By Aldwin Quitasol
BAGUIO CITY ? The Serve the People Brigade-Cordillera Disaster Response (STPB-CDR) Network has already provided relief services to at least 669 families and more than 4,000 individuals affected by Typhoon “Pepeng” in the city of Baguio and some towns of Benguet. The STPB-CDR is a relief and assistance network initiated by members of progressive organizations led by the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) and volunteers from different non-government as well as civic organizations, institutions, schools and individuals from here and abroad.
The STPB-CDR started relief operations immediately after the onslaught of “Pepeng” in the Cordillera Region where cases of landslides resulting to deaths and displacements were reported. Aside from distributing relief goods and providing assistance in retrieval and clearing operations to some barangays in the city, the network also extended help to municipalities of Benguet like Puguis in La Trinidad and in Sto. Niño, Acop and Ambassador in Tublay.
The STPB-CDR distributed bags of food supplies, drinking water and clothing to the victims. Since October 10, the brigade had already collected an estimate of P1,048, 219.50 ($22,465) worth of food, clothing and medicines, a total amount of P168, 373.25 ($3,608) in cash donations from different organizations and individuals. Countless man hours were also rendered by volunteers, mostly high school and college students, who trooped to the office of the CPA, which served as center for the STPB-CDR.
Spirt of Volunteerism
More donations in kind and in cash are continuing to pour into the STPB-CDR center. Although classes resumed on Wednesday, many volunteers are still seen in the relief operations.
Aside from distributing relief goods and helping in search and retrieval and clearing operations, the STPB-CDR dispatched teams of staff and volunteers to monitor the devastation caused by the typhoon.
“The devastation typhoon ‘Pepeng’ caused Northern Luzon is distressing. But the overflowing generosity and volunteerism of our kakailian is inspiring. Truly, the Filipino bayanihan spirit is alive. This growing and widening support enabled the STPB-CDR Network to provide relief and medical missions in affected communities”, read a STPB-CDR statement.
Staff of the STPB-CDR expressed gratitude to the donors from here and abroad and to the volunteers while at the same time appealing for more support as there are still families from isolated towns and provinces of the Cordillera. The mining town of Mankayan, Benguet was isolated after the major road leading to the place was washed-out by a huge landslide. Kayan East of Tadian is still at a worse situation with many rendered homeless after their houses were destroyed when half of a mountain nearby collapsed and killed many people.
Understanding the Real Situation
Meanwhile, the CPA in its analysis of the situation said the series of massive catastrophes in the Cordillera and the rest of the country must lead to an understanding of the impacts of climate change and environmental issues, and the system of disaster response. The CPA added that there is a certain disproportionate vulnerability of certain populations, including indigenous peoples, to the adverse impact of climate change.
The CPA explained that the environmental crisis should be understood by analyzing its systemic root causes and the accountability of the few global elite and imperialist countries running the world capitalist system. The CPA said the climate crisis could be attributed to the global capitalist production and exploitation of the earth’s environment and resources, and to the irresponsibility of the government and top bureaucrats who passed laws worsening climate change and environmental disasters. Laws passed by bureaucrats gave all-out freedom to big companies to operate fully even at the expense of destroying the environment.
“They are responsible and accountable for the imposition of neo-liberal policies in underdeveloped countries. Imperialist and advanced capitalist countries have imposed neo-liberal policies in advancing their imperialist agenda and plunder especially in underdeveloped countries, leading to the destruction of the world’s resources for their profit and greed. This greed for profit is responsible for the operation of large-scale extractive and destructive industries, such as corporate mining and large dams which is very evident in the Philippines,” CPA stated.
The CPA added disasters experienced not only in the region but also in Marinduque and Albay and other provinces proved that extractive industries, corporate mining in particular, only leads to irreparable environmental disasters. Aside from this, the CPA stated that it also makes the lives of indigenous peoples much harder with the violation of their collective rights to ancestral lands and resources resulting to displacements and a blow to their right to self-determination.