12,000 Yolanda survivors march against BS Aquino in Tacloban City


January 24-25, 2014





The term “People Surge” or “Duluk han Katawhan” means an empowered people indicting the Noynoy Aquino government for its gross negligence that resulted in the massive loss of lives and properties. A metaphor to the storm surge that drowned people and communities during Yolanda’s wrath, the term illustrates a swelling of the people constituting the typhoon victims and their supporters who will gather their strength, rise up and flood the streets to exact justice from the inept government. People Surge also signifies Filipinos united to fight for their right to life and humane existence.

----- People Surge



Photos by Balsa Mindano, Obet de Castro, Renato Reyes and Tudla Productions
as indicated by the filenames of the photos


Tonyo Cruz

Resilient, yes. But remember, the Samarnons, Leytenhos and Biliranons also know how to take a stand and fight

Thousands of our kababayans in Tacloban and Eastern recently came out to finally erupt in indignant protest over the gross incompetence of the Aquino regime in addressing the harsh impact of typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Coming together under the newly-formed People Surge alliance, they launched a protest in Tacloban, with many coming from various towns devastated by the world's strongest typhoon ever to hit land.

The issues the Taclobanons are raising are nothing new. The people of Metro Manila have raised them for the longest time. The only difference is that the protesters are themselves the survivors who faced head on the supertyphoon and the manmade disaster called the Aquino regime. They have every right to do so. Actually, they have a civic duty to tell the whole world what has happened or what is happening, considering the billions of taxpayer money supposedly being allotted for relief and rehabilitation and with the President already congratulating himself and the social welfare secretary for a "job well done".

Of course, the cause-oriented groups were there. Unknown to many, Bayan quickly and quietly fanned out across the huge area devastated by Yolanda, with activists undertaking two relief caravans in November and December across several towns of Eastern Visayas. The whole region has long been a baluarte of Bayan and cause-oriented groups who the people there know very well. Local chapters of Bayan there are time- and battle-tested in campaigns to fight abusive dynasties, expose military operations that target civilians and teach themselves self-reliance amid want.

Make no mistake about it: The people of Tacloban and Eastern Visayas are not just resilient. They are Samarnons, Leytenhos and Biliranons. They have a long, proud history of fighting for a better life. They are intelligent too and they know if they are being used by the regime to deodorize or cover up gross incompetence that transforms natural disasters into man-made ones.



Renato Reyes, Jr.


Thousand mobilized in Tacloban from January 24-25 to join the launch of the People Surge alliance and the first major protest action in the city since Yolanda.


The venue at the EVSU could hardly contain the participants who arrived from towns from Leyte and Samar. Naguumapaw ang tao. There were logistical challenges but never did we see the people become unruly at the venue.


Kahit gutom na at mainit ang araw, walang nagtutulakan, walang nag-uunahan. And they came there with a clear purpose. To join the protest. Baka kasi sabihin na naman ng DSWD na kaya pumunta ang mga tao kasi may pangako ng relief goods (tulad nung pinakalat ni you-know-who laban sa mga nagpo-protestang biktima ng Pablo). Wala pong namimigay ng relief goods sa protesta. At kung magsu-survey ka sa rally, makikita mo kung gaano talaga pinabayaan ng pamahalaan ang mga biktima. Makatarungan ang kanilang protesta. Pagpupugay sa mga biktima ng Yolanda sa Eastern Visayas. Kaisa nyo kami!





People Surge
January 24 · Edited
Aquino desperate, uses survey to deodorize his administration – BAYAN Eastern Visayas

IN TACLOBAN CITY – The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Eastern Visayas assailed the recent SWS survey saying that President Benigno Aquino III received a “very good” satisfaction rating from areas ravaged by supertyphoon Yolanda last November.

“The survey is very delusional. The Aquino government must be very desperate that it has now started to exhaust all possible mediums to sanitize what is really happening in areas devastated by Yolanda,” said Jun Berino, secretary general of BAYAN-Eastern Visayas.

“Who is this administration fooling? The survey result is a blatant lie. The SWS survey was obviously commissioned by Malacanang. It is a lousy attempt to influence public opinion and it failed obviously. It actually boomeranged to the Aquino administration. The people of Eastern Visayas must be enraged at the moment at the results of the SWS Survey,” added Berino.

“We are challenging the Aquino administration to go to the interior villages, evacuation centers, coastal communities, rural and urban schools and mass grave of Yolanda victims,” challenged Berino. He said that in all the places BAYAN-EV has been to for relief and rehabilitation efforts, the people have been so thirsty for help, may it be food, cash or medical assistance.

A resident in a fishing village in Tacloban City also aired the same sentiment. When asked what help the government has done to her family and community, she replied, “Government? What government? We did not receive any help from them here in Tacloban. The only aid that arrives are from the international institutions,” said Rowena Berio, 36 years old, of Barangay 52, Magallanes District, Tacloban City.

She is one of the thousands of residents affected by the No-Build Zone policy being imposed by the Aquino government on coastal communities within the 40-meter stretch from the shore. Like Berino, she challenged President Noynoy Aquino to see for himself the miserable conditions of residents living along the coastal communities. She said that their fishing boat was destroyed and that they could not go fishing. She also refuses to be transferred to New Kawayan, a relocation site that does not guarantee livelihood and is very far from their source of living and her children’s schooling.

Delia Dacuital, 46, has been staying at the Astrodome evacuation center for more than two months already. She and her family were originally from Barangay 61, Old Road Sagkahan, Tacloban City. She demands that the Aquino government give her family proper shelter and a job with adequate salary.

“The typhoon victims are really exasperated at the government. They find the government inutile,” adds Berino. He said that the typhoon victims have to endure the wretched conditions in the evacuation centers. Families cannot go back to their homes and livelihood because of the No-Build Zone policy. The corruption-riddled bunkhouses only serve as a photo-op for Aquino and his minions to show that they are doing something. Actually, not a single family has been relocated to these overpriced units. Thousands of families in Tacloban City alone do not know where else to go,” ended Berino.

Reference Person:
Jun Berino, secretary general
Bayan Sinirangan Bisayas
Reference Number: 09355208853




JANUARY 20, 2014
Land rights for the poor in post-Yolanda recovery
By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star

Among the myriad problems that must be addressed in the national and international efforts to hasten recovery from the devastation left by typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda — and to do it right — an important aspect should be included: land rights for the poor.

This suggestion came from Tim Hanstad and Roy Prosterman, leaders of Landesa, an advocacy group that has worked for 46 years to secure land rights for the poor in 46 countries.

The Aquino government would do well to study the idea seriously, for two reasons. It’s not only a requisite component in implementing a thoroughgoing recovery program for the devastated communities and the economy, but also in resolving the long-festering problems of agrarian reform and much-needed urban land reform.

Hanstad and Prosterman made the suggestion in a recent article titled “The poor get washed away,” published in the International New York Times.

With reference to natural disasters akin to Haiyan/Yolanda, the authors cited the experiences in Aceh (now an autonomous province of Indonesia) and Haiti. As regards resolving the problems of landlessness and lack of secure property rights among the poor, they pointed to successes in South Korea, Vietnam, and Rwanda.

Taking off from the impact of Haiyan/Yolanda – killing more than 6,000 people (including over a thousand living in a “single squatter camp” in Tacloban) and leaving more than four million homeless — Hanstad and Prosterman wrote:

“The developing world’s landless poor routinely bear the brunt of these disasters. Families without secure rights to land (and that is a majority of rural residents in many developing countries) often remain in their homes when it is dangerous to do so, fearing they won’t be allowed to return. And without the security of ownership and access to collateral, their homes are often not built to withstand earthquakes, typhoons and other disasters.”

“Landlessness and the lack of secure property rights among the poor not only hurt a country’s resiliency and slow post-disaster recovery,” they continued. “Those inequities also hold back economic development, perpetuate poverty and fan social tensions.”

Fixing these problems is not easy. But many countries, including South Korea, Vietnam and Rwanda, they pointed out, “have reformed their laws and institutions to provide the rural poor with enforceable rights to the lands they live on and farm.”

It’s important to study these success stories, Hanstad and Prosterman stressed, because “the vulnerability of the world’s landless — squatters, indigenous people, farm laborers and tenant farmers — cannot be overstated.”

In Tacloban, for example, “government officials are considering buying a six-acre parcel that was a squatter camp and preventing its reconstruction,” they warned, “just one of the reported cases of efforts to seize valuable land vacated by occupants who fled Haiyan and lacked legal title.”

A previous instance was when a cyclone struck the Indian state of Orissa in 1999, killing 10,000 people. Many belonged to poor fishing families who refused to evacuate their coastal villages, “believing it was a ploy to evict them from the government land where they had built their huts.”

And in Haiti today, more than 100,000 (majority of them landless poor) remain in temporary shelters four years after an earthquake flattened their homes. A key factor hampering rebuilding there is the lack of secure land rights among the displaced, said the authors.

However, in Aceh, devastated by a tsunami in 2004, remedial steps were taken. Initially, the government relief effort fell short, the authors narrated, as “displaced renters and squatters received only small cash payments to buy building materials or to pay rent, while landowners received new homes.”

Years later, tens of thousands, who still lived in squalid temporary barracks, vigorously protested, compelling the government to provide them with new homes built either at their old sites or in new locations — “all with secure title to the land.”

“Aceh has since made a remarkable recovery. The region is at peace, the economy is growing, life expectancy is increasing and poverty is falling,” Hanstad and Prosterman exulted. They concluded that while providing secure land titles wasn’t the sole factor, “the recovery could not have been achieved until the fundamental issue of land rights was addressed.”

As regards our country’s situation, they suggested:

“The recent disaster in the Philippines could provide the opportunity for the country to sweep away the biggest roadblock to growth and stability there – the widespread lack of landownership among the poor.”

As foreign aid continues to pour in, the international community should “seize this moment,” they advised, to press for “enforcement of the country’s long-ignored land tenure reform laws (which) call for government distribution to the poor of large swaths of public land, and for purchase and distribution of certain private land (including idle or abandoned property and bankrupt plantations).”

