Where Did Millions of Aid for Disaster Relief Go? Ibon Wants to Know

MANILA — Research group ibon Foundation asked on Friday how aid for disaster relief given by donor governments was spent by the Arroyo government, in the face of the administration’s apparent lack of disaster preparedness and response when tropical storm Ondoy hit Luzon last week.

The Philippine government, for instance, received almost US$1 million in 2006 for reconstruction relief and rehabilitation. In 2007, it also received US$8.5 million in commitments for humanitarian aid, of which US$6.6 million was allotted for disaster preparedness and prevention, and US$1.9 million for emergency response.

Given the allegations of rampant corruption in government and past irregularities in the aid process, the group expressed concern that disaster relief aid could have been misspent and used for personal gain. With the influx of the relief assistance from different donor countries for Ondoy victims through government channels, now estimated at about US$4.8 million, Ibon Foundation raised the possibility that these funds may again end up unaccounted for.

Ibon Foundation, a convenor of the national aid network AidWatch Philippines, urged donors that instead of coursing aid for relief assistance through government channels, they should help strengthen the role of community-based civil society organizations (CSOs) that have the capacity, commitment, and effectiveness in providing disaster relief.

Ibon Foundation added that government agencies and other standing quasi-government bodies like the Red Cross have organizational limits in reaching communities to provide relief. Community-based CSOs, as well as people’s groups, on the other hand, are in a good position to distribute relief given their reach and awareness of the actual needs of communities. They have the advantage of having a deeper grounding of grassroots organizations in poor urban and rural communities, which allows a greater sense of ownership over relief efforts and sustainability of rehabilitation work.

CSOs especially those with a longstanding track record of serving grassroots communities can be trusted more that aid for disaster relief will indeed reach areas that need it most. (Ibon Foundation)

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