November 11, 2013
Reference: Renato M. Reyes, Jr. Secretary General
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan calls on all its chapters and member organizations in the Philippines and abroad to undertake mass mobilization for relief efforts for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). We call on unions, employees’ associations, student organizations, community organizations and the general public to contribute to the efforts to help the communities ravaged by Yolanda. Through the Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan or BALSA, we are currently receiving cash and donations in kind intended for the victims of the typhoon.
The strongest storm to make landfall this year, and perhaps the most powerful in recorded history, may have claimed up to 10,000 lives according to some estimates. The storm cut a swath of destruction throughout the Visayas region in the Philippines, affecting as many as 4 million people across 36 provinces.
Many areas in the Eastern Visayas region remain without food, water, power and communications facilities. Entire communities have been levelled by the storm. Looting has been reported by the media. Worst hit were the coastal communities. The first area hit by the storm, Guiuan, Eastern Samar have initially reported as many as 300 dead. Relief workers are also trying to reach rural communities also believed to be devastated by the strong winds and the storm surge.
The situation of the people is made even more difficult by the backward socio-economic conditions in these provinces. The worst hit region, Eastern Visayas, ranks the third poorest region in the Philippines as of 2013. Of all the regions in the country, it alone posted negative growth in 2012 according to the National Statistical Coordinating Board. It registered the highest incidence of families experiencing hunger according to a 2011 government survey. Most vulnerable to the effects of the storm are the peasants and fisherfolk who live under conditions of poverty and underdevelopment. 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.
Another region hit, the Western Visayas, has a poverty incidence of 24.7% as of 2012 and an unemployment and underemployment rate of 27.8%. 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.
Years of systemic fund misuse, as shown by the corruption in the pork barrel system, has further aggravated poverty in these regions. Those in power who are perpetuating the status quo are thus also liable for the dismal situation of the people in these regions.
At this point, government should prioritize relief and rehabilitation efforts for the victims of the typhoon. Funds should be channelled directly to relief and rehab, primarily food and water, health care and shelter in the immediate, as well as livelihood and rebuilding of communities in the medium term. 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. Lastly, government should heed the people’s demands for social justice such as genuine land reform and an end to destructive mining and logging operations in these regions. Unless true economic development is undertaken in these regions, the vast majority of the population will continue to be increasingly vulnerable to the effects of calamities both natural and man-made.
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. ###