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Justice for Yolanda Victims and Survivors! Stop Corporate Takeover of Reconstruction!
UNITE AND FIGHT FOR OUR PEOPLE’S SURVIVAL AND NATIONAL SALVATION!
Today, exactly 3 months after Yolanda—the strongest typhoon to ever make landfall —battered the Philippines, the country is still reeling from its devastating impact that left 14 million victims and survivors, including around 4 million displaced and 500,000 houses destroyed.
We have also witnessed mounting reports and complaints about communities and survivors still not getting adequate assistance or even a semblance of government presence as ugly realities of an excruciatingly slow, selective, inadequate, disorganized and generally poor disaster preparedness and response by a government accused of acts of negligence bordering on the criminal. Days before Yolanda, President BS Aquino boasted about their zero casualty target and assured the frantic public that his government was prepared for Yolanda. Six days after Yolanda, DSWD boasted of having distributed a mere 50,000 emergency relief food packs when in fact at least 1.73 million hungry and desperate families were waiting for food aid. Reports of “widespread looting” in Tacloban and the ransacking of an NFA warehouse in Leyte competed for headlines with stories about stench and sights of rotting corpses and debris left unattended for several days.
Exactly three months after, displaced families and those with houses destroyed are still waiting for government help that has so far come in via substandard, cramped and overpriced bunkhouses as temporary shelters and assailed as violations ofinternational human rights standards for the right to adequate housing. Today, much of Tacloban City still suffers from darkness as more than 75% buildings are reportedly not yet connected to the grid. Health and hospitals, schools and infrastructures and other public services stillin large part, have to be restored. People complained of hunger and lack of jobs and livelihood They have started to leave for elsewhere in order to survive.
Exactly three months after, the areas and communities in Yolanda’s trail of death and destruction have largely remained devastated, deprived and destitute.
STOP CORPORATE TAKE-OVER OF RECONSTRUCTION!
The government’s National Economic Development Authority through its Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda(RAY) plan, declared a P361-billion budget for the areas ravaged by the supertyphoon. Aquino has pledged to spend over P25 billion for its post-disaster response— peanuts compared to around P1 trillion in “Presidential Pork” from the 2014 national budget that he has stubbornly decided to maintain. The government has contracted at least $1 Billion loans from the ADB and the WB for Yolanda rehabilitation. At the same time, Aquino also ordered the wholesale forced evictions of entire coastal communities 40 meters away from the shores.
Last December, Aquino appointed Panfilo Lacson as the rehabilitation czar tasked to coordinate the reconstruction of Yolanda-ravaged areas. Lacson, in his capacity as the Presidential Assistant on Reconstruction and Recovery (PARR) subsequently planned to carve up the battered communities into the reconstruction and investment areas for big corporations and investors such as SM, the Pangilinan group of companies, Aboitizes and Ayalas. This plan drew serious concerns about disaster capitalism in these target areas—big corporations and investors cashing in on the Yolanda calamity to make profits—often at the expense of the victims’ and survivors’ rights and welfare. This Lacson framework and proposal, many civil society groups fear, signals the government’s gradual abandonment of its primary state obligation to lead and ensure the people’s right to a rights-based and people-centered recovery and reconstruction of their communities and lives. People’s genuine participation for instance--in the planning, monitoring and implementation of the recovery and reconstruction of Yolanda areas---are at best muted, if not totally absent. The government in effect , is ceding its obligations to big corporations and private companies whose bottomlines are returns of their investments and profits.
Before Yolanda, the ravaged communities were already areas of neglect, underdevelopment, and conflict where pre-existing issues of land-grabbing, land conflicts, mass poverty and mining have consigned peoples for generations into a state of wretchedness. Region 8 provinces of Leyte and Samar, have always been considered among the poorest and least developed in the country. Certain devastated areas like Homonhon, Manicani and MaCarthur have long been hotspots for disastrous mining activities and intense resistance by the affected communities. Electricity consumers of both Samar and Leyte have been threatened with the privatization of the Unified Leyte Geothermal Power Project (ULGPP) and the inevitable power rates hike and other tragic results of privatization of public services. The government is planning to pass on to the power consumers in the entire country the cost of rebuilding and reconstructing the lost and damaged power infrastructure and services in the entire region.
To add insult to injury, while the country and the people were still reeling from the impacts of Yolanda, and the scandals of Pork, PDAF and DAP, MERALCO announced last December an unprecedented and highest single increase in power rates in the country’s history. Such a move, exposed not only MERALCO’s corporate greed at a time of disaster and the people’s worsening economic situation, but also the government’s failure to act in people’s interests. Aquino wobbled from alternately agreeing to feigning helplessness before the giant power company’s onslaught against the people. The MERALCO issue once more highlighted the failure of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) to deliver on its promises of affordable and secure power and energy for the people.
UNITE AND FIGHT FOR NATIONAL SALVATION AND PEOPLE’S SURVIVAL!
The people however are not taking these impositions sitting down. Shoreline residents in Leyte, Samar and other ravaged areas have increasingly defied Pnoy’s unilateral order to bar them from returning to their communities. In early January, around 10,000 victims and survivors marched to the streets of Tacloban demanding P40,000 cash assistance from the government. The national and global anti-debt movements have called for debt cancellation for the Philippines and asserted that instead of contracting new loans, the government should pour in public funds for rehabilitation, recover the people’s stolen money and rechannel debt servicing to relief and recovery and payment for the people’s loss and damages.
Meanwhile, a broad people’s movement is opposing not only MERALCO’s corporate greed on various fronts. It has led the call for the repeal and replacement of EPIRA , and the investigation and prosecution of erring and colluding officials. It has scored the Aquino government for allowing corporate greed and impunity to hold sway over the people’s dire economic situation at a time of national disaster and sufferings.
A broad movement is shaping up that seeks to rally the people and mobilize them in their numbers to carry out comprehensive and thoroughgoing changes in the economic and social system, not only as alternatives and durable solutions to the worsening multiple crises (economic and political, governance and climate,etc.)---but as the only immediate and urgent agenda for our survival as a people and as a nation.
Today, February 8, 2014—we mark the third month of Yolanda and pay tribute to those who were lost and those left behind to suffer, even as we also celebrate our resiliency and collective determination as a people to rise above our national tragedy. We continue to call for Justice for all Yolanda victims and survivors. We continue to call for Justice and deliverance for our country and people.
For today, we also declare that it is our patriotic duty to move and act together for our own liberation.
8 February 2014
*Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)*Philippine Movement for Climate Justice(PMCJ)*Alyansa Tigil Mina(ATM) *Bulig-Visayas