This dita tree saved 36 lives


Bagong Silangan, Quezon CityI



■   Bayan Muna relief work in Bagong Silangan


■   Sagip Kanayunan Balsa relief work in Binagonanan, Rizal



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




Photo by Cathy of Gabriela Women's Partylist       

◄  36 members of 7 families climbed up this dita tree as the flood waters was rising and were saved.  They stayed on the branches of this tree from 10 AM of Sept. 26 up to 3 AM of the following day when they climbed down with the waters still waist deep because they were cold and hungry for 17 hours. The oldest was 60 years old and the youngest 2 weeks old.


Play the  video for the story.



A website visitor shared this experience:


During the onslaught of Supertyphoon Reming on November 30, 2006, a mango tree saved 5 lives in Padang, Legazpi City. One survivor had two choices: the mango tree or the slab roof of a house. She chose the tree; those on the slab roof were entirely swept away to the sea.


Lesson: Plant a tree. It may save your life




Another visitor wrote:


Sabi ng mga taong nakausap namin nung magpunta din kami dun, maliban sa dita tree, may isa pang puno dun na mas manipis pero mataas din. doon daw sumabit yung isang pamilyang nakasakay sa yero. Meron ding 2 month old baby na natangay ng agos sa puno kaya sinungkit din nila.

Moral lesson: Don't cut trees, they may save your life one day. (In this case, literally.)

Gabriela coordinator in the community tells how the tree saved the lives of 36 people... ... and the present living conditions of survivors of the flood



By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

Solutions or band-aid?

Who was it who said that the best way to ensure that nothing gets done is to create a committee? The Arroyo government’s announcement of the formation of the Special National Public-Private Sector Reconstruction Commission tasked “to study the causes, costs and actions needed to be taken in the wake of Ondoy, Pepeng and last year’s typhoon Frank” and “to seek fresh aid to fund the reconstruction (of damaged infrastructure)” appears to be headed precisely in that direction.

Going by the Arroyo regime’s track record in seeking the truth, upholding accountability and making money, this project is bound to turn into another whitewash, a fund-raising enterprise masquerading as an investigation and reconstruction commission.

Apart from attempting to deflect responsibility for the lack of disaster preparedness on all fronts, government is deliberately turning a blind eye to the real causes of the widespread destruction that took place and the lingering after-effects.

The favorite scapegoats are the so-called squatters living precariously on the banks of rivers and canals draining Metro Manila’s flood waters. The real culprits –the multinational logging and mining firms that denuded the forest cover critical to retaining the water brought by torrential rainfall and typhoons; the land grabbers disguised as real estate developers that build on esteros, riverbeds and other public spaces – are not targets for demolition. They have protection from officialdom, the bureaucrat capitalists from municipalities all the way up to Malacañang, who abuse their authority to amass immense wealth.

Landlessness and dire poverty are the main causes of migration to the cities; add to this, militarization of the countryside. People seek jobs and a way out of their stultifying and oftentimes perilous existence in the rural areas only to end up living in the urban fringes and wastelands, close to whatever livelihood they manage to scrape together to survive. Once they nestle in a place no matter how hazardous, they resist relocation especially when there are no job opportunities, no schools and other physical and social infrastructure in sites provided by government.

The very same desperate straits and lack of alternatives caused people to clamber to their rooftops when the floodwaters rose, even though doing so was fraught with discomfort, danger and uncertainty: it was the only remaining option to stay alive. It’s the same phenomenon on a macro level pushing Filipinos to do the dirtiest, most dangerous and cheapest-paid work overseas since government, instead of creating jobs at home, has made the export of labor its quick-fix to the chronic unemployment problem as well as the steady source of dollar earnings.

The rural poor eventually end up as urban poor. Most do not have regular-paying jobs but make a living hawking on the streets, driving pedicabs, washing other people’s laundry and doing all sorts of odd jobs – the millions of unemployed euphemistically described in government statistics as the informal sector. They live a hand-to-mouth existence and have absolutely no “safety nets”: social services are absent or inadequate and inaccessible. They are the ones most vulnerable to natural calamities because apart from being forced to live in high-risk areas they have little by way of fallback, economic and social.

