There is no need for so many words to describe the extent of destruction and devastation which Yolanda inflicted on Region 6 where Iloilo and the other Panay provinces are, Region 7 where the two Negros provinces and Cebu are, and Region 8 where Leyte and Samar are. The photographs and videos from media say it all.
Now that aid to the affected provinces is clogging up the roads leading mainly to Leyte and Samar, as well as the other islands, it is time to consider picking up the pieces and rebuilding the ruins wreaked by Yolanda.
‘Yolanda’ not the last
While disaster response and disaster mitigation is going on, it is prudent to go back to disaster preparedness. After all, we must recognize the dreadful possibility that Yolanda will not be the last of the “strongest” typhoons to hit the globe. Its strength and power could well be the normal standard for typhoons of the future, God forbid!
Yesterday, Social Watch Philippines/Alternative Budget Initiative presented its alternative budget for 2014 to senators and their staffs at the Senate of the Philippines. I don’t know if it was sheer prescience or foresight on the part of Social Watch Philippines, but a substantial portion of the alternative proposals focused on disaster preparedness and climate change.
Since 2006, Social Watch Philippines has been presenting alternative budgets on health, education, agriculture and the environment. Universal social protection for all has recently been added to the alternative budget. Social Watch’s proposals have been picked up by senators and congressmen and successfully included in the general appropriations act.
The alternative budget usually includes an analysis of the macroeconomic assumptions of the proposed budget from the executive, alternative expenditures for social development, as well as proposed sources of funding.
Some examples of proposed budget allocations: the environmental cluster has proposed P14.5 billion in additional allocations primarily for climate change, biodiversity, and renewable energy. The education cluster is proposing P44 billion for training people and children in disaster preparedness, additional funding for the Disaster Risk, Mitigation and Management Councils, as well as the conduct of studies on climate change adaptation.
The agriculture group is proposing P13 billion for the development of product, which will adapt to climate change.
On the other hand, the health cluster is proposing P10 billion for 1,000 more doctors to help cope with health needs arising from natural disasters. It is also proposing increase in the budgets of the specialty hospitals—the Lung Center, Heart Center, National Kidney Training Institute and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center.
Finally, the social protection cluster is proposing an additional P3.7 billion to take care of “left-behind” sectors, namely the Muslim and Indigenous peoples and the elderly, as well as persons with disabilities.
Where will the money be coming from? Additional expenditures cannot be proposed without identifying sources of funding. Social Watch Philippines /ABI pored through the voluminous budget documents and identified allocations which are vague or tend to be duplicative. It has also zeroed in on allocations in the Special Purpose Funds. Social Watch Philippines has always advocated for the realignment of lump sums to detailed expenditures and the transfer of these funds to frontline agencies.
Will the Senate take up these proposals for climate change and disaster preparedness? Abangan ang susunod na kabanata!
Disaster response and educational institutions
Much has already been made of the activities of the business sector and private organizations, as well as civil society organizations in disaster response. Very little has been mentioned about the work of educational institutions.
Actually, schools were among the first to respond to the cries for help from Yolanda’s victims. This served a dual purpose for them. First, it is part of their mandate to lead by example. Secondly, natural disasters serve as a laboratory for value formation and the teaching of civic duties to students and the academic community. Because they both teach and practice community service, they already have established protocols for action in times of emergencies.
I just came from the Mindanao State University/Iligan where I gave a lecture on the 2014 budget. It was heartwarming to see that the university was actively campaigning for typhoon relief. The people of Iligan know how it is to be overwhelmed by a massive natural disaster. I pointed out in one of my interviews that people from the Visayas and Mindanao are in the best position to give help because they can do it via Cebu and other island routes even as the Manila route is clogged.
Educational institutions have a duty to see to the physical safety of their students. The University of Santo Tomas has an assigned building where students can gather and even spend the night whenever there are floods. They are usually given food to tide them over until the floods subside.
Disaster preparedness and disaster mitigation and response are synonymous with Silliman University in Dumaguete City. The university’s disaster response team has rushed to the aid of flood victims in Iloilo, in Negros Oriental itself and earthquake victims in Bohol. The team was among the first to send a search and rescue team to Leyte. The university sent its first batch of 13 tons of food and supplies to Leyte and Samar. Tomorrow, the next shipment will be sent via Ormoc. Right now, Silliman s campaigning for a mobile water purifier, generator and medical supplies for Bethany Hospital which was smashed to the ground by Yolanda. It is also giving shelter and psychological assistance to over a hundred students from Leyte and Samar who are stranded in Dumaguete. What’s more, contributions are all accounted for!
I am very sure that the above schools are just three of the many schools and educational institutions who are doing their duty not only to teach disaster preparedness, but also disaster response.