It is unclear whether or not Senator Ping as rehabilitation czar for the Eastern Visayas was an inspired choice by the President. After all the good senator held no local government posts, which one imagines is important in the task of rebuilding barangay, towns and whole provinces. LGU experience would’ve equipped him with the knowledge to create communities from scratch, and engage individuals in ways that are productive and relevant for the city.
Senator Ping has also not held any position that has had anything to do at all with tragedy and loss, where the death of people is equal to the death of place and culture and the future. Contrary to the idea that it is up to the people of the Eastern Visayas to move forward, there is a need for government—and now the rehabilitation czar—to prove that they understand the plight of all survivors, diverse as they are. There is a need to capture the creativities and cultures lost to this disaster, and ways of life that remain important for the people who have stayed behind, and are going to return.
But at the press conference on November 2, the new rehab czar was talking about getting the private sector to do the rebuilding—his solution to the red tape and bureaucracy that rebuilding through government offices would entail. He also mentioned how the private sector does it better and faster, and how the only question would be the kinds of concessions they might get from government in exchange for rebuilding the Visayas.
Hope in Ping
It makes my blood boil hearing about the possibility that government will spend as little as possible on rebuilding efforts, but I do want to give Senator Ping a chance at proving that he has more up his sleeve. I wish he would check out the various projects that are targeted toward the rebuilding efforts, ones that point to needs that are so basic such as hunger and debriefing sessions, shelter and employment.
There is also the cultural landscape that’s been lost to the storm, one that is as valid to reconstruct as any other building in the region. The University of the Philippines has called for proposals for rehabilitation and rebuilding from its faculty. The Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Pilipino has been wanting to mount the original Filipino musical Sandosenang Sapatos in places devastated by the storm, as a form of therapy for survivors.
It would be great were Senator Ping willing to engage with these projects, and incorporate these into the grand rebuilding plan of government, by government, with the support of the private sector. Because really that’s the way it should happen. This should not be a deal brokered between government and the real estate development that already knows to build condominium upon condominium in congested Manila.
And this, I have faith, Senator Ping knows. So I hope with all my heart that along with the many things he needs to consider and reassess, that he is also open to the possibility of cutting through the red tape and forcing this government to do the hard work.
Make them do their jobs, Sir. And force them to do it well. That’s what they’re paid by taxpayers to do. We will watch with glee as you whip this government into shape. One can only imagine what rebuilding then will look like, without spin, without corruption, with the most shameless of culprits getting the blame, and how!
Hope in Chiz
I thought it was unthinking and insensitive of Senator Chiz Escudero to have condemned so strongly the reported looting in Tacloban on Day 3 after the storm. He said then that “Stealing is still stealing under any circumstances. Individual decision ito ng bawat tao, hindi naman lahat ng nandoon ay nagnanakaw. ’Yung iba ginagamit na lang na dahilan ang kalamidad.”
We have of course since realized that people were taking from the malls and the mineral water warehouses because there were no relief goods coming in. We have since realized that in fact national government could only claim that relief operations were happening on day five after the storm. We now know that even as relief goods began being distributed, families were being given food packs that will only last them two days. And then the struggle to get food starts again in a vicious cycle that this government could certainly avoid were it more flexible with its own rules and protocol.
I’d like to think that Senator Chiz has seen this too and is now looking more kindly upon the people of Tacloban who took food and water, yes, and took whatever else was there, true, but that is a measure of the magnitude of this government’s failure to attend to the people, two, three, four days after the storm.
Which is why I also love that he took the DSWD to task for continuing to stick to relief goods period, without considering the needs of survivors in evacuation centers that don’t have facilities for cooking. Demanding that they provide a “rational plan that says this <…> is what they <the people> need,” Senator Chiz also hits at the inability of this government to actually provide for the needs of the people—because they fail to assess what those needs are.
And it’s not just about the lack of facilities for cooking in evacuation centers. There’s also a lack of flexibility when it comes to those P380-relief packs and what these contain. Rice, sardines, corned beef, noodles and instant coffee as the standard six-meal pack for a family of five can be reconfigured into something healthier and more nutritious. Say canned milk in place of some of that coffee, tetrapacked ulam of pork and chicken and not just fish and processed beef. How about leveling it up for those in evacuation centers and giving them a dozen hardboiled eggs? A fresh loaf of bread for each pack maybe?
Ah but it seems that the problem really is in the insistence on protocol, and imposing rules that are uncalled for in a time of crisis. This is only what a relief pack can contain; this must last people two days.
Senator Chiz might be better off working with the private sector in getting those soup kitchens going—it is what was done in Villamor Air Base, not just by Art Relief Mobile Kitchen (which is still feeding evacuees and volunteers at VAB), and also by the lesser known but highly experienced team of Manang Sheila and Tita Bonita’s AC Soup Kitchen, who would arrive in Villamor with cooked meals and drinking water for serving to anyone and everyone, survivors and volunteers all. They are now feeding people in Tacloban.
You would think that the DSWD could follow through and provide for the hungry—across the Eastern Visayas—in this way. But reports on the ground say that in fact the national government has stopped giving food and water, cooked and otherwise, in places like Tacloban. That baffles me no end. Until I realize that it seems that this government’s decision is to count the dead (up to the number that they like) and ignore the needs of the living.
Might Senator Chiz—and Senator Ping—now take this government to task for that?