“The landowning elite has resisted these reforms, but implementing them,” they emphasized, “will help the country and its landless poor recover and prosper.”

Prosterman, now 77, knows the Philippine land problems at bottom, having visited the country several times. In the 1960s he urged the World Bank to support agrarian reform in the country. But he became disillusioned with the government’s failure, starting under Ferdinand Marcos, to carry it out.

This international activist, as he is known, has been twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

* * *

E-mail: satur.ocampo@gmail.com
January 18, 2014





JANUARY 11, 2014
Bunkhouse bunk
Vantage Point | BusinessWorld

If the destruction wrought by typhoon Yolanda had a positive side, it was the opportunity it offered to rebuild the shattered communities of the Visayas into habitats that would not only provide poorer residents adequate shelter but also protect them from the calamities that regularly strike these islands. A reconstruction program driven by an imaginative social policy could have been the basis for making that opportunity a reality.

Instead, what is emerging is a total lack of either imagination or vision that’s once again providing the usual crooks in government and the private sector opportunities for unlawful gain at the expense of the victims of Yolanda and the whole nation. One of the most telling indicators of the sheer incapacity of the so-called leaders of this country to think out of their accustomed boxes is the decision to build bunkhouses.

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson says these temporary living quarters meant for those who lost their homes to typhoon Yolanda that are being built by private contractors for the government are not overpriced. He admits, however, that they don’t meet international standards and that some of the contractors may have not followed government specifications — in which case, he emphasizes, they won’t be paid.

But that’s hardly the point. Whether these bunkhouses meet international standards, and whether their builders did not follow government specifications, have a bearing on their price. The cost of the structures was premised on the contractors’ meeting both government specifications as well as the standards set by international rehabilitation and habitat experts.

The claim that the overpricing of the bunkhouses, of which the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has been implicated together with local politicians, is based on the contrast between contract specifications and the way the structures have turned out. It isn’t so much whether the contractors have been paid that’s at issue, but whether the structures are worth the contracted cost — which the contractors would have likely been paid had there been no complaints about the shoddy quality of what they had built.

Both local as well as international experts have described the bunkhouse units constructed earlier as too small, among other flaws. Each unit had an area of 8.64 square meters into which a Filipino family was expected to cram themselves. The average size of a Filipino family being six persons (parents plus four children), it should be obvious that fitting into units hardly bigger than a shower stall would be next to physically impossible.

In addition to the sheer physical limits families of six or even more would have had to cope with, living in such cramped quarters without any segregation of the sexes and no physical barriers between adults and children would also have exposed young girls to abuse by a predatory parent. The Department of Social Welfare is well aware of the dangers to young girls posed by the overcrowding characteristic of substandard dwellings, many of which are far more spacious than the 8.64 square meters earlier allotted to each family.

Although the DPWH has announced that each bunkhouse unit will now be double the size of what had earlier been allotted (they will now be 17.28 square meters), it still doesn’t address the potential perils young girls would be exposed to when they’re forced to sleep in such close proximity to adult males and male siblings.

The construction of bunkhouses, despite Secretary Singson’s pious assertion that their contractors are practically donating the structures to the victims of Yolanda, has thus become another door of opportunity for graft and self-aggrandizement by the usual suspects in the public and private sectors.

It is also of doubtful value as social policy. Once those who can’t rebuild their homes are relocated in these bunkhouses, communities could develop that would be no different from the very same informal settler settlements that are the most seriously affected by the natural calamities to which poorer Filipinos are especially susceptible.

No time limit has been fixed for the occupancy of these bunkhouses, but even with the assumption that they will indeed be temporary habitations, will they be demolished afterwards despite what they cost? And would that not be another instance of wasting the resources the government has never tired of saying are both scarce and limited?

But what is of even greater moment beyond the issues the construction of bunkhouses has raised are even more basic questions. The program squanders the opportunity to construct in the devastated areas of the Visayas livable habitats and communities worthy of human beings, and in fact assumes that because of need, the planned beneficiaries, after living in tents for months, will accept any alternative no matter how cramped or dangerous.

Rather than implementing a program that’s the equivalent of applying a band aid to cure cancer, some sectors have suggested that the Aquino administration seize the opportunity offered by the need for the reconstruction of the areas razed by Yolanda to build not only permanent housing structures but also entire communities.

But to make to make such a program truly meaningful, innovative, and even radical, would have required the kind of rigorous, intelligent planning lacking in the laid-back Aquino administration, and even the declaration of a state of emergency in the affected areas in the Visayas.

Such a declaration, Philippine experience suggests, would have been problematic. In two crucial instances, the rulers of this country used supposedly critical situations against rather than for the people. Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of martial law was a proclamation of a state of national emergency writ large. He claimed that saving the Republic and reforming society was its supposed purpose, whereas it was primarily meant to keep him in power. In more recent times, the Arroyo administration’s emergency declaration in 2006 was among the many means the regime used to suppress opposition and criticism.

What this country has long needed is a political class that will use both its existing capacities and whatever extraordinary powers may be delegated to it for the welfare, protection and wellbeing of its constituencies rather than for self-aggrandizement, silencing critics, and oppression. That need is once again being demonstrated in the aftermath of Yolanda. Thanks to the creatures who have monopolized power in this country for decades, the opportunities the Yolanda tragedy offers for this country to put together model communities for the poorer victims of the typhoon will go the way of others long since lost. In its place we have the short-sighted construction of bunkhouses, among others, instead of a long-term, sustainable program based on a well-thought out social policy.

Comments, blogs and other columns: www.luisteodoro.com, and www.cmfr-phil.org

Luis V. Teodoro is on Facebook and Twitter (@luisteodoro)
Published in Business World
January 9, 2014


People Surge
Liked · January 23 · Edited ·

“Our alliance has been assessing damages, conducting relief operations, medical missions and facilitating relief and rehabilitation efforts of private local and international organizations.

Our volunteers have been monitoring what’s really happening on the ground. There’s a common trend when we ask the typhoon victims from the coastal communities, evacuation centers, schools, urban poor communities about the support they get from the Aquino government.

The government agencies only rely on foreign aid. They tie up with these foreign donors, or require these donors to collaborate with them and then they pass up any kind of support, monetary or in kind, as theirs.”

Sr. Edita Eslopor, OSB
People Surge (Alliance for Yolanda (Haiyan) Victims)




JANUARY 9, 2014
Fisherfolk to protest against off limits zone policy in Yolanda ravaged coastal areas

“They want our people out of the coastal zones because they prefer big business groups who want to invest in Public-Private Partnership projects that would virtually transform Leyte and Samar coastal areas into export-bane processing zones in Region 8.”


MANILA- Local chapters of the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) in Eastern Samar and Leyte are set to stage a big protest next week against the policy of the national government imposing an off limits zone policy in coastal areas ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda last year.

According to Salvador France, vice chair of Pamalakaya, their regional chapter Pamalakaya-Eastern Visayas will spearhead the mass action on January 16 against the no build zone policy in Yolanda stricken areas, and they will be supported by rural based groups affiliated with Sagupa-Sinirangang Bisayas, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis partylist-Eastern Visayas.

“The no-build zone policy covering 40 meters from the shoreline is a death warrant to tens of thousands of subsistence fishermen, small coconut farmers and other rural poor situated along the coastal areas of Leyte and Samar provinces.”

Praeteritum et futurum (The past and the future). A survivor has his back on the destruction wrought by Typhoon Yolanda, as he looks to be pondering his future--whatever that may hold for him. (Estancia Port, Iloilo)
Praeteritum et futurum (The past and the future). A survivor has his back on the destruction wrought by Typhoon Yolanda, as he looks to be pondering his future–whatever that may hold for him. (Photo by Raymund Villanueva / Bulatlat.com)
“They want our people out of the coastal zones because they prefer big business groups who want to invest in Public-Private Partnership projects that would virtually transform Leyte and Samar coastal areas into export-bane processing zones in Region 8,” the Pamalakaya official noted.

France said Pamalakaya-Eastern Visayas, Sagupa-SB and Anakpawis partylist would try to mobilize more than 10,000 Yolanda survivors, mostly small fishermen, coconut farmers and rural poor who would be displaced from their livelihood and communities courtesy of the no-build zone policy.

Outrage spread to other areas Pamalakaya said next month, their chapters in Northern Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz in Panay and in Northern Cebu would also stage protests actions against the still unsigned Executive Order declaring Yolanda affected coastal areas as off limits to fishing and other human activities.

In a statement, regional formations led by Pamalakaya-Eastern Visayas, Pamalakaya-Negros, Pamalakaya-Central Visayas and Pamalakaya-Panay vowed to oppose what they called as the grand massacre of their livelihood and collective rights. The groups lamented that the Aquino administration will soon promulgate an executive order that would prevent, regulate or contain small-scale fishermen from pursuing their fishing activities and from enjoying settlement and housing rights along coastal communities.

“The EO declaring coastal communities as off limit zones is meant to displace us and deny our rights to livelihood and social justice. On the other hand, the absolute bias of the EO is clear– that the areas recently damaged by super typhoon Yolanda will be converted into economic zones to accommodate big businesses in accordance with the national land and water use policy of the state under the umbrella and direction of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) agreements,” the regional fisherfolk groups said in their joint statement.

The Pamalakaya official noted that the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is planning to build a new special manufacturing area in typhoon-ravaged Leyte under the pretext of rehabilitation and reconstruction in Eastern Visyas.

The PEZA has already identified a 10-hectare property that would be a possible site for the light industry, low-technology econozone. In addition, the PEZA will also look into applications for special economic zones in the area so that the reconstruction and provision of jobs would be fast-tracked.

HB 3640

Pamalakaya argued that massive demolition of fishing communities is further bolstered by a bill, which has been filed at the House of Representatives, seeking to create a special economic zone in the typhoon-devastated city of Tacloban, Leyte.

The group was referring to House Bill 3640, or the Tacloban City Special Economic Zone Act of 2013, filed by 10 lawmakers from the independent bloc led by Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez, which stressed that establishment of the zone would spur investments in Tacloban.

The ecozone bill read, “There are physical, geographic and natural attributes of the Tacloban City coastline area that can make the creation of a freeport ideal. Tacloban port was a haven for international ships and even carriers as evident during the relief operations of some foreign countries in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda last November 8, 2013.”