Why are there no jobs? Why are there no social services such as housing? Why is the cost of living skyrocketing so that hunger and disease has become endemic?

The Philippines is so backward economically that there are no good jobs either in agriculture or in industry. Landlessness and abject poverty is still the basic condition of the people who work the soil. In the urban centers, an industrial sector that could process the country’s abundant natural resources has from the start been doomed to stunting and inevitable decline. The national patrimony, such as forest products, minerals, oil and gas deposits, are auctioned off to foreign companies whose main activity has been extraction and export.

Chronic shortfalls in foreign exchange to pay for imports from fuel to capital goods to consumer products are covered by incurring more foreign debt at usurious rates and laden with onerous terms. Government too has become hooked to borrowing in order to have spending money for bloated and wasteful expenditures, corrupt contracts and to wage costly counter-insurgency campaigns.

Denationalization and deindustrialization policies have been persistently pursued by post-colonial governments held captive by foreign monopoly capital interests. These peaked in the eighties with the liberalization, deregulation and privatization policies imposed by pro-“globalization” imperialist financial institutions, multinational corporations and big capitalist powers led by the United States of America.

Debt servicing and not social services has been the top priority of every government. The rationale for government’s privatization binge is to trim its budget deficit. The result is that hospitals, schools and housing projects have become fee-for-service arrangements where those who can’t afford to pay are simply left out. The same is true for public utilities such as water, power and transportation; these have been taken over by private, in particular foreign, interests. Government’s reason for being – public service - has been severely undermined in the name of “globalization”.

A glaring example of how privatization cum corruption has resulted in another gargantuan tragedy is the recent flooding in Pangasinan. The irresponsible and criminal release of millions of tons of water from the San Roque dam was beyond doubt the immediate cause of the flooding. But prosecuting the dam managers and instituting “protocols” to regulate the release of water are not enough to prevent another disaster from happening. As pointed out by experts, the dam itself, sitting as a catch basin to two other heavily silted dams and purportedly designed as flood control, power generation and irrigation mechanism all at the same time, is itself an invitation to disaster.

Before its construction, the prospective dam had already displaced thousands of farmers, mostly indigenous peoples, from their lands. With no benefit in return, the project was opposed from the start by the people most affected by it. The same goes true with those who had built their homes in hillsides and riversides made prone to landslides and flashfloods by the unabated denudation of forests and mining activities. Their opposition to these environmentally-degrading activities has invariably gone unheeded by both local and national governments.

Indeed, the wisest thing to do now is to sift through the debris of death and destruction in search for the "causes, costs and actions needed" to restore and rebuild the lives of the millions who have suffered from the calamities. But unless we unearth the real causes, unless we are prepared to pay the real costs of overhauling an iniquitous, exploitative and oppressive system, all courses of action will simply be a band-aid till the next disaster happens. #

*Published in Business World
16-17 October 2009


As of Oct. 15: Dead: 119, about 30 still missing





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. ###


▲ 6 Photo by Cathy of Gabriela Women's Partylist ▼      
Bayan Muna relief work in Bagong Silangan


News Release – October 16, 2009
Reference: Bayan Muna Rep. Satur C. Ocampo, 0917.8226184
For more information: Vince Borneo, Media Relations Officer, 0927.7968198

Satur: GMA's urban renewal plans should prioritize homes for victims of Ondoy and Pepeng

Deputy Minority Floor Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo today urged the Macapagal-Arroyo administration and its responsible agencies to prioritize the provision of decent homes to the victims of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. He said this is a practical yet very urgent concern that needs to be addressed.

Ocampo brought the issue up in response to reports that Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has given the go-signal for much delayed urban development project supposedly meant to relocate thousands of squatters and rearrange Metro Manila areas on a permanent scope. Part of the planned Metro Manila development project is the relocation of thousands of informal settlers living near rivers and creeks.

In the study funded by the World Bank used by Malacanang, it was stated that development will be applied in three major areas: in the Marikina Valley, the western shores of Laguna de Bay, and the Manila Bay coastal area to the north of Manila.

