked to manage the capital’s garbage and traffic systems.

Equally challenging is instilling discipline among residents on how to be responsible with their garbage. The MMDA and some local governments, for instance, have launched campaigns on this but still, Metro Manila remains littered with trash, from the big ones that are dumped in street corners to the candy wrappers carelessly thrown by commuters in streets.

The capital’s garbage, needless to say, clogs its drainage system, so that a slight downpour often floods many communities – from the low-lying slums of Tondo to the poor communities of Pasig. Worse, Metro Manila has a combined septic and storm-water system so that every time it floods human waste is expelled onto the streets along with floodwater.

Blocked Waterways

Complicating this are the waterways blocked by slum dwellers. Among these are the Perdito family, who, along with 20 other families, had shanties built on the underside of the Cambridge bridge in West Kamias in Quezon City, over an estero or creek. Ondoy completely washed away those shanties so that today, Evangeline Perdito, the 37-year-old mother of six, is scavenging for scraps of wood to rebuild her home under the bridge.

Metro Manila used to have nearly 30 esteros but these are either blocked by garbage and slum dwellers or have been appropriated by commercial developments such as malls and other big structures.

The Manggahan Floodway, which was built in the ‘80s to ease the pressure of floodwater in Metro Manila, is also choked by informal settlers, fish ponds, even growths of kangkong (water spinach), the source of livelihood for many of these poor slum dwellers.

Most of the pumping stations around the metropolis that are supposed to decrease floodwater by pumping excess water into the Manila Bay are working but because the esteros and other waterways are clogged, not much water can reach these stations, so they don’t do much help.

According to the MMDA, there are more than 70,000 families in Metro Manila like the Perditos, mostly Filipinos who are forced to seek their fortunes in the capital because of the lack or absence of livelihood or jobs in the provinces. Authorities have been trying to demolish these shanties but have not been offering any viable alternatives to the families, so they return or move to another area in the capital.

Faulty Urban Planning

Exacerbating the problem is the failure by the government to implement effective plans for urban, land use as well as emergency or disaster management. It has also failed to impose the law, according to experts. This, they said, can be attributed to corruption or sheer incompetence.

While local governments may hesitate to prevent the poor from building shanties along the banks of creeks and rivers, there is a law that prohibits that, according to Meliton B. Juanico, an urban and environmental planner who chairs the Department of Geology at the University of the Philippines (UP). Juanico acknowledges the reasons these poor families have in living along these waterways but, he said, “an effective leader should have the political will to implement the law and the imagination to deal with the needs of those affected.”

Moreover, lax implementation of zoning laws has allowed commercial establishments to put up structures on esteros.

Another law — Presidential Decree 705, or the Revised Forestry Code – prohibits the building of houses and residential development on slopes of more than 10 degrees. But developers are able to get away with it and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) has been approving development plans that violate this law, Juanico said.

“The demand for subdivisions with scenic vistas is high,” Juanico pointed out, “and as a result many developers look to areas like Rodriguez or San Mateo” — both in Rizal province, the hardest hit by Ondoy. He explained that developing areas for housing on slopes of more than 10 degrees results in serious erosion of the soil.

And to think, Juanico added, that the Sierra Madre, at the foot of which the towns of Rodriguez and San Mateo are located, is now denuded and not able to catch most of the rainwater that eventually flows down to Metro Manila. (Read sidebar: Why Rizal Province Suffered Greatly from Ondoy)

Thapan, of the ADB, agrees that as far as zoning and development controls go, “there has been a weakness in that respect, in so far as city management is concerned and requires strengthening.”

Lack of Foresight

Fouad Bendimerad, an engineer who chairs the Earthquakes and Megacities Initiative, a nonprofit group that advises governments around the world on disaster management, rues the fact that the Philippines is so battered by disasters that it hardly has time to create, let alone implement, master plans. “What is happening is that we are constantly reacting to the disaster that is happening,” he said in a phone interview from Bangkok. The government, he said, “is always in reaction mode and that takes all the resources.”

Bendimerad also recalled how a comprehensive earthquake disaster plan that he and his team developed between 2005 and 2007, with funding from the Japan International Cooperation Agency and other agencies, remained unimplemented for lack of funds.

Juanico, of the UP’s geography department, agrees. “We are good at making plans but are bad at implementing them,” he said in an interview.

