November 21, 2013
Various progressive groups today set out on a national relief caravan from Manila, Bicol and Mindanao that will converge on Samar and Leyte to provide aid to typhoon-ravaged areas. The groups belong to the Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan (BALSA) in Manila and Mindanao, and include various relief formations initiated and groups, such as Lingap Gabriela, Sagip Migrante, Dambana, Tulong Kanayunan, Tulong Kabataan, Brigada Kalikasan, All-UP Workers Union, Karapatan, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (B ayan), Bayan Muna and many others. Their efforts are supported by international groups such as the National Alliance of Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) and Bayan-USA and various affiliates of Migrante International across the globe. The Manila-based groups assembled at the Quezon Memorial Circle for a brief program.
The national caravan involving groups from Manila, Bicol and the entire Mindanao will include more than 50 vehicles including at least 9 trucks of relief goods from Manila and Bicol. The more than 500-person contingent will include medical professionals and other volunteers from the Philippines and the United States. Leaders of mass organizations and partylist groups are also expected to join the relief operations.
“This may be the biggest relief caravan we have ever conducted, involving at least three regions and hundreds of volunteers. Over the past week, the mass movement here and abroad have been collecting relief goods other forms of assistance for the people of Eastern Visayas and Panay. Today, we travel to Samar and Leyte to show solidarity and to raise the demands of the people for immediate relief. As we contribute to the worldwide relief efforts, we continue to hold the Aquino regime as ultimately responsible for ensuring relief and rehabilitation for the victims of Yolanda/Haiyan,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“Eastern Visayas is the 3rd poorest region in the country as of 2012 and the region with the highest incidence of hunger in 2011, prior to the storm. Its level of underdevelopment impacts its level of preparedness for calamities. Meanwhile, more than P2 billion worth of the graft-ridden Priority Development Assistance Funds or PDAF were channeled to the region between 2010-2012. The people are victims several times over because of systemic abuses and government neglect and incompetence even during relief efforts,” Reyes said.
Members of Gabriela joining the mission will be looking into the specific needs and vulnerabilities of women and children during calamities. Doctors and nurses from the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), together with their partner groups from abroad, hope to provide medical services for rural areas affected by the storm.
BALSA Mindanao, an organization founded after storm Pablo, is organizing the Mindanao mission which will come via Sothern Leyte. Learning from the experience of Pablo, they hope to show solidarity with the victims of Yolanda. In the aftermath of Pablo, storm victims were organized to demand relief and support from government agencies. (Follow the caravan thru the hash tag #TabangEV and thru BALSA’s FB community page).