"Thousands lost their homes along with almost everything else they owned. In the meantime, thousands more fear returning to the areas where they used to live out of dread that the next big floods can be worse. Already, experts see an increase in the number of slum dwellers disparagingly called squatters. This is a situation that must be prevented: people deserve safe, secure dwellings, and it is the government's task to provide these," he said. "We hope that Malacanang's plans to rehabilitate Metro Manila will not be a cold-blooded and mechanical campaign to simply clear away the poor and drive them off to far-flung areas to build slum communities."

Random surveys reveal that majority of the victims come from menial and low-paying jobs -- many are from the informal sector. The calamities have driven them to even deeper levels of penury. Urban poverty is certain to worsen.

Ocampo said that Malacanang should send a concrete blue-print for the urban development project to Congress. He also said that residents of Metro Manila especially the areas affected by the typhoon should be consulted on the changes.

"The government must not be allowed to add more injury to those already sustained by the victims. A genuine urban renewal and rehabilitation program prioritizes the welfare of residents -- ensuring that they have houses and not hovels. Beautification is not merely planting trees, it's building safe communities with easy access to water, sanitation and electricity services," he said.

Finally, Ocampo said that the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) should immediately find means to quantify the possible increase in slum dwellers and provide the government a ball-park figure on the extent of the work it must undertake. #

Vincent Michael L. Borneo
Political Affairs Officer
(Media and Public Relations)
Office of Deputy Minority Leader
and BAYAN MUNA Rep. Satur C. Ocampo
Rm. 416, RVMitra Bldg.,
House of Representatives, Quezon City
Telefax no: 951-1027
Mobile: 09277968198


Sagip Kanayunan BALSA relief work in Binangonan, Rizal


IBON Media Release / 14 October 2009


Instead of appeals for more foreign aid to rehabilitate the country from the effects of disasters, research group IBON urges government to cancel debt payments and free up resources for relief and rehabilitation.

According to research head Sonny Africa, “Environmental shifts mean that extreme weather events will become more frequent and there must be much greater investments in the country’s disaster preparedness.”

“Extreme weather conditions are beyond government’s control, debt payments are not,” he added. “It is the height of insensitivity of the country’s leaders if they dogmatically insist on repaying debt in the face of the multiple crises facing the country.”

The Arroyo administration paid P1.52 trillion in foreign debt service, interest and principal, from 2001-2008. It is scheduled to pay a further P224 billion in 2009 and P253.5 billion in 2010. In contrast, the programmed calamity fund for 2009 and 2010 were just P2 billion annually.

This unceasing debt service is undermining the government’s capacity not just to prepare for disasters, give relief and support rehabilitation after calamities, but also to meet the people’s basic needs for health, education and housing—which could have ensured their adaptability to extreme weather changes and resilience to calamities.

The government has a range of options for debt cancellation, said Africa. It can start from identifying a target overall percentage of debt stock and corresponding payments to cancel. It can identify particularly loans such as any still left over from the Marcos dictatorship or others funding particularly onerous or anti-developmental projects. Government can prioritize loans from multilateral development banks such as the World Bank or Asian Development Bank which, unlike commercial creditors, purportedly extend loans for developmental purposes.

The drastic economic slowdown especially with the onset of the global crisis, the looming fiscal crisis with deficits rising rapidly and now the calamities due to tropical storms Ondoy and Pepeng are enough justification to call for emergency cutbacks in foreign debt payments. More than trickles of foreign aid, debt cancellation would free up resources for relief and rehabilitation and for overall economic development.

“This is an opportunity for the government to exert political will and cease being a mendicant in its dealings with foreign governments and creditors,” said Africa. “We Filipinos are fully capable of helping ourselves if only the government stops its self-destructive debt policy.

IBON reiterates how successive governments including the Arroyo administration have vigorously opposed any debt moratorium, cancellation or repudiation on the grounds of protecting creditworthiness. However, this long-standing lack of vision in the government’s debt management policy has proven to be extremely burdensome for the people. (end)

IBON Foundation, Inc. is an independent development institution established in 1978 that provides research, education, publications, information work and advocacy support on socioeconomic issues.