Many find such a failure to implement a disaster-management plan a disaster in itself, considering that, as per the allegation of Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had used a large portion of her emergency and calamity funds for her travels abroad, where she and her entourage spent millions on expensive dinners.

“Mrs. Arroyo, who designated herself ‘climate change czar,’ should be held accountable for lacking in genuine policies and programs for mitigating climate change impacts and for mismanaging funds for emergencies and disasters,” said Clemente Bautista of the environment group Kalikasan-PNE. Arroyo, he added, should also be held liable “for promoting and pursuing environmentally destructive practices such as mining, logging, and land-use conversion. All of these hasten and aggravate the effects of climate change.”

Another group, the Philippine Climate Watch Alliance (PCWA), assailed Arroyo for failing to implement honest-to-goodness measures to deal with the effects of climate change. (Read sidebar: Ondoy and Climate Change)

“Scientists, experts and even the basic sectors have warned that the Philippines will experience extreme weather events, floods, landslides and worsening poverty because of climate change,” said Meggie Nolasco, PCWA’s spokesperson. “This should have prompted the Arroyo government to map out plans and policies to lessen and help its people adapt to these problems.” However, she said, “these warnings were left unheeded by the government.”

Juanico, of the University of the Philippines, said the Philippines needs an effective and compassionate political leadership. “With that type of leader, even if we have limited resources, we can make do and deal with calamities more effectively,” he said. A weak national leadership, he said, does not invite cooperation and does not encourage discipline among the public.

And in a calamity-prone and poor country like the Philippines, “an ineffective leader,” Juanico said, “is a disaster in itself.” (With a report from Alexander Martin Remollino /




Tales of Woe from Those Who Had it Worse
Slideshow: For the Poor, Ondoy Strikes a Double Whammy
In Marikina, Ondoy Shatters a Myth
Why Rizal Province Suffered Greatly from Ondoy
In Tatalon, Hell and High Water
After Ondoy: Things We Ought to Do
Ondoy Pushes Tens of Thousands of Families Into Severe Difficulty, Long-Term Poverty
Where Did Millions of Aid for Disaster Relief Go? Ibon Wants to Know
Ondoy and Climate Change
Analysis: Beyond Ondoy and Climate Change, Blame Goes to Arroyo, Teodoro


▼ ACTEC; Nagkaisang Nayon, Quezon City ▼


Tales of Woe from Those Who Had it Worse
Published on October 2, 2009

MANILA – Aside from killing them and displacing them from their homes and exposing them to illness, tropical storm Ondoy dealt poor Filipino families severe blows that could make their lives in the months ahead much more difficult. (Read sidebar: Ondoy Pushes Tens of Thousands of Families Into Severe Difficulty, Long-Term Poverty)

Take the case of Gina Judilla, a 37-year-old mother of six, one of whom ended up sick after drinking floodwater and eating spoiled egg from the relief goods that she received. Albert, eight years old, was rushed to a private hospital because the public hospital in Napico, a poor community in Manggahan, Pasig City, was still submerged in floodwater last Monday.

Although Albert has since been treated, Judilla’s problem now is how to settle the 4,000 peso hospital bill so she can bring her son home. She only managed to ask a few hundreds from relatives. “I don’t know what to do now,” she said. (As of Friday afternoon, Judilla still needs the money. Those who want to help may get in touch with us.)

Rebecca Saing’s family is just one of the 500 families in Sitio San Isidro, Barangay Bagong Pag-asa, in Quezon City, affected by Ondoy. At least 150 families were recorded by barangay officials as “heavily affected,” three homes were completely destroyed, and most families lost household things.

Saing lost most of their kitchenware and some of their clothes, including her children’s school uniforms and shoes. “In the meantime, they will have to go to their school wearing civilian clothes but we still have to buy them uniforms.”

She is also worried because some of the gadgets used by her husband for work were destroyed by the floodwater. “Chances are, my husband would have to pay the company,” Saing said. She estimated that it would be roughly P100,000 – certainly a big amount for a family that earns a meager income of P7,000 monthly.

Evangeline Perdito, a mother of six, faces the same predicament. Her home – a shanty built on the underside of the Cambridge bridge in West Kamias, Quezon City — was washed away by the creek below. These days, all she does is look for scrap woods to rebuild their home. Twenty other families under the bridge suffered the same fate.

Lani Mendoza of the San Isidro Neighborhood Association told Bulatlat that the residents of Sitio San Isidro are used to floods since they live near a creek. But, she said, it was the first time that something this disastrous happened.