The bill likewise said that the port is easily accessible to large commercial ships plying the seas of the Asia-Pacific Region and is just a few kilometers away from the Tacloban City airport, which has plenty of room for upgrading to transform it into an international airport. Under the bill, the proposed Tacloban City Ecozone will operate as a decentralized, self-reliant and self-sustaining, industrial, commercial/trading, agro-industrial, tourist, banking, financial and investment center with suitable residential areas.

Pamalakaya said the draft Palace EO currently being worked out is billed as “Adopting fisherfolk shelter for stewards as a national strategy to ensure safe and decent settlement in coastal communities and establishing support mechanisms for its implementation.”

The group said the EO would remove over nine million fishermen and people living in coastal areas or about 10 percent of the country’s population. “Once signed by the President, it will legalize the removal and demolition of fishing villages. “The EO on fish settlement is an open declaration of war against the Filipino fishing community,”

In justifying the EO, President Aquino said Filipinos should learn from the painful lessons of Yolanda, as well as tropical storms “Sendong” and typhoon “Pablo”. President Aquino said the DENR had marked as “danger zones” many coastal areas based on the geo-hazard mapping of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

Constitutionality issues

Pamalakaya, and its chapters— Pamalakaya-Eastern Visayas, Pamalakaya-Negros, Pamalakaya- Panay and Guimaras, Pamalakaya-Cebu and Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog will lead the filing of a petition questioning the EO’s constitutionality before the SC.

The group said it will also tap the support of non-government organizations like the Visayas based Fisheries and Marine Environmental Research Institute (FMERI) and the Fisherfolk Development Center (FIDEC) in questioning the EO before the high tribunal.

Pamalakaya said that while President Aquino is bent on removing more than nine million people along coastal areas in the country, it is also aggressive in selling coastal areas to private corporations and foreign companies engaged in large-scale reclamation, black sand mining, ecozone projects and tourism development programs.

Pamalakaya said President Aquino should be held responsible for the loss of 6,000 lives, the injury of 18,557 individuals, for the missing 1,602 people and for more than 2. 145 million families or more than nine million individuals displaced during Typhoon Yolanda.

Prior to typhoon Yolanda, the situation of the people in Eastern Visayas, the most devastated region, was already deplorable. Region VIII, which comprises the provinces of Samar and Leyte, ranks as the 3rd region hit, Western Visayas, which includes Negros, Panay and Guimaras islands, has a poverty incidence of 24.7 percent and unemployment rate of 27.8 percent. (http://bulatlat.com)

March to Tacloban City proper ▼


Bayan questions government rehab framework
Posted on 08 January 2014 by admin
News Release
January 8, 2014

On the second month since supertyphoon Yolanda hit the country, the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan questioned the so-called rehabilitation framework of the Aquino government called Reconstruction Assistance for Yolanda (RAY), issued by the National Economic Develpment Authority or NEDA last December 16.

“It is not just the alleged corruption in bunkhouses which should be a concern. It appears that under the government’s reconstruction framework, the poor will be marginalized even more. The so-called reconstruction framework does not address how the most affected and vulnerable sectors will recover from the devastation,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“The title of the plan is ‘build back better’ but it does not say how and when this will be done. The plan may even fall short of achieving pre-Yolanda economic levels,” he added.

Bayan observed that rebuilding the agricultural sector seems to be a low priority for the national government despite NEDA’s admission that “majority of those who lost their incomes and sources of livelihood are the marginalized rural workers – farmers, fisherfolk, and coconut farmers.”

In its study, NEDA estimates that the investment requirements for agriculture until 2017 is around P18.7 billion whereas the total damage to agriculture is around P31 billion and future losses amounting to P30.8 billion.

Bayan also questioned the emphasis on the efforts of big business in the reconstruction efforts. Rehab czar Panfilo Lacson had already announced that the reconstruction efforts will be led by the private sector with government serving as enabler or facilitator.

Under the RAY framework, “government seeks to enable new modalities to encourage and facilitate the active involvement of the private sector in implementing RAY. Options for greater private sector involvement include: expansion of public-private partnership arrangements for major investment programs.”

“The big real estate developers, mining and construction firms are lining up in disaster areas, circling like vultures on the devastated communities. They are identifying the areas that are profitable, a criteria that does not necessarily go hand in hand with the actual needs of the people. The government is pushing for greater privatization in the power sector despite the fact that this will drive power rates even higher at a time when the people have almost no income. Rather than subsidize consumers, the government will let market forces dictate the price of electricity in these disaster-stricken areas,” Reyes said.

“Because there is no coherent, government-led plan, reconstruction efforts would depend on what the private sector would view as profitable in the long-run. Storm victims run the risk of being further marginalized and exploited under such a scheme. That’s disaster capitalism for you,” he added. ###

Bayan supports the demands outlined in its Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan (BALSA) relief campaign. BALSA is a multisectoral effort initiated by Bayan and various progressive groups responding to calamities and disasters.

Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan (BALSA)

On the Immediate Needs for Relief and Assistance

Sustain the delivery of food and water relief to affected families, especially making sure to reach remote communities yet to be reached by government aid, until their lives and livelihood are able to stabilize;

Ensure a faster and efficient recovery and identification of dead bodies and the subsequent provision of decent burial;

Hasten and broaden the scope of medical and psycho-social services, with particular stress in addressing the post-traumatic stress of women and children;
Immediately restore or provide sufficient temporary alternatives to critical public utilities such as temporary shelter, water facilities and electricity sources such as solar panels;

Ensure the immediate transition of displaced students towards a stable environment for education through cross-registration, a waiver of school fees and the provision of their subsistent needs;

Suspend all counter-insurgency and militarization programs in the affected areas that cause undue stress, panic and waste of resources.

On the Medium-Term Needs for Rehabilitation and Recovery

Massively employ and mobilize affected communities in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of important public infrastructure such as housing, schools, hospitals, water systems and power systems; Implement a housing reconstruction plan that genuinely ensures disaster resiliency, people’s access to livelihood and social services, and due prioritization of the most vulnerable sectors;

Provide adequate financial and material subsidy and compensation for the affected population with respect to their loss of family, property and livelihood, particularly for much-needed agricultural and fisheries support;
Immediately conduct mangrove and beach forest reforestation, the de-siltation of rivers and other environmental rehabilitation measures deemed appropriate to affected localities;

Ensure the training and capacity building of affected communities on disaster risk reduction and implementing locally-appropriate preparedness plans, as an alternative to the government’s top-down warning and response plans;
Enact an itemized disaster rehabilitation and recovery fund based on a comprehensive disaster risk reduction and management plan that will act upon the abovementioned demands;

On the Strategic Needs in Addressing the Roots of the Yolanda Crisis

Initiate a joint investigation by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in cooperation with local watchdogs and advocates, with the objective of holding accountable the government’s criminal neglect in preparing for and responding to the impacts Super Typhoon Yolanda;

Implement a comprehensive and pro-active national disaster risk-reduction and management master plan that follows, and does not only pay lip service to, the goals of community-based disaster risk reduction and management, climate change adaptation and climate and social justice;

Audit disaster and climate change-related policies such as the Climate Change Act of 2009 and its National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP), and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan (NDRRMP) 2011-2028;

Scrap destructive and pollutive policies that run diametrically opposed to climate change and disaster laws, especially those that have track records of worsening disaster and climate risks and vulnerabilities, and contributing to greater greenhouse gas emissions such as the Mining Act of 1995 and Executive Order 79, National Reclamation Plan, Fisheries Code of 1998, the Forestry Code of 1975, and the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, among others;
Implement genuine agrarian reform under the auspices of a national industrialization program as a key solution to mass poverty and its consequent people’s vulnerability to disasters and climate change impacts;

Abolish all forms of pork barrel justified as contingency funds, for its promotion of a reactive disaster risk reduction and management program used for corruption, malversation of funds and political patronage.
- See more at: http://www.bayan.ph/site/2014/01/bayan-questions-government-rehab-framework/#sthash.0IEbMZSf.dpuf





Pro-people rehab framework, international probe urged one month after Yolanda
Posted on 09 December 2013 by admin
News Release
December 9, 2013

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today called on typhoon Yolanda victims to press for a pro-people rehabilitation framework for affected provinces and comminites. The call came one month after the storm destroyed significant areas of Eastern Visayas and some areas of Panay Island, Palawan and Mindoro.

“The rehabilitation framework of the government should consider the fact that Eastern Visayas is a very underdeveloped economy, and is the third poorest region in the country. It is a region that has registered the highest incidence of hunger. It depends greatly on agriculture and fisheries. Government must ensure that the socio-economic rights of the people are upheld,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“We are gravely concerned with the pronouncement of so-called rehabilitation czar, incoming secretary Panfilo Lacson, that the rehab program would be led by the private sector with government taking only the role of ‘enabler’. The rights and interests of the people, especially of the poor, will not necessarily be a priority under such a regime,” Reyes said.

Bayan said that if big business take the lead in rehab efforts, marginalized sectors may not be assured that their interests will also be at the forefront. It cited an example the relocation of the urban poor who are said to live in so-called danger areas. “Is the government preparing a housing program for the poor residents it plans to displace in the name of safety? Will there be livelihood programs in the areas where they will be relocated?” Reyes asked.

The group said that reconstruction in affected areas should be geared towards the building of public infrastructure which should include mass housing, schools, hospitals, water and power facilities. Government should have a program for mass employment geared towards rebuillding these public infrastructure.

Bayan also said that the needs of the farmers and fisherfolk should be immediately addressed. This includes genuine land reform in the countryside along with government support services. Government should also help in providing motorized bancas for the coastal communities ravaged by the storm.

International probe of government response

The umbrella goup also pressed the Philippine government to subject itself to international scrutiny over the way it prepared for the calamity and how it responded to the humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of Yolanda/Haiyan. This would be more objective than the probe being proposed by Aquino, the group said.