14 October 2009

Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General, SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth,

Filipino-Americans say Arroyo's directives on relief efforts, a nuisance

The Philippines had been a disaster-ridden area recently, with typhoons Ondoy (international name Ketsena) and Pepeng (international name Parma) claiming the lives of hundreds in just a span of two weeks.

With the outpour of aid from supporters and Filipino migrants abroad, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued directives stating that all donations must go through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or else, donations will be taxed. The directives also indicate that only food, medicines and medical supplies (with the two latter requiring approval from the Department of Health or DOH) will be accepted, therefore leaving clothes, shoes and other such donations at risk of getting confiscated upon reaching the Bureau of Customs in the Philippines.

The directives, according to the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), a national alliance comprised of Filipino organizations in 23 cities in the United States, are "untimely", "inappropriate" and block much-needed support in these times of calamity from entering the country.

"The Philippine government cannot prevent concerned Filipinos from abroad to gather and send relief materials (aside from food, medicines and medical supplies) to the typhoon victims in the Philippines. Our kababayans back home also need clothes, shoes and other things to replace what they have lost. The government could surely not gather all these support by itself as proven in its inefficiency to even provide the most basic needs of the Filipino people," Fr. Ben Alforque, President of NAFCON based in San Bernardino, California, said.

Effects of Arroyo's Directives on Community Efforts Abroad

In different states, member organizations and supporters of NAFCON and SanDiwa (the youth arm of the alliance) have already gathered monetary donations amounting to more than $10,000, and hundreds of boxes with material donations are awaiting to be sent home to the Philippines.

But with the directives in place, organizations who have been making initiatives are having a hard time looking for shippers or air freights that could deliver for free since the Philippine government has already consigned most of these establishments and would only allow accredited organizations in the Philippines to receive donations. Sending and receiving organizations are then required to complete paperworks that need to go through much bureaucracy.

"It is absolutely absurd for Arroyo to issue such directives at a time like this. Why now when the Filipino people need all the immediate help they can get? These red tapes only breed discouragement among our kababayans, bringing about second thoughts in sending aid to the Philippines," Fr. Ben added.

Despite the different organizations looking for other ways to send the donations to the Philippines hassle and cost-free, NAFCON, with its member organizations in different states, still believes that the Filipino people must demand the Philippine government to allow into the country any form of help from migrants and supporters abroad -- free and without tax.

"We are not about to give up. The government must address these concerns and should stop making profit out of the goodwill of Filipinos abroad. The Philippine government is known to make profit out of social services instead of providing these for free to its citizens. This is why our kababayans here in the US are losing trust in the Philippine government and are turning to people's organizations in sending relief to the typhoon victims instead," Anne Beryl Corotan, President of SanDiwa, based in New York, remarked.

Community Actions vs Arroyo's Directives

In light of these restrictions, community meetings and actions have been taking place in different states, with the members of the communities actively participating in the resolve to send the donations no matter what.

Asked about what they fear if they course the donations through the Philippine government agencies and on what Filipinos abroad must do, Maureen Manuel, a New Jersey resident and member of Philippine Forum, one of NAFCON's member organizations, said, "Knowing the Philippine government, we won't be surprised if we find the confiscated material donations (clothes, shoes, etc) in ukay-ukays (flea markets). If we send our donations through its agencies, we are afraid that the donations will not reach the rightful recipients. That is why we must always be watchful and should not let Arroyo's directives hinder us from helping our fellow Filipinos."

Volunteers and donors, seniors and youth alike, still keep coming to the centers of these Filipino organizations, helping fold, sort through, and pack the donations into balikbayan boxes.

"Arroyo must learn from our simple kababayans who ask for nothing in return when they volunteer and step into our centers, and who only have their kindness and donations to offer as support for our fellow Filipinos back home," Fr. Ben ended.

Updates on NAFCON/SanDiwa's Bayanihan for Typhoon Disaster Relief can be monitored through For more information, please contact Anne Beryl (516) 9011832 for East Coast, and Ryan Leano (626) 5344971 for West Coast, or email at ###