“What makes their situation worse is that they cannot ask the government to look into their situation. They would most likely be blamed for what they are going through,” Mendoza said. The residents in Sitio San Isidro are informal settlers and there are plans to demolish them to give way to the Quezon City Commercial Business District project.

But Mendoza said the residents did not choose to live near the creek. “The government has no concrete plans for the urban poor, especially to their housing projects. Their basic social services projects have failed,”

The family of Loreta Guadorio of North Fairview, also in Quezon City, has been living along the river banks because they had no choice. She said they could not afford to rent a decent house because her husband was not earning enough. But now, they have lost the only home they had and it would be very hard, she said, to start all over again. Her husband lost his job only two weeks ago.

Residents of Tatalon, the most populous district of Quezon City, also suffered an unprecedented severe flooding, with floodwaters going up to an estimated 7 feet or more. Worse, a fire broke out at the same time, burning down dozens of houses. (Read sidebar: In Tatalon, Hell and High Water)

These days, all one can see in that part of Tatalon are huge mounds of burned wood and belongings blocking some of the streets. In the interiors of the district, residents tried to salvage whatever they could. “It will take a long while for us to recover from this,” Jun Merioles, one of the residents said. (Reporting by Janess Ann J. Ellao, Marya Salamat and Carlos H. Conde /'



xIn Marikina, Ondoy Shatters a Myth
Published on October 2, 2009

Residents were unprepared for a disaster of such scale in a town that had gained headway in reducing flooding and in sprucing itself up. But as some of them point out, everything in Marikina had been so good that they never thought it could be this bad.


MANILA – Of all the areas in Marikina City, Provident Village is the most prone to flooding. It is hemmed in by the Marikina River, which flows from the province of Rizal in the north and forms an inverted letter S right near Calumpang, turning up to Tañong, then down again to Barangka. Provident Village, as well as several other subdivisions, is right inside the top curve of the inverted S.

The allure of that portion of Marikina – many of the houses there face the river – is also its deadliest feature. The top curve of the inverted S, in a way, catches the river, breaking its flow. When overflowing, the river easily breaches into the villages inside the curve before it meanders upward. That is exactly what happened when Ondoy dumped massive amounts of rainwater on it last week.

From a purely geographical perspective, that spot in Marikina should not have been a residential area, said Meliton B. Juanico, an urban and environment planner and chairman of the Department of Geography at the University of the Philippines. Or if houses were to be built there, they would have to be fairly above ground or protected by a dike.

In any case, given the location of Provident Village and the others, it stands to reason that, in times of flooding or a major storm, it should be a priority area in terms of disaster management. But residents there swear it wasn’t.

“Given the number of deaths here, obviously there has been no preparation for this kind of disaster,” said Chieboy Sillona. It was too early to determine how many actually died in Provident Village but three days after Ondoy left, rescuers were still finding bodies trapped inside homes.

Floodwaters had come to them in rampaging torrents, Sillona’s relatives recalled. There was little time to do anything but scamper to higher ground, which, in just an hour, had meant the rooftop of two to three-storey houses in their village.

Before midnight, most village residents were already on top their roofs, praying for rescue while watching the raging waters that had submerged their village. “Even if you could swim, the strong current would likely sweep you away,” Sillona said. That, in a way, made him understand why rescuers started arriving only a day later, when there was light and the current had eased.

Sillona, a human-resources executive at a call-center company, was one of the many Filipinos who opted to stay in their offices because Metro Manila had been submerged, using phones and the Internet in that blackest of nights last weekend to keep friends and relatives posted on what’s happening.

In its scale and suddenness, the disaster was unprecedented in the country’s long list of disasters. For Sillona and the rest of Marikina residents still grappling with the flood, it was worse because before these much flood and mud hit their town, the city had not only reaped awards for being the cleanest and most disciplined municipality in the country — it was also the showcase of former Marikina mayor Bayani Fernando for his attempt at the presidency.

Residents were unprepared for a disaster of such scale in a town that had gained headway in reducing flood and in sprucing itself up. But as some of them pointed out, everything in Marikina had been so good that they never thought it could be this bad.

Third Worse

Since Sillona’s family moved to Provident Village, they had experienced two major inundations. Ondoy’s was the third and the worst. The first was in 1978, another was in 1988. In both previous floods, “the water reached up to our ground floor ceiling,” Sillona said.

