NO less than the British-led international humanitarian agency Oxfam has produced an extensive report about Yolanda/Haiyan one year after it struck. While saying there were quick initial efforts, Oxfam meant the locals and the victims’ families, as well as international aid-givers, were the heroic saviors. “In the shadow of the storm” tries to be polite to the Philippine government but one can see, if only from the heavy list of recommendations, how inadequate government action has been.
We have described the Aquino administration officials’ handling of the Yolanda rescue, aid-giving and rehabilitation as “criminally negligent and uncaring.” We stand by that assessment.
Yesterday, it was the turn of the largest coalition of development-focused civil society organizations in our country, the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO) to publicize its one-year-after assessment and recommendations.
It is important to recall that the Aquino administration’s Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman was once a chief if not the chiefest leader of CODE NGO. For its media release yesterday bears the title “CSOs lament limited consultations with affected communities and civil society organizations in Yolanda rehabilitation plans.”
CODE NGO formally submitted a list of recommendations for a more responsive Yolanda rehabilitation and recovery program to the Office of the Presidential Assistant on Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) and other government agencies engaged in the effort.
The recommendations “resulted from the recently concluded forum entitled ‘Yolanda, a Year After: Clearing the Road to Rehabilitation and Recovery’ held November 3-4 at the Ateneo De Manila University in Quezon City.
CODE NGO explains that “almost a year after Typhoon Yolanda wreaked havoc in the Philippines, the forum served as a consultation and discussion venue for the lessons learned by local civil society organizations (CSOs) and the public sector. These CSO recommendations are largely based on the local consultations organized by CODE-NGO member networks working in Yolanda-affected areas from the perspectives of their partner affected communities, member organizations, and other development partners.”
The CSO coalition wishes that in the implementation of the government’s Comprehensive Recovery and Rehabilitation Plan (CRRP) the people involved should “mainstream” the following principles:
Meaningful participation of affected communities or beneficiary groups and CSOs in the planning, budgeting and monitoring the implementation of the rehabilitation programs,
Transparency and clarity in the program implementation guidelines, particularly on fund status and utilization, on the processes for selecting beneficiaries, and on the standards for the package of assistance for livelihood, resettlement and social services, consistent with humanitarian principles and upholding the affected communities’ dignity and human rights, Contextualizing and integrating CRRP strategies with local land use, development and investment plans, and
Prioritizing the special realities and requirements of the most vulnerable groups in the affected communities, i.e. women and children, elderly, persons with disabilities (PWDs), indigenous peoples (IPs), informal settler families (ISFs), internally displaced persons (IDPs) in conflict or insurgency areas and communities in small islands or geographically isolated and depressed areas (GIDAs).
That CODE NGO’s national officers–guided by the the actual civil society organizations in the Yolanda/Haiyan affected communities– has to insist on these principles proves our point that all the sparse work of rehabilitation done by Aquino officials lacked sensitivity to the victims’ needs.
CODE NGO Executive Director, Mr. Sixto Donato C. Macasaet, said, “We recognize that the government has invested time to conduct inter-agency assessments by clusters among government agencies and consolidating LGU plans into a comprehensive rehabilitation plan, but we hoped that it included the voices of affected communities and CSOs more.”
He added, “We also commend the government’s efforts for transparency by posting its Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAITH) immediately after Yolanda, yet the publicized information fails to provide a good picture of the projects funded, in what areas and who benefited from these. We expect that the plans for the Electronic Management Platform: Transparency Hub for Yolanda (EMPATHY) will respond to this.”
The government must heed CODE NGO’s call for genuine consultation.
“As a key stakeholder in the rehabilitation of Yolanda-affected communities, the local CSOs aim to contribute to the resiliency of communities by engaging them as co-owners and managers of the programs and projects laid out in the CRRP, and not just as beneficiaries and clients.”