The Philippine government should issue a standing invitation to all relevant UN mechanisms, monitors, rapporteurs or panels who may have an interest in looking at the record of the Philippine government in relation to Yolanda/Haiyan. These may include the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, the Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights and the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

“The independent international probe is necessary to draw lessons from what happened before and after Yolanda. The Philippine government must be held to account and must be pressed to undertake necessary steps towards effective disaster preparedness for the future,” Reyes said.

- See more at: http://www.bayan.ph/site/2013/12/pro-people-rehab-framework-international-probe-urged-one-month-after-yolanda/#sthash.hpIJEZLd.dpuf





DECEMBER 2, 2013
They are people with stories to tell

They were the first people I noticed as we approached a mass burial in front of San Joaquin Parish Church in Palo, Leyte: two teenage sisters standing over an unmarked grave with only a single candle protected from the wind by a plastic cola bottle. It is an image that will probably stay with me for a long time.

I did not even get their names; my intention to interview them was lost when I approached and saw them trying to comfort each other through their tears. They just buried their mother, and two of their siblings’ bodies have yet to be recovered from the swamp. I asked them if I can take photos of the grave. They both nodded and one sister sobbed in Filipino: “We don’t even have flowers to offer to Mama.”

After I took photos I murmured my condolences and stood quietly beside them as the priest led the prayers. One of the sisters said it would be dangerous for them to attempt to recover the bodies by themselves. “We help each other because we get no help from the government.”

Earlier that day, in Dulag, Leyte, a group of kids followed me around as I took photos of the damage to their village. I talked to them as we sat near the beach among the uprooted coconut trees. We talked about their school and their favorite games. I, in turn, told them about how scared I was of helicopters as a kid as we watched one with relief goods hovering above us. Ten-year-old Marie Grace recounted how one truck with relief goods passed by their village days after the typhoon and how they all ran out of the schoolhouse where they were staying upon seeing it. The truck did not stop. “Maybe we scared them off,” she said. “But we are not really rowdy; we are just hungry.”

In barangay Diit, Tacloban City we met a family rebuilding their house from scraps of wood and metal sheets they salvaged from the debris. As the parents talked about taking temporary shelter in an abandoned van in front of where their house used to be and surviving on a piece of sweet potato once a day I noticed their youngest daughter who kept looking at me. I smiled at her and she promptly hid behind a house post. I took her photo and was finally rewarded with a smile when I showed it to her. Her name is Diday and she is four years old. I tried to talk to her but she could barely understand Tagalog, and I do not speak Leneyte-Samarnon. I tried a few Cebuano words and her face would light up when she recognized some words. “Maalam,” she said with a smile whenever I said something she understood. I noticed a broken school medal she was holding so I offered to fix it so she can wear it around her neck. Diday’s brothers who were playing nearby told me the medal was their eldest sister’s medal for academic excellence. She left right after the typhoon to try her luck in Manila. She is 16 years old and they have not heard from her since she left.

As I fixed the medal Diday and I kept our conversation going. She asked what I was doing there and I tried to explain as best as I could about my job. I asked her what she likes doing best and she said “What do I want?” I nodded. “I want a biscuit. That’s what I want now.”

I thought of the pack of biscuits in my bag. It was all the food I had allotted for myself that day. I knew it won’t be enough for herself and her brothers, but I gave it to her anyway. I told her to share them with her brothers, but they declined saying their sister needed it more than them.

There were more people whom I have met in Leyte those first few days after Typhoon Yolanda. I could go on and on about the stories they told me. A grandmother and her five year old granddaughter who walked for hours to find food and water for their family. The little boy who lined up for four hours outside Tacloban’s City’s Legislative Hall and only received a few pieces of bread, two small bottles of water, a cup of instant noodles and two packs of coffee. Five-year-old Janelle who lives in an evacuation center, misses her home and wants to go back to school. The mother who could not hold on to her son during the storm surge and has yet to find him. The grandmother from MacArthur, Leyte who took a ride to Dulag town with us and made us laugh with her stories. Other people I met when I walked down the streets, the same people one columnist so callously described as walking like “zombies”, who still managed to smile, greet me “Kumusta?’(How are you?”) or prod me and my camera with “Ate, picture!”

Many people told me it was a pity I did not see how beautiful the province was before Yolanda. I believe I saw that beauty through every person I have met there. I feel honored to have met them and I hope I am telling their stories well.

Back in Manila a friend asked me what was the most horrible thing I saw while I was in Leyte after Yolanda. After thinking the question over I believe it was not the bloated bodies on the streets. It was not even the sight of entire villages totally wiped out. It was actually the amount of food; the sacks of rice; the boxes upon boxes of bottled water; the mountains of relief goods in the ports, at the airport and in government houses we visited. Seeing those (hardly being moved by government people and relief agencies) and knowing that so many people were still desperately hungry; seeing those and remembering the children who only had a piece of sweet potato once a day because their parents do not know where to get more food. To me, those were beyond horrible. It was President Benigno Aquino III himself, on national television the night before Yolanda struck, who promised the relief goods were “prepositioned” and were ready for distribution. Then I met Marie Grace, Diday, the two sisters and many others, still struggling, still hungry, still waiting for their government to help days after the disaster began. (http://bulatlat.com)

- See more at: http://bulatlat.com/main/2013/12/02/they-are-people-with-stories-to-tell/#sthash.DZwlKb16.dpuf




DECEMBER 2, 2013

People in Samar, Leyte still hungry despite gov’t claims of moving forward from relief to rehabilitation

“We had thought we’d see the government or the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) busy at work, but we didn’t see them. We didn’t see anyone rushing to do relief and rehab.”– Connie Bragas- Regalado, Migrante, during a relief mission in Samar and Leyte November 23-24.


MANILA — The Aquino government appointed former senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson as “rehabilitation czar” to take charge of the rehabilitation of typhoon-ravaged central Philippines as it secures more funding for it, on top of the millions of dollars in donations and loans pouring in. But for various groups already helping the victims of typhoon Yolanda, a huge gap exists between what are actually being done on the ground and what government announcements claim.

“We are outraged by the report of forensic expert Dr. Raquel Fortun that the death toll is being deliberately tinkered with by the national government to make it look as if the tragedy is less devastating than it really is,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon.

Fortun – who spent five days in central Philippines to assist in identifying the dead but went back to Manila after reportedly having conflict with NBI officials – lashed out at the Aquino administration for supposedly requiring a “coroner’s certification” before adding a dead body to the official death toll.

“Certification of a coroner’s report is needed before a body is counted? “Do you know Mr. President that we don’t have coroners in the Philippines?” Fortun said in her Twitter account.

Earlier, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III had immediately reprimanded and reassigned the Tacloban City chief of police for coming out with an estimate of 10,000 when asked about the death toll in the city. Repeated stalling in updating the number of the dead had from then on marked the uptick in the death toll over the last three weeks since typhoon Yolanda hit.

In providing services to the typhoon victims including bringing in much-needed relief, government statements have been suggesting it has reached all areas and that it is now about to taper off relief operations as it is already moving on to another phase toward rehabilitation.

“The government continues to boast about the supposed distribution of over a million relief packs, yet we still get reports from the ground that survivors in far-flung communities have barely felt or seen government relief efforts,” Ridon said in a statement late last week, referring to reports by their relief team Tulong Kabataan. They took part in BALSA (Bayan Alay sa Sambayanan) relief operation last week at underreported towns of Samar and Leyte provinces. The youths’ team reported that in Leyte and Samar, relief efforts are largely centralized in city and municipal centers, and survivors especially from far-flung mountain communities have to walk 10 to 30 kilometers just to receive food packs.

But even in the city and municipal centers where the government relief efforts had focused, the actual relief distributed seemed scant.

Connie Bragas- Regalado, chairperson of Migrante who joined a BALSA team that brought relief in some towns of Leyte in Nov 23 and 24, told Bulatlat.com how surprised they were of what they encountered in Leyte. Considering the local and international media coverage of the devastation in Tacloban City of Leyte, the Migrante leader admitted she had expected that the nexus of the government’s relief and rehabilitation efforts would be easily visible to anyone in the area. Instead, she saw people rushing to them begging for relief, crying out that they are very hungry.

“We had thought we’d see the government or the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) busy at work, but we didn’t see them. We didn’t see anyone rushing to do relief and rehab,” Bragas-Regalado said.

In Tacloban City itself, the BALSA teams were shocked that in at least two schools, which were turned into evacuation centers, evacuees told them that since they began staying there, the DSWD had given each family just two kilos of rice, and no more after that. Some have no roofs over their heads; some said the place also stank.

With survivors desperate to help themselves, the Philippines’ labor department in cooperation with the International Labor Organization (with funding from the Japanese government) have begun implementing an emergency employment program at about the same time BALSA was in Leyte and Samar.

“Emergency employment essentially puts money in the hands of individuals affected. We know that 2.2 million were vulnerably employed – that’s equivalent to the city of Chicago – so we put cash in their hands right away,” said Lawrence Jeff Johnson, ILO Philippine Office Director, in a statement last week.

Johnson of ILO assured that those who enter the cash-for-work program “are not victims again” as they will also ensure “they have safe working conditions – gloves, protective materials, also good practices when they’re working.” He said they also “get access to social protection – health insurance, accident insurance while working.” [The ILO (International Labor Organization) is providing support and expertise to the government of the Philippines, which has placed emergency employment and early rebuilding of livelihoods at the forefront of its national disaster response strategy, it said in a statement.]

As BALSA traveled through Leyte with relief goods and services, Bragas-Regalado confirmed that the notable buzz of activities they saw there was “the long queue of typhoon survivors seeking jobs at the cleanup drive in Sto. Niño Church of Tacloban City.

“Everybody wants to work in the cleanup drive,” Bragas-Regalado said, but the cleanup is hampered by the fact that there are hardly any support equipment, let alone protective materials for the workers. Reports aired over AM radio also warned of injury and likely diseases for the temporary workers as most of them work with just their bare hands, when the debris being cleaned up are a dangerous mixture of sharp and heavy objects and decomposing flesh.

“We saw just one backhoe by the road along the sea near the Tacloban City convention center. There is no bulldozer or dump truck that could have hastened the clearing up,” Bragas-Regalado told Bulatlat.com.

