Activists marched to Mendiola on February 8, marking the third-month of the devastation brought by Super Typhoon Yolanda.
The group led by Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), and Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), questioned the strategy of the government to leave it to “development partners” from the private sector to reconstruct the devastated areas.
The storm that ravaged almost 44 provinces in the country, and affected more than 14-million victims are still waiting for government support and housing provisions.
This plan draw serious concerns about disaster capitalism in these target areas—big corporations and investors cashing in on the Yolanda calamity to make profits—and often at the expense of the victims’ and survivors’ rights and welfare,” said Sammy Gamboa, officer-in-charge and secretary general of FDC during the gathering.
He added, “This Lacson framework and proposal, many civil society groups fear, signal 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.”
More than 150 people marched with a map of the typhoon-hit regions and laid out the logos of the corporations that will manage the reconstruction of homes, clinics, schools and livelihoods of the area through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.
Observers and critics questioned the intentions of these corporations and investors are. ATM specifically questions the assignment of mineral-rich Guiuan, Eastern Samar to the Zamora’s Nickel Asia Corp.
“Nickel Asia and the other conglomerates may actually have the means to help in rebuilding of affected areas but they also have different interests—which for Nickel Asia is likely to maximize the power given them and exploit their role as development partners to extract the mineral resources available in the area,” Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of ATM said.
Lydia Ligahon of Bulig Visayas and secretary-general of FDC—Eastern Visayas complained, “Kami ang dinelubyo, bakit di kami kasama sa pagbubuo ng plano para sa aming mga bayan! Para kanino ba ito? [We are the victims; why are we not included in the planning process? Who are the real beneficiaries?]”
For their part, PMCJ national coordinator Gerry Arances further added, “We call on the people of Samar, Leyte, and other devastated areas in the Visayas, as well as supporters, to demand to the government that instead of giving the lead of the reconstruction plans to the private sector, it should be the government with the people—instead of Public-Private-Partnership (PPP), it should be Public-People-Partnership.
“Only by putting the people at the center of any reconstruction program can we ensure that it would serve the interest of the people in building peoples and communities’ resiliency to climate change, sustainable livelihoods, and renewable energy systems, among others, and not for profit,” he further stressed.
The groups demanded the government to conduct a series of national and local consultation on how the affected communities will recover and rise above the recent disaster.