“We should link arms for typhoon survivors. Let us show our solidarity: let us hold big assemblies, light candles, pray and take action. Let us send a powerful message of unity and hope.” – Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Progressive groups are calling on students, workers, and the general public to hold mass mobilizations for relief efforts for the survivors of the Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), one of the strongest, if not the strongest typhoon to hit land.
“The organized masses are acting swiftly to gather help and extend solidarity to their fellow poor and oppressed, who are always the hardest hit by natural disasters. It is heartbreaking that the typhoon wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of families living in some of the poorest provinces in the country, which have long been neglected by the national government,” Koalisyon ng Progresibong Manggagawa at Mamamayan said on its statement.
Typhoon Yolanda had sustained winds of 315 kph and gusts of 380 kph. It made its first landfall to Guian, Samar at around 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 8, wreaking havoc in many provinces in the Visayas region.
There have been reports that 10,000 individuals are feared to be dead. But as of Nov. 11, 6 a.m., the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported on its website that 255 individuals were killed, 70 injured and 40 missing.
Citizen’s Disaster Response Center (CDRC) reported that there are about 982,252 families or 4.4 million people affected in 1,741 barangays in 343 municipalities and 39 cities in 36 provinces in Regions IV-A, IV-B, V, VI, VII, VIII, X, XI and CARAGA.
“Out of the affected, 101,762 families or 477,735 persons were displaced. There are 86,513 families or 403,503 persons staying inside 1,425 evacuation centers,” CDRC said on its statement, “Yolanda left at least 3,480 houses damaged, with 2,071 totally destroyed in Regions VI and XI. In Tacloban, government officials said only a few homes were left standing.”
CDRC added that “the super typhoon has set off landslides, storm surges and flashfloods, knocked out power and communication lines, uprooted trees, wiped off buildings and houses near the sea, crumpled tin roofs and upturned cars. Thousands of families living in risk areas have evacuated ahead of time. However, even evacuation centers were deluged by the strong winds and flash floods, leaving several people injured or dead.”
Bayan said in its report that the dire situation of people in Eastern Visayas is even made difficult by the “backward socio-economic conditions in these provinces.”
The National Statistical Coordinating Board reported that Eastern Visayas is the third poorest region in the country. It is, according to its 2013 report, the only area this year that posted a negative growth. Poverty incidence also rose 36.2 percent in 2009 to 37.2 percent in the first half of 2012.
“The region suffered a 6.2 percent decline in 2012, due to slow performance of industry and agriculture sector,” SunStar Tacloban reported.
Results of the 2011 Annual Poverty Indicator Survey also showed that Eastern Visayas has the highest incidence of families experiencing hunger. The said study, which covered 51,000 sample households nationwide, revealed that 16 percent of its residents experienced hunger compared to other regions such as SOCCKSARGEN (13 percent), Caraga (11.7 percent) and Northern Mindanao (10.1 percent).
“We fear for the situation of many villages near mountain areas which are also vulnerable due to the effects of large-scale mining and logging operations,” Bayan said.
“Another region hit, the Western Visayas, has a poverty incidence of 24.7 percent as of 2012 and an unemployment and underemployment rate of 27.8 percent. The region has reeled from slumping agriculture and fisheries. The impact of the storm will again take the greatest toll on the peasants and fisherfolk in the region,” the group added.
Bayan said, “we call on the people to join the International Day of Solidarity for the Victims of Yolanda on November 13 by holding assemblies, discussions and mobilizing people to contribute to relief efforts.”
Lack of preparedness
Environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said their initial assessment of the impacts of Typhoon Yolanda revealed major shortcomings of the government in preparing the people for the typhoon.
Bayan added that the government should prioritize relief and rehabilitation efforts for the typhoon survivors.
“Funds should be channeled directly to relief and rehabilitation, primarily food and water, health care and shelter in the immediate, as well as livelihood and rebuilding of communities in the medium term,” Bayan said.
The group added that, “government funding, such as those used for debt servicing or items that are considered part of the corrupt pork barrel system, should instead be used for the needs of the typhoon victims. We definitely take exception to the use of public funds for the promotion of narrow political interests at a time of severe crisis.”
Kilusang Mayo Uno, for its part, criticized the deployment of soldiers and police on the reported “looting” at the Gaisano Mall in Tacloban City.
“It is disgusting that the Aquino government is planning on using violence against survivors of Yolanda. There is looting because the government’s relief operations are too slow and give out too little,” Elmer Labog, KMU chairperson, said.
More police were deployed to Tacloban, according to a Philippine Star report, to restore peace and order, following earlier news that residents have resorted to looting as they await for government’s assistance.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that “with food and clean water in short supply and without any government presence at all, many residents were driven to desperation.”
Labog said the Aquino government should instead speed up the delivery of relief goods to the people affected by the typhoons.
“People are thirsty and hungry and need medication. They just lost their homes and loved ones. The government should release all pork funds to help them as soon as possible,” he added.
Progressive groups said they would mark Nov. 13 as an international day of solidarity and action to help survivors of Typhoon Yolanda. Vencer Crisostomo, chairperson of Anakbayan, said that it is “not the time defend pork, to whine, point fingers and act like a brat diva. This is the time for immediate action , we have a life and death situation for our kababayans.”
“Our fellow Filipinos need our help now. We are calling on members, chapters and allied organizations nationwide to exert all efforts to help. Let us gather goods to send to our kababayans, and turn our schools, communities, workplaces into relief centers,” Crisostomo said.
Anakbayan is spearheading Tulong Kabataan, a network of student and youth organizations to hold relief drives for the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda. The youth group will also join the International Day of Solidarity and Action for the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda on Nov. 13.
Filipino migrant workers in Hongkong and in the Middle East are also raising funds and receiving donations for the typhoon survivors.
John Leonard Monterona, coordinator of Migrante Middle East and North Africa, said they are reactivating Sagip Migrante, relief operations that would be spearheaded by Migrante International.
“We should link arms for typhoon survivors. Let us show our solidarity: let us hold big assemblies, light candles, pray and take action. Let us send a powerful message of unity and hope,” Crisostomo said.