The cash-for-work scheme jibed with the government’s efforts to “act as sales representatives of various companies in Yolanda-ravaged areas,” as former Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Rafael Mariano said in another statement.

The Department of Trade and Industry has been going around in typhoon Yolanda-affected areas to sell discounted products of different consumer brands, under their so-called Diskwento Caravan. “Instead of helping survivor victims to get relief goods from the government, the DTI virtually became the trade representative of private business entities in disaster-wrecked areas,” said Anakpawis party-list National President Rafael Mariano.

Anakpawis slammed the government’s Diskwento Caravan, which, it said, revealed “their real intention to continue making profit out of the typhoon survivors’ miserable state, especially the ordinary masses who absorbed the full effect of typhoon Yolanda.”

ILO estimates that 5.6 million workers have either temporarily or permanently lost their livelihoods as a result of typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Half of them, or 2.8 million, were working in the service sector. Over one third or 1.8 million were in agriculture and around 15 per cent are in the industry sector.

How to provide immediate and long-term relief?

The “cash-for-work” scheme being offered by the United Nations and the Aquino government to the survivors of supertyphoon Yolanda is not enough to provide immediate relief to the survivors and bring about long-term development in the affected areas, the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said in a statement. The labor center and affiliates are poised this week to do their share in BALSA relief operations.

The said “cash-for-work” scheme should provide living wages to volunteers and should not be the government’s only means of helping the survivors of Yolanda, said Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of KMU. The scheme is paying the minimum wages prevailing in the region, but these amounts have historically been denounced by workers’ groups including the KMU as “very far” from living wages.

Toward providing immediate relief to fellow Filipinos in areas badly hit by the supertyphoon, the KMU suggests the following to the Aquino government:

- Immediate delivery of relief goods that can last for months.

- Reconstruction of houses through programs that employ the survivors.

- Immediate reconstruction and operation of government schools and hospitals.

- Provision of fishing boats to residents of coastal communities.

- Government purchase of the fishermen’s catch and its distribution to residents as part of relief goods.

The KMU also called on the Aquino government “to release the massive relief goods that it has gathered from Filipinos around the world and from the international community,” and to also release all disaster and pork funds for the rehabilitation of the areas badly affected by Yolanda.

“We are calling for some relief from the country’s huge foreign debt so that funds allocated to payments for it will be freed and spent for the rehabilitation of areas destroyed by the supertyphoon,” Labog said.

Saying the Aquino government is liable for its failure to launch a massive evacuation drive days before the typhoon, the labor center also demanded compensation for relatives of those who perished in the supertyphoon.

At the very least, they said all loans of the supertyphoon survivors should also be cancelled, and not only subjected to a moratorium.

Gabriela legislator, Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, meanwhile, criticized this week President Benigno Aquino III for pushing the idea of banning the poor settlers from their communities and livelihoods close to shore. Calling it a foolish and additional punishment on people already ravaged by typhoon, she said it would only “worsen the exodus of people who are already forced to abandon their lands and congest other urban centers where they will fight over almost non-existent jobs and services, and where they do not have lands to build houses on.”

“Yolanda showed that future storms will not discriminate between coastlines and the interiors, so no zoning will prevent massive flooding unless meaningful projects that allow people to stay in their places of livelihood like mangrove reforestation are implemented,” Ilagan explained.

Gabriela Women Partylist Rep. Emmi de Jesus said that to empower communities to build weather-proof residences, “meaningful livelihoods that will elevate them from poverty” are what is needed and not this “foolhardy notion” of using Yolanda to utterly demolish the people’s residences.

“When I joined the Lingap Gabriela relief and study mission in Samar and Leyte, we realized that one great need of the survivors to get back on their feet is to have new jobs and services. That, in turn, usually requires birth certificates, marriage licenses, school records, land titles, even death certificates of relatives who perished, NBI and police clearances,” De Jesus said. But as all these important documents were washed away in the Haiyan flood, she said the government can at least ease the typhoon victims’ burdens by removing the burden of having to pay fees, considering that they already carry great emotional and psychological pains.

For the long-term development of the devastated areas, various peoples groups demanded “genuine land reform.” The KMU called for abolishing haciendas and distributing hacienda lands to farmers. It urged for the implementation of land reform in the Yolanda-affected areas, and prioritizing production of food crops over cash crops. (http://bulatlat.com)

- See more at: http://bulatlat.com/main/2013/12/02/people-in-samar-leyte-still-hungry-despite-govt-claims-of-moving-forward-from-relief-to-rehabilitation/#sthash.rL0pG45t.dpuf


Rally in Tacloban City proper ▼


NOVEMBER 29, 2013
Let us learn from Haiti and our own experiences in disaster relief, rehabilitation
Bulatlat Perspective

Three years after a strong earthquake hit Haiti, January 2010, there are still around 360,000 people living in tents that were provided as temporary shelters. People are asking: Where did the donations go?

There is much to learn from the relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in Haiti. The government could also derive some initial lessons from its responses to Typhoon Pablo, which hit Mindanao just last year. There is no better time for the Aquino government to do this but now after it announced that it is already formulating a relief and rehabilitation plan for the immediate, medium and long term and will be releasing P39 billion ($906.9 million) for this. It also announced that relief efforts would start to taper off in January 2014 and much of the budget would be spent on rehabilitation and reconstruction.

In Haiti, by the end of 2011, only $2.38 billion of the $4.5 billion pledged to Haiti’s reconstruction had been disbursed; and an accurate accounting of the amount that was disbursed was problematic because “Haiti’s reconstruction, like almost everything else in that country, has been privatized, outsourced, or taken over by foreign NGOs.”

The Haiti government was practically marginalized in the whole process.

Not only was an accurate accounting of the money disbursed and an assessment of the effects of the reconstruction efforts problematic, there was also no proactive planning because of so many actors involved in the process. Coordination of all efforts was taken over by the United Nations (UN), which is being blamed for the spread of cholera in Haiti. Cholera, which was already non-existent in Haiti then, was suspected to have been brought into the country by UN peacekeeping forces.

By January 2013, a total of $13.34 billion in international aid was pledged for Haiti’s reconstruction but only half has been disbursed. And according to reports, only a small amount was spent on reconstruction. The New York Times reported that “much of the so-called recovery aid was devoted to costly current programs, like highway building and HIV prevention, and to new projects far outside the disaster zone.” According to the same report, “Just a sliver of the total disbursement—$215 million—has been allocated to the most obvious and pressing need: safe, permanent housing.”

Not all of the assistance provided to Haiti were grants. After all, most, if not all, international aid are actually soft loans. One lending agency, which offered a loan to Haiti was the International Monetary Fund, through its extended credit facility. And this comes with conditions among which were raising electricity rates and a wage freeze. The very same neoliberal policies that kept Haiti poor, and burdened with huge debt payments, were used as a condition for more loans for reconstruction.

In the case of the Philippines, it appears that the Aquino government is drawing up a comprehensive plan for rehabilitation and reconstruction not only of areas hit by Typhoon Yolanda, but also those affected by the October 2013 Bohol earthquake, the December 2012 Typhoon Pablo and the December 2011 Typhoon Sendong. It has also launched a transparency website called Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH) to enable the public to monitor the amount of foreign assistance pouring in for relief and rehabilitation efforts for Typhoon Yolanda and the government agencies where the donations would be coursed through. Perhaps, local governments in disaster hit areas, as well as private organizations that received a lot of donations, such as the major media networks, could follow suit.

However, the Aquino government is also wont to privatize and outsource the implementation of its projects, consistent with its neoliberal agenda. Thus, chances are, after the government agencies concerned release the money to private corporations – both local and foreign – which were awarded reconstruction contracts, accountabilities would be obscure and projects would be costly because these corporations are out to earn profits. And considering the number of government officials they have to bribe to be awarded the contracts and to have the budget released, projects would most likely be delayed and not up to standards. It could be remembered that the government has not yet effectively addressed the corruption scam involving pork barrel funds called the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Now it would handle another huge chunk of discretionary funds for disaster relief and rehabilitation.

In terms of housing, the National Housing Authority is reportedly consulting with the United Architects of the Philippines to come up with a design of houses that could withstand winds of 300 kph. The question is: How will the people, whose livelihoods have been wiped out, pay for these strong housing units. As it is, the country’s major cities, Tacloban included, already have big populations of informal settlers because of the majority’s inability to rent, much less buy, houses.

The United Nations is reportedly working with the Philippine government to generate round 200,000 jobs through a “cash for work” program to clear the mountains of garbage and debris in disaster-hit areas.

This is a good start but the effect in terms of employment is only temporary. Will the government also seek to rebuild the livelihood of the people or will it just focus on the destroyed infrastructures such as roads, bridges, and government buildings to “stimulate” the economy and wait for “trickle down” effect?

The government would most likely provide livelihood loans, but still, how could the people who, even before Yolanda struck, have been living on a “hand-to-mouth” existence and now have lost all their personal belongings pay for such loans?

Businessmen, especially the big ones, could simply write off what was destroyed as losses but the people who barely survived before Yolanda and now have lost whatever meager personal belongings they had would find it more difficult to survive, as there is nothing much to rebuild.

This is perhaps the main reason why 360,000 people in Haiti still live in tents. Even if there is no shortage in housing units, how could the poor pay for it? “A 2008 report from the Center for International Policy points out that in 2003, Haiti spent $57.4 million to service its debt, while total foreign assistance for education, health care and other services was a mere $39.21 million.” (Richard Kim, IMF to Haiti: Freeze Public Wages)

In the Philippines, how much of the planned budget for rehabilitation and reconstruction would be sourced from loans? What are the conditions?

Another point that the Aquino government should reconsider is its plan to taper off relief efforts beginning January 2014. People in Leyte, who reporters of Bulatlat talked with, estimate that it would take six months before they could begin earning again. Before that, they still need relief assistance. This is what happened with the victims of Typhoon Pablo: when the relief goods stopped arriving after a month or two, people began to experience hunger again. This situation motivated them to get organized to be able to negotiate for their needs with government agencies. But the Aquino government did not look at this in a positive light.

