Disasters in 2009: Poor Filipinos Victimized Many Times Over

But later on, the promise of relocation was not fulfilled. Many were left in evacuation centers still hoping that representatives from HUDCC or from the National Housing Authority would come to get them. They were instead given a “choice” between Balik Bahay (back to the house) and Balik Probinsya (back to the provinces) schemes to force them to leave the evacuation centers.

The displaced families at the PhilSports Arena, formerly known as Ultra, complained that they were mistreated just to force them out of the evacuation center.

They were fed spoiled food, according to the evacuees who requested to remain anonymous, as soon as the media no longer paid attention to them. Some of the serious allegations they have told Bulatlat previously was the disappearance of a P25 million ($541,594) donation from India and roughly 1,000 packs of relief goods from SM, the mall chain, which never reached them, according to them.

In the provinces, families have been scrimping on whatever relief goods they receive as it rarely reaches them. In the town of Pila, Laguna, they were concerned not only about how they would continue to live after most of their belongings were destroyed during the flood but also about the continuing threat of demolition of their houses because they live near the Laguna Bay.

Token Measures

With all the damages that the two super typhoons have caused, the government has proved, yet again, its proclivity to grandstand, without addressing the core of the problem. This year, it passed the Climate Change Act of 2009 or R.A. 9729 to equip the Office of the President, through a so-called Climate Change Commission, with the authority to formulate and propose legislation to address climate change and receive grants from the international community.

But the Climate Change Act of 2009 has failed to address the root causes of climate change. Not only that, the Climate Change Act would be implemented together with other laws and policies that are destructive to the environment such as the Mining Act of 1995, the Forestry Code of 1975, EPIRA, the liberalization of coal mining and the Oil Deregulation Law.

Various groups of progressive scientists have already called for urgent amendments to the Climate Change Act of 2009 to give it more substance and teeth. They are also not in favor of coursing funds meant to address climate change through the government. Meggie Nolasco, spokesperson of the Philippine Climate Watch Alliance, said in a recent forum at the University of the Philippines, that widespread corruption in government has eroded its credibility in handling grants from the international community.

Instead of passing the Climate Change Act, the government could have passed the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Bill instead. The bill has been pending in Congress in the past nine years. Carlos Padolina, deputy director of the Citizen’s Disaster Response Center, said the proposed bill is aimed at preparing and empowering the people by providing them with trainings, from the village to the national levels, on how to react and what to do in times of disasters.

Padolina told Bulatlat that their NGO has been doing small-scale trainings on disaster risk reduction and management in provinces, such as the Bicol region. He said that during the typhoon Reming in 2007, communities equipped with the skills provided by the trainings had zero casualty rates despite losing some of their belongings.

He hopes that the damage brought about by the two typhoons would facilitate the enactment into law of the Disaster Risk Reduction Management bill. But the year just ended and Congress is about to take a recess and the bill is far from being passed. One of the reasons for the delay, Padolina said, is that it would require dramatic changes in the government structure and a lot of resources in order to implement it. In the meantime, the government and the people are being lulled into complacency, until the next super typhoon hits the country. (Bulatlat.com)

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