December 9, 2012
Reference: Jackelyn Mariano, Deputy Secretary General, BAYAN USA, depsec
Aquino’s Relief Effort Seeks to Save Private Investments, Not Rehabilitate Communities, in Mindanao– BAYAN USA
On Saturday, December 8, 2012, four days after Typhoon Pablo wreaked havoc on Mindanao, President Aquino has since signed Proclamation 522, declaring a state of national calamity allegedly in order to expedite the relief process. Filipino-Americans aren’t convinced such efforts are aimed to rehabilitate devastated communities.
“This is a false show of concern for the people. The relief and rehabilitation that Aquino wants to hasten is not for the impoverished communities who are suffering, but for the private sector who are losing capital from the disaster. The palace says so itself,” states Bernadette Ellorin of the US Chapter of BAYAN, or BAYAN USA.
Typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha), landed on Mindanao, the southern region of the Philippines, killing over 500 people and displacing more than 200,000 others. Mindanao is an historically neglected region of the Philippines, where its people, many of whom are from indigenous tribes and rural poor communities, face mounting poverty and joblessness.
Mindanao is also the most resource-rich area of the Philippines, where gold, oil, bauxite, nickel, copper, and natural gas have attracted large-scale corporate mining operations and other corporate agribusiness investments.
But on any other day, the people of Mindanao largely lack adequate access to basic social services such as healthcare and housing. Now, in the aftermath of the typhoon, they are receiving delayed and sparse relief assistance from the Government of the Philippines. Many people, sifting through the remains of their meager livelihoods were left scrambling for any means of survival.
“The Philippine government’s inefficient response in aiding the Filipino people during calamities is a disappointing pattern,” states Ellorin. “From Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 until now, the people are left in desperate conditions. Even in New York City, which was recently ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, thousands of Filipino migrants were negatively affected, and the Philippine government’s response was still minimal.”
Imperialist Plunder, Mining, and Global Warming
The frequency and increasing gravity of natural disasters in the past few years has many concerned groups rekindling dialogues about the effects of environmental plunder on global warming. Major typhoons that have hit the Philippines were exacerbated by floods and landslides due to state-sanctioned large-scale open-pit mining projects, which cause an imbalance within the natural ecosystem, deplete natural resources, poison water sources, uproot plantlife, and destabilize soil. These projects have been met with major resistance from the people whose lands are being exploited. The Philippine government has responded by highly militarizing these zones and forcefully silencing protest in order to protect business operations.
Mindanao activists have recently embarked on a long journey to Manila called the Manilakbayan to confront the Philippine government in the country’s capital and bring their grievances to the table. Included in their calls are demands to halt devastating mining projects and to seek justice for human rights violation victims who were maimed or disappeared for their resistance against corporate control and defending their rights to their land.
In the summer of 2012, the aftermath of Typhoon Gener provided another example of how anti-people state policies affect the marginalized in cityscapes. Urban poor communities in low-lying areas, who were previously wiped out and displaced by Typhoon Ondoy, were flooded and damaged. “Once again, the Philippine government evaded accountability for the major calamity,” said Ellorin. “President Aquino blamed the victims, the concentrated populations of informal settlers around waterways, as the cause of major flooding. However, engineers have proven that Manila’s infrastructure, which prioritizes manufacturing plants and mega malls while neglecting sustainable planning that prioritizes the welfare of urban dwellers, is in fact the cause of the flood.”
Bayanihan Relief Effort, Serving the People
BAYAN USA is highly encouraging its community nationwide to assist in people-led relief efforts for Typhoon Pablo victims by donating to Bayanihan Relief for Typhoon Victims in the Philippines, led by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON). Bayanihan Relief, established during the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, has continuously donated directly to community-based organizations in the affected areas to help supply immediate needs, such as food, water, and rescue equipment.
Donations can be made through PayPal at http://tinyurl.com/nafconrelief3 or by sending checks to “Tulong Sa Bayan (TSB)” at 519 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013. TSB has been NAFCON’s established partner in coursing relief donations to the Philippines. On memo please write: NAFCON Bayanihan Relief and your city of residence. Donations of $250 or more will be tax deductible. Please include a return address with donations. For more information on regional collection centers, fundraising and relief activities in your area please visit http://nafconusa.org.
BAYAN-USA is an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, artists, and youth. As the first and largest international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. For more information, please visit http://bayanusa.org.