December 4, 2014
Reference: Rhondalei Gabuat, Secretary General, GABRIELA Seattle, email@example.com
Today, December 4, marks the 2nd year anniversary of Typhoon Pablo, the strongest tropical storm to hit the southern island of Mindanao claiming hundreds of lives, and destroying the homes of thousands with little help from the Philippine government. Survivors of Pablo continue to demand justice for the lack of relief aid provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Last year, another tropical storm, Typhoon Haiyan, hit the eastern seaboard of the Philippines where over 10,000 lives were lost and 4 million people were displaced. After one year, people living in the areas hardest like Tacloban, are still struggling to recover and reclaim their lives. Meanwhile, Super Typhoon Hagupit is gathering strength in the Western Pacific and threatening to deal another significant blow the Philippines.
As climate change and the warming of air and sea temperatures give more power to tropical cyclones, countries like the Philippines suffer the blow. Extreme poverty, lack of infrastructure and exploitation worsen the impact, especially to women and children. Government neglect has been an ongoing outcry of the Filipino people during times of calamity. As each natural disaster pummels through the country, there is an increased military presence, not just by the AFP but of the deployment of more than 5,000 US soldiers in the country. Women and children become vulnerable during these volatile times and become victim to increased human trafficking and violence.
Several members of the PNW region visited areas impacted by Typhoon Pablo and Haiyan to aid in ongoing relief work, and while the rebuilding continues, one thing remains intact, continued neglect and unpreparedness by the Philippine government. Reflections by those who saw first-hand the impacts of these “unnatural” disasters were shared.
“On my last two trips to the Philippines, the Manobo have taken me into their homes, their schools, fed me and my children, taught me their way of life, rebuilt their lives from one unnatural disaster to another. A community with very little resources has taught me so much about resilience, hardship and sacrifice. Once again, greed and corruption drive the Lumad off their ancestral domain because of harassment, intimidation, and forced use of violence. I’m tired of hearing the NPA rebels being scapegoated as terrorists living amongst the Lumad when the real terrorists lurk around in uniform, whose duty it is to defend the rights and land of their own people, and instead get away with hundreds of thousands of unwarranted human rights violations so we can just give away our nation’s natural resources to foreign investment. When they themselves reach a tipping point and lay their lives on the line to defend these lands, I raise my fist. Dugang kadasig!” ~Donna Denina – Gabriela USA, Philippine Exposurist 2013
“I connected with Precious and Henry who would be the very first U.S.-based activists to accompany the kasamas to provide over 12,000 aid packs of food, water and other needed supplies to Tacloban and Eastern and Western Samar. Though I was not able to accompany the caravan, I was honored to have helped share their stories and experiences about their efforts via social media and emails. At the same time, I was inspired by BALSA’s grassroots efforts to aid the survivors of Haiyan through volunteer power.” ~Joaquin Uy- Philippine-US Solidarity Organization, Philippine Exposurist 2013
“Relief is only part of the solution as it is temporary. The actual rehabilitation and rebuilding of the devastated areas is long-term; and after talking with organizers the Philippine government isn’t acting fast enough or doing much, in my opinion. At the distribution I participated in, a major challenge was that there were more people than there were relief packs, so many were turned away. It took place in a very public area so I think a lot of the folks who came were passersby or heard about it. There was a voucher system and those with tickets could receive a pack. Several people came up to me saying they didn’t have a ticket but obviously wanted a bag of goods. The lines were extremely long, but the distribution itself was well organized.
I am grateful I am here and that I got to participate on this trip, witnessing and building with so many volunteers from the various organizations affiliated with Bayan that came together to help those affected by Typhoon Yolanda.” ~Precious Butiu– Gabriela USA, Philippine Exposurist 2013