There has been no shortage of good intentions and resources to match these as far as efforts to get people residing in the disaster areas left by super-typhoon Haiyan (a.k.a. Yolanda) back up on their feet. The question that has become more pressing in recent days has been whether a recovery can be sustained and whether or not it will be fuelled from within Philippine society. Bekele Geleta secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross socieities, however, warned against “aid dependency” even as the United Nations stepped up efforts to solicit aid funds for Haiyan’s victims in the Philippines.
“There are still needs and gaps in delivery of food and emergency shelter materials to some areas, but we must look towards gradually reducing people’s dependency on food aid,” [Geleta] said in a statement a day after completing a 72-hour visit to the disaster zone.
Recall an original UN estimate that more than $300-million was required to fund relief and recovery over a six-month period. The bill to rebuild the disaster area is now expected to be closer to $800-million. “The original plan was really urgent life-saving assistance with a relatively short timeline. Now we are looking at longer-term projects into rehabilitation and reconstruction,” UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokesman Jens Laerke reports to the media.
Sourcing of funds notwithstanding, a more pressing issue is how — and if — these funds are being allocated and used. It has come to light, that even as vast sums of money and resources came pouring in to aid the relief effort, the astounding inefficiency of the Philippine bureaucracy was all but fatal so much so as to bring to serious question the recovery prospects of Tacloban City and other affected areas observes Kevin H.R. Villanueva, a university research scholar in international politics and human rights at the University of Leeds…
The money pledges and relief supplies of food and water worldwide have been heartening. And yet they were, until recently, stuck in Manila, or in the case of cash donations, much has prudently been held in banks until plans for reconstruction come to light. Driven by the images of despair and desperation, people have themselves made haste to come to the aid of the survivors of Yolanda.
The argument to be made here is that there has been no single point person to whom accountability for immediate relief and the eventual task of rebuilding has been bestowed. The Filipino people will survive because it is in their character to counter and rise above adversity. But if we are all to genuinely learn and understand the lessons of this disaster, the question must be given a future perfect thought: Who will be in charge, if Tacloban and its people are to rise from the rubble?
Indeed, there are reports that even foreign relief teams have started wondering where the their Filipino counterparts are and whether Filipinos will ever step up to match the scale and intensity of relief efforts so far delivered by foreigners…
Foreign aid-givers, the Koreans and teams from a score of other countries, including U.S. Marines and Air Force people, U.N. experts and NGO’s, are visible everywhere. You wonder, though, why so few Filipinos.
The World Tribune report from which the above excerpt was taken continues, observing that “[Tacloban City mayor] Alfred Romualdez, wonders too. Specifically, he wants to know why Philippine soldiers aren’t all over the city, joining in the search for bodies, cleaning up the trash and aiding in reconstruction.” And the answer to that, yet again, is as expected: politics.
The problem, though, is a problem within a problem. Romualdez, successor to his father as mayor, is a member of the family of Imelda Marcos, widow of Ferdinand Marcos, overthrown in the People Power Revolution of 1986.
The woman who took over from Marcos was the late Corazon Aquino, widow of Benigno Aquino Jr., gunned down as he returned to the Philippines from the U.S. in August 1983 to challenge the Marcos dictatorship. Their son, Benigno Aquino III, now president, nurses the family wounds.
A categorical validation of this astute analysis came from no less than Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas who, in a meeting with Romualdez, explained why the national government remains reluctant to provide much-needed support and resources to the on-going relief effort in Leyte province — the most hard-hit of the disaster zones left by Haiyan. “You’re a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino. We just want to legalize this. If it’s not legalized then, ok, you’re in charge… Bahala kayo sa buhay niyo [you all can go take care of yourselves],” Roxas explains.
You gotta hand it to Sec. Mar Roxas. Never before has so much been explained using so few words.
[Photo of Justin Bieber in Tacloban courtesy Justin Biebz Spanish Fans.]
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