Saturday, December 9, 2023

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Yolanda (Haiyan) Lessons from Philippine government’s shortfalls

IN A speaking tour hosted by Migrante Aotearoa and Leyte-Samar NZ Solidarity Foundation Inc., Dr. Efleda Bautista of People Surge, the alliance of disaster survivors, shared stories about the continuing hardships in communities devastated by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” We take note of important lessons from the Yolanda tragedy and we have questions that beg for answers from the Aquino-Roxas leadership:

Y—YEARS and years of deforestation left the poor of Eastern Visayas most vulnerable to disasters and climate change. The whole Philippines is at risk as supertyphoons come more frequently and with greater gravity. When will government heed the people’s demand to stop large-scale mining and logging that further destroy the country’s remaining forests?

O—OVERPRICED bunkhouses did not meet international standards, and their being fit for Yolanda survivors is highly questionable. A baby and an elderly reportedly died of illness due to poor conditions in bunkhouses meant to be temporary shelters. But for how many more years will survivors wait for decent rehabilitation?

L—LOOTING in the aftermath of Yolanda could have been avoided if the national government had set aside political differences with the local government and just did its job to deliver immediate relief. Many more months after, why were food packs found spoiled in storage and fishing boats. Why were they left to rot while survivors waited for them?

A—ABSENCE of serious government efforts to inform the poor on the impact of storm surges must not be repeated. A lack of early warnings, evacuation plans and life-saving requirements for effective disaster response resulted in massive death toll. Why did government fail to improve systems for disaster preparedness even after Tropical Storm “Ondoy” in 2009 and despite the long-known fact that our country is hit by an average of 18-20 typhoons every year?

N—NO land, but, yes, there is money: the worst excuse for government’s failure to rebuild homes for the poor. But the No Build Zones effectively allowed business ventures to take over land previously occupied by the urban poor. How come they can easily find land for big business but not for the poor who most need shelter?

D—DISASTERS brought by nature are devastating, but government’s insensitivity to the poor who lose everything is an even bigger disaster, and it is manmade. Facing unjust criteria for receiving government cash assistance, many survivors, including low-paid teachers and government employees who lost their homes, have fallen prey to loan sharks. How long must the poor survivors wait for emergency shelter assistance?

A—ACCOUNTABILITY is in order. Audit reports about donations sleeping in banks prove two years of continuing criminal neglect. We ask, with this epic failure of the Aquino-Roxas leadership in times of great disasters, what can we expect from another six years of “daang matuwid” should Mar Roxas win the presidency?

Secretary, Leyte-Samar NZ Solidarity Foundation Inc.

National Coordinator
Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand

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