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POV Philippines by Jon Joaquin

Why aren’t we scrambling to collect

relief goods for typhoon victims?

by Jon Joaquin

(Written while typhoon Nina [international name Nock-Ten] barrels through northern Philippines on December 26, 2016.)

Once upon a time in the not-so-distant past we would all, at this point in a major weather disturbance, be scrambling to collect relief goods to be sent to survivors. The government itself would air appeals for contributions, while the major media networks would take it upon themselves to collect and deliver relief goods to the affected areas.

Something, however, seems to have happened this year. The country had just come from a long drought courtesy of El Niño, so we experienced our first disturbance only on June 26, 2016. Ambo was only a tropical depression, but since then there have been 13 weather disturbances in the Philippines — all of them under the watch of President Rodrigo Duterte.

And in every single one of them, not once did we hear government make an appeal for donations for survivors. In fact, during typhoons Karen (October 17) and Lawin (October 23), Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo famously and categorically said in a Facebook post that the country was not asking for foreign assistance or donations:

“Mga mahal naming kababayan, kaunting paliwanag po: hindi tayo humihingi ng foreign assistance o donations mula sa ibang bansa para sa Karen o Lawin dahil nakitang may sapat na pondo ang gobyerno at mga ahensya nito para saklolohan ang mamamayang apektado.”

(My dear countrymen, just a little explanation: We are not asking for foreign assistance or donations from other countries for Karen or Lawin because we have seen that government and its agencies have enough funds to help citizens who are affected.)

Apparently, this also holds true for us citizens: While we may feel the itch to send relief goods, Taguiwalo says, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

And now, as typhoon Nina makes its way through the northern part of the Philippines, Taguiwalo gave assurance that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) still has enough relief supplies to respond to the needs of affected families.

“To the affected families, you may approach your LGUs. Goods have already been pre-positioned to them,” she said. Aside from these, the DSWD will also provide P206.36 million in augmentation assistance to 27 local government units (LGUs) hit by the typhoon, which covers food and non-food items.

And just to be specific, she said these consist of the following:

580,857 family food packs,

2,459 ready-to-eat meals,

1,585 malongs,

885 mosquito nets,

885 blankets,

585 dignity kits (towels, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, feminine napkins, and others).

Aside from relief supplies, the DSWD will also provide a mobile communications vehicle and high-speed Internet service to the Response Cluster Operations Center at the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to facilitate speedy monitoring of situations in areas.

Talk about change. We used to think that our country was so poor that we had to dig into our own pockets and sift through our own personal belongings so that there would be enough for the survivors of disasters. Now we know that there is enough — there has always been enough — but previous administrations have been misusing our money. For example, Taguiwalo said the Aquino administration acquired a large amount of foreign aid during the onslaught of supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013 but up to now it is still not clear where a large part of that donation went.

“Hanggang ngayon hindi malinaw saan napunta ang malaking bahagi ng donations at tine-trace pa rin dahil maraming hindi nakinabang sa tulong,” she said. (Up to now it is still not clear where a large part of the donations went. We are still trying to trace it because many survivors did not receive any help.)

But now, under a President who is often criticized for his foul mouth and “uncouth” character, we are realizing that we can actually take care of ourselves. It’s not that we don’t want to help our suffering countrymen; it’s just that there is simply no need right now.

As we say in Filipino, “Puwede naman pala.”

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the original author, and do not necessarily represent those of the Pilipino Express publishers.

Jon Joaquin is the Chief Editor of www.mindanation.com. E-mail Jon at jonjoaquin@gmail.com

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