While Googling and locating Provident Village in maps, Sillona realized that the subdivision lies right smack in the middle of something like a horseshoe – the inverted S — “the horseshoe being Marikina River itself. Thus, the village will obviously get flooded should the river overflow.”

Yet, at least for their village and as far as he knows, Sillona could not recall hearing of any precautionary measures, alarm system, boats or rubber boats, life vests, diving gear or anything that would have come in handy in times of a deluge.

“Twenty one years after the last worse flood, it is sad that there are still no other safety measures for such disasters,” Sillona told Bulatlat.

After the residents were rescued off rooftops by a combination of private sector volunteers, local government and people from National Disaster Coordination Council, they took shelter in various evacuation sites (such as a gym in Barangka) or with relatives. Some returned to their homes as soon as the water started receding.

The flood left behind a still increasing body count and very thick mud not only in Provident Village but in other towns of Marikina. In nearby Pasig and Cainta, some villages are still submerged, but they are just starting to receive attention only three days later “because we have fewer deaths,” a man bitterly said on TV.


In Midtown, a village in San Roque, Marikina, near Marcos Highway, residents also suffered. “We usually got only ankle-deep water in previous floodings,” Analene Atillo, 25, told Bulatlat.

Atillo noted that the floodwaters last week rose high so soon. By 9 pm on Saturday, their neighbors had climbed to the roof of their bungalow. Later the neighbors took shelter in Atillo’s house, which has a second floor. She reckoned the flood had reached a maximum of seven to eight feet or more, because only the roof of their van, which had been parked at their elevated garage, still showed during the worst of the flooding. “It was deeper in some parts of our village,” Atillo said.

Despite the frequent flooding in their area, Atillo said they never expected a flood this bad. She explained that since the Fernandos (Bayani Fernando, now MMDA chairman, and his wife, Marides, now the mayor) “took over” in Marikina, most residents would swear there had been a big improvement in their drainage system, sidewalks and streets.

“Before, we as kids could swim in the water when Marikina got flooded. During Bayani Fernando’s time, flood was brought down to just ankle-deep. That’s why we did not expect this,” said Atillo.

Absentee Government

Like Sillona, Atillo was unaware of preparations, if there were any, for disasters like this in their town. But the two are one in wishing that they could somehow get help from their government in cleaning up the thick mud left behind by the flood.

“If only out of health concerns, this thick mud should be cleaned right away off our streets,” said Atillo. At the rate they were going with the clean up, it could take a month, she said.

Sillona wanted to cut the government “some slack, because they must have been inundated by the severity of the crisis.” But he has this “wishful thinking” that the government, particularly its firefighting department, would help them clean up the mud as soon as possible.

In the meantime, the residents in Provident Village and elsewhere have to contend with non-flood related problems that underscore the failure of the Marikina government to put in place measures to protect the public. Common crime, to name one.

There have been reports that several of the inundated houses were broken into by thieves, who carted away belongings of the residents.

The Pajero owned by Sillona’s family, which they had parked at an elevated corner street near their house, disappeared last Monday, along with other vehicles on the street. They were told that Marikina traffic enforcers had towed the vehicles.

Sillona’s family had gone to the Marikina city hall with the appropriate papers proving their ownership of the Pajero but, as of yesterday, their vehicle could not be located.

The Sillonas’ washing machine ended up on their roof (Photo courtesy of Chieboy Sillona /

“Why did they take the vehicle out of Provident without our knowledge?” Sillona asked. “If they did that to free up the streets, why did they do it so carelessly and inconsiderately? We don’t even know where our vehicles are.”

The Sillonas as well as the others in Provident have lost a lot, he said. “My family’s life savings were in those things inside the house, including that old Pajero.”


“Psychologically, the people here seem healthy still,” said Atillo, who is a school guidance counselor. For three days now, her neighbors in San Roque, Marikina, have “morning sessions” where they shared what they all went through. On the first and second day, the discussion were mostly about what happened to them, about their fears. On the third day, there was humor already, said Atillo.

