Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary General, BAYAN-USA
Philippine Congresswoman Liza Maza distributing relief packages
DAGUPAN CITY, PHIILIPPINES–Filipino-Americans under the banner of BAYAN-USA, a US-wide alliance of 14 Filipino organizations, have been actively responding to the needs of the victims of typhoons Ketsana (Ondoy) and Parma (Pepeng) that slammed through the Philippines in the past few weeks killing hundreds and devastating thousands. In addition to conducting on-the-ground emergency relief operations in the Philippines, the alliance reached its projected goal of $15,000 for BALSA (Bayanihan Alay Para Sa Sambayanan), a broad, multi-sectoral disaster relief organization affiliated with its mother alliance, BAYAN Philippines, in addition to gathering dozens of boxes across the US filled with in-kind donations of clothes, food, and medicine.
This week, members of BAYAN-USA traveled to the Philippines to deliver their monetary donations and participate in relief operations. In Dagupan City, Pangasinan, BAYAN-USA joined Congresswoman and Senatorial Candidate Liza Maza of the Gabriela Women’s Party and MAKABAYAN Coalition for one day in handing out over 2,000 sacks of food to long lines of families who had been devastated by the typhoon’s destructive force, but met with the inadequate response of the Philippine government in providing relief. Pangansinan, one of the most impacted provinces in the nation, was 80% submerged due to the man-made disaster of the San Roque Dam opening that unleashed more than 8 million cubic meters of water.
“We have seen with our own eyes how the Philippine government has neglected the needs of the typhoon victims at a time of tremendous need for basic necessities like medicine, food, and shelter,” commented Bernadette Ellorin, chair of BAYAN-USA and one of the members of the relief team. “It has been the responsibility of people’s organizations, like BAYAN-USA, to provide the emergency response needed for our families and loved ones back home who are suffering and will continue to suffer from the Arroyo government’s greedy, disaster-creating policies.”
Relief Distribution Plans
In relaying its monetary and in-kind donations, BAYAN-USA expressed distrust over the Arroyo government’s recent directive for all donations from abroad to be coursed only through accredited organizations with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or face taxation and other types of penalties and fees.
Furthermore, Philippine Consular offices in the U.S. have imposed restrictions on courier services from shipping relief goods collected by organizations whose efforts are not affiliated with the Philippine government. Courier services face high penalty fees should they choose to ship goods from people’s organizations collecting donations such as BAYAN-USA.
“In this time of calamity, it is unconscionable that the Arroyo government sees this as an opportunity to make money off of suffering,” Ellorin added, “especially when its own corruption of the National Disaster Relief Funds to pay for Arroyo’s lavish lifestyle is at the root of this disaster.”
Like other donors from the U.S., BAYAN-USA is calling for the Arroyo government to lift restrictions on goodwill, including the DSWD accreditation requirement and the taxation on relief goods, as it is posing a concrete obstacle to donors to send relief to the Philippines.
“Donors from the U.S. are not responding to the directives because of clear distrust. How can they be assured that their donations will reach their loved ones and the neediest communities back home?” Ellorin questioned. “Donors are choosing to go through alternative routes to circumvent the Arroyo government’s greedy paws.”
With the approaching super-typhoon Lupit expected to hit the Philippines within the next few days, the need for long-term or permanent disaster relief efforts becomes more apparent. “In the face of government corruption and inutility, people’s organizations should develop long-term relief operations to meet the escalating needs of the people to fight off the looming threats of cholera, dengue and other health epidemics as well as widespread hunger and homelessness,” ended Ellorin.
Members of BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA-USA with Congresswoman Liza Maza
For more information on how to donate through BAYAN USA, visit www.bayanusa.org.