Let us pray together, I mean all – yellowtards, Dutertards, whatever tards you are tagged as – that no storm with the strength of Yolanda, or earthquake with the same magnitude as that which struck Central Luzon in July 1990 or that in October 2013 which jolted Bohol, or any other disaster that caused massive destruction on lives and properties, would hit us again.
A study conducted by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) in Geneva showed that the Philippines has been the fourth most disaster prone country in the world in the last 20 years, and one of the top 10 countries with the most number of people afflicted by such disasters.
The study, entitled “The Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters” and conducted jointly with the Belgium-based Centre on Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), said the Philippines endured a total of 274 natural calamities between 1995 and 2015.
While Filipinos have become resilient over the years as a result of going through at least 20 strong typhoons each year with a considerably large number of deaths and missing people, plus billions of pesos worth of properties destroyed, the nation still cannot claim that it can stand up and recover from the devastations of serious calamities without foreign aid.
If and when any of the disasters with such catastrophic impact as that of Supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013 or the 1990 earthquake should strike the Philippines again around this time, the world, particularly our traditionally close allies, may no longer be as sympathetic with Filipinos as they were because of the unpleasant words said about them by no other than the Philippine President.
On October 6, President Duterte dared the United States, the European Union and human rights advocates to stop sending aid to the Philippines if they would also continue to criticize his war against illegal drugs without understanding the seriousness of the problem.
“I do not expect the human rights (advocates), I do not expect (US President Barack) Obama, and I do not expect the EU to understand me. Do not understand me, and if you think it’s high time for you guys to withdraw your assistance, go ahead. We will not beg for it,” the President said in a speech during his visit to Camp Rafael Rodriguez in Butuan City.
The President is seeking respect for the Philippines as an independent country. That is clear. But more often than not, the undignified way through which he delivers his laudable message gets more attention and negative reaction.
He is so engrossed in his war on drugs that anybody who criticizes his administration over the spate of extrajudicial or vigilante killings, which some suspect as state-sponsored, is likely to hear a cuss or two during his public speeches.
The President does not mince words in warding off criticisms. He speaks like a hooligan when he gets back at his critics, whoever they may be.
Some say the President is an odd man but has his heart for the country in the right place. Okay, but what happened to his mouth? He has been cursing in public at a rate unheard of in modern presidential politics.
Duterte does not want being threatened one way or another. So, the objects of his profanity and vulgarity should just get used to it because he has taken to using curse words to get his message across. By this time, more than three months into his presidency, we should get used to his undiplomatic style of speaking.
But we cannot expect people highly respected in the world community to just take his word with a grain of salt. He cannot always complain of being taken out of context.
Take his latest tirade to critics of his human rights record in relation to the drug-related killings:
“You threaten us using your assistance. How do you look at us, as mendicants?” Duterte asked. “Even if it’s difficult, we will survive. I’ll be the first one to go hungry. I’ll be the first one to die of hunger. Do not worry. But we will never compromise our dignity as Filipino,” Duterte said.
He brags about turning to China and Russia for aid in lieu of the US and EU. In dollar terms, how much have China and Russia extended to the Philippines as against what the EU and the US have sent?
An ABS-CBN report said out of the $865,151,866 donation reported to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) for Supertyphoon Yolanda, recorded as the most destructive typhoon that ever hit the Philippines, China and the Russian Federation both gave less than 1 percent of the total funding needed.
The UNISDR report said China is the most disaster-prone country, with 26 disasters visiting it in 2015.
The United Kingdom topped the list of donors with $122.7 million, equivalent to 14.2 percent of total donations. The United States came in third with $90.6 million, or 10.5 percent of total funding.
The UN, which includes attached agencies, was fourth, with $81.5 million or 9.4 percent of total funding. The European Union is the 7th top donor, with $40.5 million (4.7 percent of total funding).
So, when a disaster of a Yolanda magnitude strikes the country again after the President had said we could survive without foreign aid, are we ready to go hungry and homeless?
Duterte should listen to long-time diplomat and former Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani, who recently received her appointment as a board director at the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei:
“We don’t need to make enemies to make new friends and that is the art of diplomacy. So I think our President, if I may have to say so, has to take a beginner’s course in diplomacy,” Shahani said.
Let us hope that Shahani does not get a tongue-lashing from the President for this unsolicited advice. The soft-spoken 86-year-old sister of former President Fidel Ramos does not deserve the kind of expletives that Duterte has so far thrown at his critics.