But the fear of another disaster remained, on top of the struggle to recover from this one. Atillo echoed her neighbors in noting the flood and debris they saw on Marcos Highway had come all the way “from the mountain.” Complaints of forest denudation and quarrying in Rizal and Pampanga had made its way on TV and radio. (Read sidebar: Why Rizal Province Suffered Greatly from Ondoy)

“There was no official word yet from our local government as to why this disaster happened,” said Sillona. “There were also no visible moves yet from the government.” So far, nobody has approached them or consult with them as to what they need to speedily recover from the disaster. (



Why Rizal Province Suffered Greatly from Ondoy
Published on October 2, 2009


SAN MATEO, Rizal — Marivic Cristobal has been living in Barangay Sta. Ana, San Mateo, Rizal province for almost 20 years now. She is used to a home where floodwater would easily rise from the slightest rainfall. Cristobal learned how to keep important things and documents safe from the floodwater. But despite her precautions, Ondoy left her with nothing, not even her very own home.

Days after the dreadful disaster, Cristobal still finds it difficult to understand how the floodwater rose that fast. According to many reports that came out, most of the victims said the floodwater rose in less than one hour, giving them little or no time to save their things. The Cristobal family are now staying in a public elementary school within their barangay, dependent on relief goods.

“My lost relief would have been the P120 that my husband brought home that day. But I left it on the table. When the water rose, I wanted to look for it. But my daughter forced me to get out of the house and save our lives first,” Cristobal told Bulatlat.

Despite the speculations that dams near the province of Rizal released water into the rivers, Cristobal believes that the denuded mountains of Rizal caused the flood. “When I first arrived here, we still had bamboo plants. They diverted the floodwater away from our houses. But as the bamboos decreased, I noticed that the flood water increased.”

Denuded and Flattened

Meliton Juanico, an environmental planner and chairman of the Department of Geography at the University of the Philippines, agreed with Cristobal’s conclusion. He said that when Ondoy hit the Sierra Madre mountain ranges, there were no more trees that could hold all that rainwater. He called it “accelerated erosion.”

One of the denuded mountainsides of the Sierra Madre is the town of Rodriguez. Juanico said that one of the reasons for the denudation is the construction of high-end subdivisions on the hills and mountain tops of the towns of San Mateo, Rodriguez, Angono, Cainta and Marikina.

“Developers are after these mountain tops, which command a good view of Metro Manila,” Juanico said. He said some of the subdivisions were built on slopes that are too steep and has exceeded the maximum slope allowed by law.

Presidential Decree 705 or the Revised Forestry Code says that any land mass above 18 percent in slope or 10 degrees should only be used for commercial forestry and mining, not for urban and agricultural use. This is so because any development on slopes above 10 degrees will not only pose danger — in case of flashfloods or landslides — to the people living in the subdivision itself but to people who are living in the lowlands. (Read main story: Poor Are Worst Hit by Ondoy; Inept Political Leadership Makes Them Suffer Even More)

The Eastridge Golf Club in Binangonan, Rizal, has a breathtaking views of Laguna de Bay and Metro Manila. But just like other high-end subdivisions with golf courses, its location has a slope of more than 50 percent. Forests turned golf courses can also contribute to accelerated erosion, Juanico said, since they can only give little support to the flood water that is rushing down toward the people in the lowlands.

“We find ourselves lucky that we were able to stop the Sky City project of Filinvest, which they planned to build on one of the highest mountain peaks of San Mateo,” Juanico said. He said part of Sky City’s plan was to suck the water from the Marikina River toward the subdivision for the maintenance of its golf course. The project was proposed in 1997 but was shot down by protests from residents and environment groups.

Quarrying, an industry that Rizal is known for, is also another reason for the denuded and flattened mountain sides. Juanico said roughly 80 percent of the construction materials, like gravel and sand, being used in Metro Manila come from Rizal province.

Because of heavy quarrying, “Marikina river is now silted. This made it very shallow. So when an abnormal rainfall like Ondoy came, it easily overflowed,” Juanico said. (Read sidebar: In Marikina, Ondoy Shatters a Myth)

He added that the dynamite explosions used in quarrying also weakens the foundation of the mountain or even causing them to crack. “This cracks can be penetrated by the water during a heavy rainfall. It would soften the soil beneath it and would cause landslides.”


“There is only one reason that Rizal became too vulnerable to Ondoy, and that is because the government is merely reactive,” Oscar Lapida Jr., deputy secretary-general in the Southern Tagalog region of the fisherfolk group Pamalakaya, told Bulatlat. “They only carry out plans when something has already happened. They are shortsighted about the fact that the mitigating measures would only cause more trouble in the future.”