Cristina Morales Jose, a councilwoman of Binondo village, Baganga town in Davao Oriental, who was one of the leaders of the organization of survivors of Typhoon Pablo, was killed allegedly by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Before Jose was killed, she led a camp out of the survivors at the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Davao to demand for relief assistance. According to human rights group Karapatan, immediately after the camp out, Jose and other typhoon victims were allegedly “harassed by the barangay captain and the military from the Army’s 67th Infantry Battalion.

There is also the issue regarding the increased presence of US troops in the country, and even Philippine troops in highly-populated areas for that matter. The killing of Jose is an example of why AFP troops should not be the main force in “relief operations.”

In Haiti, the Southern Command of the US Armed Forces formed Operation Unified Response when the 2010 earthquake hit Haiti. After a week, the US already had around 17,000 troops, 17 ships, 48 helicopters and 12 fixed-wing aircraft conducting relief operations in Haiti, in addition to 43 other military units from other countries. All in all, the US sent 22,000 troops and the UN sent a peacekeeping force numbering around 10,500. And much like what they did in Tacloban, US troops took over the Port-au-Prince international airport. Time magazine called the US military’s relief effort as a “compassionate invasion.” “US commanders have repeatedly turned away flights bringing medical equipment and ­emergency supplies from organisations such as the World Food Programme and Médecins Sans Frontières, in order to give priority to landing troops,” wrote Seumas Milne in an article Haiti’s suffering is a result of calculated impoverishment, which was published by The Guardian January 20, 2010.

Unease over the presence of US troops grew, especially since the US supported the overthrow of democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide twice. Aristide was forced into exile in 2004. Patrick Elie, former Defense Minister in the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was quoted as saying “We don’t need soldiers, there’s no war here.”

The same happened here during relief efforts after Typhoon Yolanda hit the country. The US reportedly sent 50 warships and aircraft to the country. And when it began scaling down its relief operations, it turned it over not to civilian government agencies but to the AFP.

Why is the US Armed Forces engaged in relief missions?

“The US military’s relief efforts in the storm-ravaged Philippines will save lives, but also illustrate how humanitarian operations promote Washington’s interests in the Asia-Pacific,” read an article Military’s aid operations help promote US interests, which was published by the Space Daily.

It added: “These are seen as a strategic tool, allowing the United States to exert ‘soft power’ through means usually tied to ‘hard power.’”

Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert Del Rosario reportedly said in a press conference, in the presence of a US Congress delegation, “What [we have seen] in Central Philippines as a result of this typhoon, and the assistance provided in terms of relief and rescue operation . . . demonstrates the need for this framework agreement that we are working out with the United States for increased rotational presence.” Officials of the US government and Armed Forces must be patting each other in the back after hearing the Aquino government’s foreign affairs secretary hard selling the increased presence of US troops in the country.

Add to this the arrival of the new US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, who served as Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research of the State Department and was kicked out as US envoy to Bolivia on charges of intervening in the country’s internal affairs by supporting Bolivian opposition parties, and the US would have all the elements for further intervening in the internal affairs of the Philippines and using the country as its launching pad in the Asia-Pacific region.

What should the people do?

As the Aquino government plans and implements its relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction program, the people should get organized to demand that the government prioritizes the needs of the people first, including the extension of relief efforts until such time that the people are able to survive without relief assistance; the provision of free housing and the generation of more stable jobs; to be more transparent in its dealings and to closely monitor and hold private contractors to account; and not to use the disaster as justification to allow the increase in presence of US troops in the country. In the long term, the people should demand that the Aquino government effectively addresses the main source of the people’s vulnerability to disasters: poverty. (http://bulatlat.com)

- See more at: http://bulatlat.com/main/2013/11/29/let-us-learn-from-haiti-and-our-own-experiences-in-disaster-relief-rehabilitation/#sthash.EkkxlbJI.dpuf




NOVEMBER 26, 2013
‘Relief operations are no justification for increased presence of US troops’ – progressive groups

“While we welcome all aid extended to our brothers and sisters in the Visayas, we don’t see the necessity of deploying missile cruisers and missile destroyers and, amphibious assault vehicles and other warships.” – Cristina Palabay, Karapatan


MANILA — Two weeks after the strongest supertyphoon to make landfall pounded much of Central Philippines and neighboring countries, the number of dead Filipinos are estimated to reach as high as 7,000 (of which more than 5,400 have so far been confirmed), more than 14 million were displaced, about P24-billion ($558 million) worth of infrastructure and agriculture were destroyed, water and electricity services remain cut off in most places — and all these figures may still go higher as the reckoning is not yet over. Local government officials in the affected areas say it would take years to rebuild and rehabilitate. Frameworks for doing that are still being conceptualized as we write, with the United Nations slated to come up with a proposal.

To this day though, the basic and immediate need for relief is still to be addressed. According to peoples’ organizations whose members have been going to Eastern Visayas to distribute relief, conduct medical mission and help in rehabilitation efforts, some villages are being reached only now by aid. Bulatlat.com reporters noted that despite the heavy presence of able-bodied soldiers, cadavers and ruins still litter various areas, and only the roads and highways could be described as “clear”. Daisy Arago, executive director of the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, said that as of Nov. 20, various towns of Leyte, for example, are still in a state of “total wreck.”

“Recovery has not begun. In communities lying near highways, children run toward relief trucks, and they are near the highways. The situation is far worse for the interior communities.”

“In the more than two weeks since the storm, the Aquino government has not yet fully arrived at an accurate picture of the destruction because it has focused only on the urban centers, while remaining ignorant about the situation in the vaster and more numerous towns. Even foreign observers note there is no organized and systematic government response to the calamity,” Fr. Santiago Salas, spokesman of National Democratic Front of the Philippines, Eastern Visayas chapter, said in a statement.

Contrary to DILG Secretary Mar Roxas’ boast last weekend while in Tacloban that “the worst is already over”, the worst appears yet to come, warned various peoples’ organizations.

US soldiers bring warships, warplanes, take control and command - officially until Nov 26 - of 'Operation Damayan' in storm-ravaged central Philippines (Photo by Pom Cahilog-Villanueva / bulatlat,com)

US soldiers bring warships, warplanes, take control and command – officially until Nov 26 – of ‘Operation Damayan’ in storm-ravaged central Philippines (Photo by Pom Cahilog-Villanueva / bulatlat.com)

On top of the slow and seemingly controlled flow of relief to the victims (the Philippine military and the Department of Social Welfare have reportedly been taking steps to make sure that much of the relief and donations would first pass through them or are centralized to them), the Aquino government is further intensifying militarization in the storm-ravaged areas. The AFP website said that as of Nov. 16, there are “12,000 troops on the ground under the Central Command,” aside from what it called as 3,400 “external troops” and “follow on forces” for augmentation, in Eastern Visayas.

Statements coming from the Communist Party of the Philippines, who claim to have guerrilla bases in the typhoon-ravaged areas and who has commanded its army, the New Peoples Army (NPA), to extend its ceasefire and prioritize rehabilitation work, condemned the Aquino government for continuing to undertake military offensives both in the storm-ravaged areas and in other parts of the Philippines.

Worse, the Aquino government is now seen, too, as “trying to justify greater US military presence through a framework agreement that has been in the works for months now,” Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno said in another statement.

Based on mainstream media reports today (Nov. 26), Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario described the virtual takeover of US troops of Tacloban airport and its planes flying in and out of the area with relief goods (that were donated by the public), and their ferrying people, as demonstration “of the need for this framework agreement that we are working with the United States for increased rotational presence.” Del Rosario said this in a press conference yesterday (Nov. 25) with a visiting US congressional delegation headed by Representatives Chris Smith of New Jersey, Al Green of Texas and Trent Franks of Arizona.

The said framework has been subject to criticisms by patriotic groups and constitutionalists in the Philippines, who view it as another way of crafting a military basing agreement that is prohibited under the Philippine Constitution and already eschewed by the Filipinos in 1992.

“The cat is then out of the bag—the so-called humanitarian assistance by US troops in the disaster areas is a justification for their permanent basing and operation in the Philippines,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement. She noted that even without the Yolanda disaster, the US has been pushing for an increased and more permanent presence of their troops in the Philippines for its pivot to Asia.

“While we welcome all aid extended to our brothers and sisters in the Visayas, we don’t see the necessity of deploying missile cruisers and missile destroyers and, amphibious assault vehicles and other warships,” added Palabay.

Capitalizing on Yolanda victims

With the increase in government soldiers and entry of US troops in the storm-ravaged zone, Karapatan warned of further disasters to come, this time concerning human rights. “We are aware that Samar and Leyte and, the provinces of Negros and Panay are among the priority areas of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan,” Karapatan’s Cristina Palabay said. But now that the area is in a very vulnerable situation and in need of aid, the group warns against the possible repeat of the experience of typhoon Pablo victims last year.

“We do not want another Cristina Jose who was killed because she demanded for relief goods for her and for her community members,” said Palabay.
US soldiers in storm-ravaged central Philippines (Photo by Pom Cahilog-Villanueva / bulatlat,com)

US soldiers in storm-ravaged central Philippines (Photo by Pom Cahilog-Villanueva / bulatlat.com)

Palabay also warned the BS Aquino government not to take advantage of the situation, saying, “there were many instances in the past that combat operations, as part of military psywar, are disguised as humanitarian operations in communities considered by the government as ‘red-areas’.” She noted that Samar, Leyte, Negros and Panay are among the provinces with high incidences of human rights violations because of the government’s counterinsurgency program. This counterinsurgency program, in turn, was reportedly lifted from the US military’s 2009 Counterinsurgency Guide.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has admitted that while it is engaged in relief efforts, it is maintaining “sufficient equipment and support to Internal Security Operations.” But in CPP’s recent statements, it said that the government soldiers engaged in relief efforts are merely “a token,” as the bigger number are currently launching military offensives amid the cries for relief of typhoon victims.

Earlier, Karapatan documented that police and military checkpoints were already set up in the disaster-stricken areas. They also pointed to photos of policemen arresting “looters” being circulated in social media.

In a statement, the KMU slammed the Aquino government’s welcoming again of more US troops and evident promotion of the framework agreement they are currently formulating with American military counterparts.

‘Justice and govt accountability, not US bases or more militarization’

“What the aftermath of Yolanda shows is not the need for greater US military presence in the country, but the need for accountability from the Aquino government. We demand justice over this government’s criminal incompetence in handling Yolanda, not more US troops,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of KMU. The labor leader blamed the Aquino government’s refusal to carry out a massive evacuation drive days before the supertyphoon struck the country as the reason why the number of deaths might reach more than 10,000. (Vietnam which was also hit by typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan had evacuated its coastal population; its death toll was 10.)

The Aquino government’s ineffectiveness in immediately delivering emergency relief goods to areas hit badly by Yolanda has caused hunger among survivors in the said areas, Labog said. Earlier, the KMU had criticized the Aquino’s militarization response to the supposed “state of lawlessness,” and demanded for a timely relief distribution, as well as a sound rehab plan for the typhoon survivors.

“What we need is a government that has a genuine concern for Filipinos, not one that’s more concerned with advancing US interests in the Asia-Pacific region,” Labog said. He described the Aquino government as “too slow in detecting what’s good for Filipinos amidst Yolanda but is always too swift in advancing what’s good for the US.”

In the aftermath of Yolanda, reports said US troops and their nuclear-powered warships have been freely coming and going in Eastern Visayas. More than that, as Bulatlat.com reporters noted, US soldiers seem in control of some areas, commanding even the Philippine government soldiers and the Tacloban airport, and US planes were circling the area every hour even without dropping off relief goods or people as of last week.

This week the US government announced plans to reduce the number of soldiers sent here for Yolanda, but it did not say by how much. Today (Nov. 26), as various patriotic groups assailed the intensified US military presence in a disaster that they say needs civilian action, the US military-led “Oplan Damayan” was also reportedly turned over to the control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Both the air and maritime components were reportedly turned over by US Brigadier General James Hecker and US Rear Admiral Hugh Wetherland to their approved counterparts in the Philippine Armed Forces.

In announcing the reduction of troops sent here for Yolanda, the US did not mention how many US soldiers of the more than 5,000 sent here would remain to conduct various operations in the country. Before that, about a thousand special US forces are said to be already stationed in an American military base in southern Philippines.

Filipino patriotic groups asked the people to guard against the US and Aquino governments’ drive to open even more US military bases in the country. “The US has always tried to portray itself as a friend of Filipinos whenever it tries to justify its military presence in the country,” Labog of KMU said. He added that “Using the devastation caused by Yolanda in order to expand its military presence in the Philippines is not friendship, but swindle of the most unkind type.” (http://bulatlat.com)


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NOVEMBER 23, 2013
Disaster aggravated

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By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
Streetwise | BusinessWorld

So much has been said about the resilience and fighting spirit of the Filipino people as exemplified by the millions of families ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda (internationally named Haiyan). Such praise is not misplaced given that the vast majority of our people have long been suffering under socioeconomic conditions that have kept them constantly treading the water to survive, barely keeping their heads above it, and sinking to extinction with every adverse event or circumstance.

But it is wrong and deceitful to use this as a camouflage for sheer incompetence, criminal negligence, lack of genuine concern, preoccupation with image-building and a propensity for finger-pointing, hand-washing, and massaging of facts that the Aquino government has displayed in the wake of this latest calamity visited upon our calamity-prone archipelago.

Such calamities (usually described as “natural” but, invariably, also man-made) are a fact of life in a country geographically located and geophysically constituted so as to be regularly visited by typhoons and storm surges, shaken by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, deluged by floods and buried by landslides.

The increasing frequency and fury of bizarre weather disturbances attributable to climate change, largely the result of environmental destruction and degradation carried out primarily by highly industrialized economies while ravaging the more vulnerable developing countries, are harbingers that the situation for island-nations such as ours can only go from bad to worse.

However, human intervention, most especially the organized, systematic, comprehensive and widespread kind that only governments both national and local can put together with the cooperation of an enlightened citizenry, can prevent a natural calamity from becoming a total disaster. There is such a thing after all as disaster risk reduction, prevention and preparedness even before and apart from rescue, relief and rehabilitation. This much has been proven not just by advanced capitalist countries such as Japan but even more convincingly and heroically by resource-poor, socialist countries such as Cuba.

Concrete proof of the Aquino administration’s shortsightedness is the presidential veto on budget allocations for disaster preparedness, specifically “pre-disaster activities such as preparation of relocation sites/facilities and training personnel engaged in direct disaster (sic)” under the government’s calamity fund. President Benigno S. Aquino (“BS” Aquino for short) irrationally put preemptive and mitigation measures in unnecessary conflict with requisite quick response capabilities during and immediately after a calamity when the former should be given priority attention and is actually key to the latter’s effectiveness.

And where have the hundreds of billions of presidential and congressional pork, i.e. lump sum, discretionary funds loudly defended by “BS” Aquino, gone? We all know the answer in light of the non-stop exposes of how government officials at the highest levels have diverted funds meant for disaster preparedness, relief and rehabilitation to ghost projects under the name of bogus NGOs.

Unfortunately for the victims of typhoon Yolanda in the provinces of Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Bohol, Negros provinces, Panay provinces, Palawan, Bicol and Mindoro, the Aquino regime’s “quick response” has turned out to be appallingly slow, disorganized, inadequate and even non-existent in many areas. Contrary to “BS” Aquino’s constant reassurances that the government was totally prepared with pre-positioned relief goods, air/sea craft and rescue equipment standing by, more than adequate funds ready for quick disbursement and the national and local government machinery on red alert, the scene in Tacloban City, Leyte, where Defense Secretary Gazmin and Local Government Secretary Roxas had set up their command center, was total chaos as late as five days after the typhoon hit.

“BS” Aquino was forced to eat his words only after the real situation was broadcast by local and foreign media by which time, the effete president could only harp on how local government units failed to prepare, understate the grievousness of the situation by downscaling the number of deaths and the extent of devastation, then belatedly acknowledge the destructiveness of Typhoon Yolanda in order to blame it for the “breakdown of practically everything,” thus rendering his government paralyzed to inutility.

To be fair, the government’s weather agency PAGASA and Project NOAH had commendably done their part by predicting with remarkable accuracy the typhoon strength, scope and path, including the height of the storm surge waters and the affected municipalities. These vital pieces information were forwarded to Malacañang and all concerned government agencies as early as Nov. 5, three days before the storm’s landfall. Additionally, the scientific community — government, academe and NGOs — has repeatedly warned of vulnerabilities and hazards practically throughout the archipelago as a result of its being in the typhoon path, the Pacific Rim of Fire, and on the fault-laden Pacific trenches.

Clearly, delegating disaster preparedness and response to the local government units while allowing national funds and resources to be hijacked and misused by unscrupulous government officials amount to unconscionable criminal negligence for which there should be accountability.

Why is it necessary to expose the truth at the risk of being labeled as inveterate critics and naysayers? Because government is lying and covering up. Because government has to be pushed to act rather than drag its feet. Because government has to be unmasked for its failures, its anti-people policies and programs that have caused so much misery, deaths and destroyed lives. Or else continue in this vicious cycle.

This is not a pointless exercise. This doesn’t go against mobilizing non-government efforts to make up for the patchy and woefully inadequate government response. This is not so-called Filipino “crab mentality” at work. Shining a light on the ugly, dark reality of government ineptness, corruption and deception especially in times of national emergencies is a necessary step to breaking the vicious cycle.

Just as there is a welcome and heartening surfeit of compassion and aid locally and from abroad, there is also no lack of prescriptions on disaster preparedness as well as relief and rehabilitation response. All of these prescriptions are not only correct but also long overdue. Most of them are not even new.

All are derived from lessons from disasters here and abroad, paid for by the blood and tears of countless victims, mostly the poor and vulnerable. The more crucial question then is why have these prescriptions not been put in place, given the perennial incidence of these tragedies?

It is now all too obvious that the answer does not lie in satellite images, sensors and forecasts, much less in grandiose plans, presentations and media statements.

The answer lies in the political will of government, to first of all lift the large mass of Filipinos from poverty that makes them most vulnerable to these calamities, and second to see to it that all available information and knowledge — from scientific data to lessons learned from past experiences — are used to devise and implement national as well as local plans and measures to mitigate if not avoid massive loss of lives, dislocation and destruction.

Published in Business World
November 21, 2013


DECEMBER 21, 2013
‘Surges,’ a book on Yolanda, launched ▼

“The contributors you will get to know here all responded to our team’s call on social media to submit pieces for a visual and literary anthology on Haiyan/ Yolanda, proceeds of which will go to community reconstruction efforts.”


MANILA — A compilation of essays, poems and photographs on Typhoon Yolanda was published in a book titled, Surges. Proceeds of its sale will go to the rehabilitation efforts for the survivors of the typhoon.

“The contributors you will get to know here all responded to our team’s call on social media to submit pieces for a visual and literary anthology on Haiyan/ Yolanda, proceeds of which will go to community reconstruction efforts,” Joel Garduce, publisher of Surges, said in the book’s acknowledgment page.

He added that the contributors are poets, writers, bloggers, visual artists, photographers, activists, people working for faith-based causes, and even Yolanda survivors themselves who “promptly and voluntarily shared their God-given talents to make this anthology on Yolanda possible.”

Surges is a 100-page anthology that contains 53 articles from 49 writers, six artworks from four artists and photos from 25 photographers and media groups.

Among the poets, writers and photographers whose works were included in the book are: Mark Angeles, Rustum Casia, Kislap Alitaptap, Marra Lanot, Tonyo Cruz, Sonny Fernandez, Francisco Alarcon, Joi Barrios-Leblanc, Raymund Villanueva, Prof. Jose Maria Sison and national artist for literature Bienvenido Lumbera.

Bulatlat.com reporter Pom Cahilog-Villanueva’s On the Fringes entry with the title “They are people with stories to tell” was among the published articles.

Architect and urban planner Jun Palafox, one of the speakers during the launch of Surges, said he visited Tacloban City on his own initiative a couple of weeks after the typhoon hit the country. In his visit, he said, he “felt the pain, the loss and the destruction” that the typhoon left on the people.