Lapida said fisherfolk and farmers have long been affected by the frequent typhoon and flooding in the area because the forest system had not been considered in the “development” plans. Lapida added that they are only given attention now because even the rich people were heavily affected by Ondoy. “In my recent conversations with peasants in Rizal, many livestock animals like carabaos died. Even areas where vegetables are planted were ruined,” Lapida said.

“Instead of relief goods, we are hoping to get seedlings for the farmers who were heavily affected by the destructive flood that accompanied Ondoy,” he said.

This was the same sentiment that San Mateo resident Cristobal shared with Bulatlat. On Sunday, she came to see what was left of her house. And her heart sank when she saw that the floor was the only thing that remained.

“Once the people return to their homes, relief goods will also stop,” Cristobal said. “What we need is a source of livelihood so that we can start our lives all over again.” (


Brgy.Sinalhan, Aplaya, Caingin and Ibaba - Sta. Rosa, Laguna


After Ondoy: Things We Ought to Do
Published on October 2, 2009


MANILA – It is an essential part of survival that people learn from every calamity, particularly the mistakes that may have contributed to it or its high cost. Here, some experts suggest ways to move forward after Ondoy.

Fouad Bendimerad, chairman of the Earthquakes and Megacities Initiative:

It’s time now to really look at the risks Metro Manila is facing and have some plans that look at extreme events like floodings, earthquakes and other risks. Have something comprehensive that everybody could rely on for the best science. We need something comprehensive. It has to become a priority. Metro Manila should be a priority.

In the immediate, it is important to document what happened. We should clearly document it, every detail of it: what areas were flooded, how much damage. So that we know what is the level of threat, the actual conditions. We have to interview people and collect data.

This documentation is important because events (like Ondoy) are rare and when they happen, we tend to go and clean and rebuild and we forget to document. So all the information are lost. And we later repeat the same mistakes. For instance, some only had small water level, others did not. We have to know why and understand and map them to the detail.

We also need to understand what was the response and how did we do in critical services. For instance, how did the hospital and health-care facilities performed? What were the issues, the problems? So we can learn form this and prepare better, so urban planners, land-use planners would know which areas to deal with.

Once we have the science and knowledge, we will understand. This is an opportunity. Hopefully, we won’t miss this opportunity.


Arjun Thapan, director-general, Southeast Asia Department, Asian Development Bank:

This is something that cannot be addressed immediately. It requires time and proper funding.

What the ADB is likely to do is to assist the two water concessionaires – Manila Water and Maynilad — to strengthen their abilities to collect and treat waste water. This is a one billion dollar investment of each concessionaire over the next 15 years. They really need to get their act together to make this investment happen.

What we must also realize is that there are 17 local governments in Metro Manila and they are individually and jointly responsible for their infrastructure. They have to get their act together.

But it’s not as if the local governments can do this on their own. There has to be civic participation.

The Metro Manila Development Authority also has to work with the local government units. It needs their support. The issue in Metro Manila is effective coordination.


Herminia Franciso, director, Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia, International Development Research Center:

Besides physical infrastructure, we should improve social infrastructure, which is equally important. I was at the airport when Ondoy struck and there was no advice that the situation was so serious. The communication system could have been better.

If you have the communications infrastructure, the early warning system and the flood alerts could have been relayed better. Pagasa’s signal 1, 2, 3 warnings are not that reliable anymore.

The telecommunications, for example, could be tapped to build this social networks, like relay stations.

But definitely, there is a need to improve the drainage and dike systems of Metro Manila.

The biggest challenge is so many people are blocking the drainage networks. Relocation should be part of the bigger plan. It should not be discarded as an option because that is something that is probably our only resort.


Meliton Juanico, urban and environmental planner and chairman of the Department of Geography, University of the Philippines:

One of the many things that the government can do now is to reforest the foot of the Sierra Madre mountain range and to declog the creeks that have been blocked by debris and solid waste.


Meggie Nolasco, spokesperson, the Philippine Climate Watch Alliance:

Government should prioritize the mitigation of climate-change effects and adapt measures for affected communities, such as the construction of infrastructures like landslide-protection, flood-control, and riverbank-stabilization systems.


Gwendolyn Pang, secretary-general, Philippine National Red Cross:

We must invest money in disaster management. Rehabilitation is expensive. It costs less to be prepared.

We have a lot of work to do. We have to add to our response capability. We must invest in equipment and training.

(With reports from Janess Ann J. Ellao and Alexander Martin Remollion /