Palafox urged the government to be transparent in its rehabilitation efforts. Corruption, he added, would only “doubly victimize” the people who were affected by the typhoon. He called on the people to be vigilant on how the money is being spent.

For orders and updates on the book, you may contact the publishers via their Facebook page. (http://bulatlat.com)

- See more at: http://bulatlat.com/main/2013/12/21/surges-a-book-on-yolanda-launched/#sthash.cq0F2b9h.dpuf



NOVEMBER 21, 2013
Relatives of Yolanda victims express worries, anger over slow government response

“Some may have survived the typhoon, but can they survive the aftermath?” relatives of typhoon-ravaged areas ask.


MANILA – Juanita Bonifacio, 61, was wiping her tears during a protest action on Nov. 15, Friday at the national office of the National Food Authority (NFA). When she got the chance to speak before the crowd, Bonifacio expressed her anxiety because she has not received any news from her relatives in Dulag, Leyte.

“Please help the people of Leyte. President Aquino, they voted for you even if Imelda Marcos is from Leyte. The people of Leyte still voted for you. Please help them; please stop playing politics,” Bonifacio pleaded.

Bonifacio told Bulatlat.com that she still has not heard from her parents and four siblings who reside in San Jose, Dulag, Leyte. She is worried sick as she has not seen the names of her relatives in lists of survivors being published by news agencies. “I am worried and nervous,” Bonifacio told Bulatlat.com. She said every time she monitors the news in television; she carefully looks at the lists of people hoping that she could see one of her relatives.

She got even more worried when her niece posted in Facebook that only two of them have survived and they have not yet heard from other relatives in Leyte. “My two relatives who confirmed that they survived were in Tacloban when the typhoon hit because my niece works in a mall there. But our relatives in Dulag live in the coastal area, that is why I am so nervous,” Bonifacio told Bulatlat.com.

Fe Ramirez, 46, is also worried about what happened to her relatives. “The only news I received was that one uncle of mine had died. But I still haven’t received word from the rest of my family – my aunts and cousins – if they survived or not,” she told Bulatlat.com.

Both Ramirez and Bonifacio came from Eastern Visayas. They are here in Manila to look for jobs because of the difficult life in the province. Ramirez was born in Guiuan, Samar while Bonifacio was born in Dulag.

“There is one barangay in Dulag where almost all of the residents are my relatives. I am worried for them too, I don’t know if they survived,” Bonifacio said.

Government’s ineptitude

What is more tormenting for them is the government’s ineptitude in search and rescue operations. Since day one after Yoland ravaged the Visayas islands, Bonifacio said, the government should have been able to respond immediately. “They have all the resources. I know they can do something; there are many ways to get there but they are not doing it,” Bonifacio said.

As relatives here in Manila anxiously wait for news about their loved ones, their anguish have slowly turned to anger at the government’s ineptitude.

“How irresponsible for this government not to act fast enough to protect its citizens,” Ramirez said.

Myrna Javier, 46, also from Borongan, Eastern Samar does not only feel grief. She is also furious. “We are very angry. What’s taking it so long for them to rescue the people in the affected provinces? We want to storm Malacañang,” she told Bulatlat.com referring to the government’s sluggish response.

As of the Nov. 20, update of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the death toll has reached 4,011, 18,557 were injured and 1,602 people are still missing. At least 2,166,891 families or 10,047,652 people from 10,560 villages in 44 provinces had reportedly been affected by Yolanda’s rampage. News reports also showed that many bodies are already decomposing and some are beyond recognition.

Bonifacio, Ramirez and Javier have no clue if their loved ones are included in the statistics being released by the government.

Javier said her sister will go to Borongan, Eastern Samar to check on their relatives. She said that instead of downplaying the number of casualties, the government should concentrate on how to quickly respond to the people’s needs.

Ramirez said, “Whenever I hear someone coming from Leyte, I always ask if they have any news about my relatives.” She said displaced families who fled Leyte have been arriving in their community in Quezon City to stay temporarily with their relatives. She said she cannot go to the province to check because of she has no money for the fare.

‘Exert more efforts on relief and rescue operations’

Bonifacio was on the verge of crying when she said, “The people have lost everything there, and yet the government seems not to care.”

While news reports show that the government has been conducting relief and rescue operations, Bonifacio said she doubts if remote areas have already been reached by the government. “The news did not cover our place in Dulag, which is far from Tacloban.”

Meanwhile in Capiz, both parents of Tin Ciubal, 30, were fortunate to have survived. “They evacuated to a safer place when the typhoon hit,” she told Bulatlat.com. However, their house, which was made of wood, was destroyed by Yolanda. “Nothing was left, our house was totally wrecked. We have to save money so that we can rebuild our house.”

Her parents said no help from the government has ever reached their village in Capiz. Ciubal doubts that the government would reach their place because it is a remote village. “People there are relying on each other and on their relatives rather than expect something to come from the national government.”



.NOVEMBER 21, 2013
The Meaning of Yolanda
Mong Palatino

If there is a bigger calamity than super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), it must be the Philippine government which has been notoriously inept in the wake of the devastation wrought by the storm in the Visayas. But aside from deficiency in leadership, the slow response of the government also reflected the tragic state of the country’s political institutions and economy.

Yolanda actually exposed the vulnerabilities of an underdeveloped Philippine economy. Despite high GDP numbers in the past decade, Asia’s ‘rising tiger’ has remained an agrarian archipelago plagued by poverty, hunger, and extreme deprivation. The so-called phenomenal progress that the Philippines has attained was instantly invalidated by the wasteland villages in Samar and Leyte. If wealth is truly spreading in the islands as claimed by the government, it clearly has not yet reached the backward regions of the country, in particular the Pacific eastern corridor from Cagayan to Mindanao.

Then and now, economic development has been concentrated in ‘imperial Manila’. Public spending and investments are narrowly restricted in the premier urban region where politicians and their families live. It’s one of the dark legacies of the Spanish colonial era when the very few elite families in old Manila (Intramuros) were usurping the resources of the rural islands. The result of this inequitable distribution of wealth is the shameful disparity of living between Mega Manila and the vast countryside, which includes Eastern Visayas.

It took some time to begin the clearing operations in modern Tacloban because most of the country’s heavy equipment, transportation facilities, and rescue logistics are found in the National Capital Region. Indeed, there are trucks and other industrial equipment in Samar and Leyte but these are owned by private mining, energy and logging companies. Power and communication lines are also owned by private corporations. The government does not even have an alternate infrastructure to restore electricity and telecommunication services in the typhoon-affected towns. In addition, the transport sector is dominated by corporate interest. It’s truly pathetic to see the government begging for the goodwill of airlines, shipping firms, and bus owners in order to transport typhoon victims and relief goods.

Decades of intense privatization and the commercialization of utility industries have rendered the government inutile in times of crisis. For several days, there was zero government. Big Business groups have taken over some of the core functions of the state like guaranteeing the flow of information signals. What happened in Tacloban was a defacto government shutdown. The Ground Zero in Tacloban is a grim reminder that the blind worshiping of the dogmatic doctrine of privatization (and the supreme evil that goes by the name of neoliberalism) will lead to the rise of a failed state.

Exacerbating the problem is rampant corruption in the bureaucracy. The Malacanang largesse that comes in trickles is often hoarded by greedy and violent dynasties. Each year, legislators are given pork funds intended to develop the local infrastructure. Meanwhile, provinces and municipalities have a share in the Internal Revenue Allotment. What happened to these funds? Were they really utilized for real projects with real beneficiaries? Or were they redirected to private pockets through institutionalized looting?

There were too many casualties which could have been avoided if there were efficient disaster preparation drills and quick disaster response programs that should have been spearheaded by the national and local governments. There are laws that are supposed to mandate the mainstreaming of policies to address the harsh impact of climate change. There are environment laws that seek to reverse the degradation of our natural habitats. But it seems many of our officials did not appreciate the value of implementing these life saving laws and policies. Hopefully, our other leaders will take heed of these post-Yolanda lessons.

But Yolanda did not only give us the opportunity to find fault in our elected officials. More importantly, it allowed us to finally recognize the real state of affairs. For example, the high trust ratings which President BS Aquino often bragged about did not translate into genuine and equitable growth. It’s a useful indicator but it can never replace good governance and political will. Further, it’s time to rethink economic policies that would mean more withdrawal of the state from providing essential services to its citizens. The widespread looting in the typhoon-ravaged provinces should be seen as the natural consequence in a society where pecuniary individualism is glorified while the spirit of collectivism (bayanihan) is rejected and even demonized as an outmoded concept.

The desire to transcend this selfie attitude was echoed in the popular appeal directed at netizens to stop posting narcissist photos and statements in the social networks. The appeal was made out of respect for the dead and typhoon survivors in the Visayas. But the situation in the country and even in the storm-battered provinces was neither satisfactory nor humane even prior to the arrival of Yolanda. Storm or no storm, many of our people are condemned to subsistence living which makes some aspects of our tech-driven and information-crazy kind of living quite cruel and insensitive.

That being said, Yolanda is a catastrophic event but it can also lead to a cleansing process. After the search and rescue, we aggressively recover and rehabilitate our communities. We should focus on the renewables and allow ‘green living’ a chance to alter our lifestyles. We can draft a more progressive land zoning policy. We can integrate the principles of good governance in everyday politics. We can rebuild a more democratic society. In other words, Yolanda is forcing us to view politics and change from a new and hopefully more radical perspective. (http://bulatlat.com)

- See more at: http://bulatlat.com/main/2013/11/21/the-meaning-of-yolanda/#sthash.YjG8axQa.dpuf


“The government should respond to the victims’ needs,” said Javier. She said for as long as relief operations are delayed, people would be more desperate. “And then they call them looters? Isn’t it their fault that people have reached this level of desperation?”

“Some may have survived the typhoon, but can they survive the aftermath?” Bonifacio asked.

For Ramirez, Bonifacio and Javier, they can only wish and pray that their relatives are still alive.

- See more at: http://bulatlat.com/main/2013/11/21/relatives-of-yolanda-victims-express-worries-anger-over-slow-government-response/#sthash.FXeKIKi0.dpuf