The “apocalyptic” aftermath of super-typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas has also brought positive developments to our country and people. Last Saturday, I promised and started a series of ‘Good News’ columns on the Philippines in keeping with the Spirit of the Christmas season.
My article last week touched on the corporate social responsibility (CSR) of conglomerates that led to the private-sector initiative on disaster management. The business sector and the non-government organizations (NGOs) decided to work together in disaster relief and rehabilitation, starting with the victims of the super-storm devastation.
The private-sector initiative of sharing of information and resources has been formalized with the incorporation of the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF). Hopefully, the coordination of their efforts through PDRF will achieve synergy that would greatly benefit the ill-fated survivors of the country’s worst natural calamity.
The inclusion of the Church, which is the most organized in very parish, is an excellent idea with Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal as co-Chair of PDRF. The other two co-chairman are PLDT & Metro Pacific Investments Corporation Chairman Manuel V. Pagilinan (MVP) and Ayala Corporation Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel.
MVP has apparently taken the lead to institutionalize the effective recovery from the devastations of each calamity. The president of PDRF is Rene “Butch” Meily, his erstwhile Special Assistant and former president of PLDT & Smart Foundation.
Foreign aid to the rescue
The destruction brought by super-typhoon Yolanda was “absolutely staggering,” as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry referred to it in his recent visit to Tacloban. The description of Secretary Kerry, a former senator, captures the imagination: “It is really quite stunning. It looks like a war zone in every respect and for a lot of people, it is.”
However, what is heart-warming after the devastation: Aid given to relief and rehabilitation from foreign governments. Nations around the globe from Europe and North America to East Asia generously sent in humanitarian aid. Australia and New Zealand also contributed relief goods to lent succor to survivors, while government and volunteer workers from Israel, Spain and Germany arrived to help out.
Our country’s closest ally, the United States of America (USA), is giving a total aid of $ 86.0 million or P3.8 billion that includes food, water, shelter materials and other relief supplies. From the initial $61.0 million, the U.S. government added $25.0 million in humanitarian aid. They also sent in their aircraft carrier, Hercules C130 planes, V22 Osprey helicopters and deployed 1,000 American Marines in the rehabilitation efforts.
Another big foreign donor is Canada, the good neighbor of the U.S. in North America. From an initial C$20.0 million, the Canadian government added another C$20.0 million by matching the contributions raised from private charities. All told, the Canadian people gave a total of C$60.0 million or P2.5 billion.
The biggest donor is the United Kingdom (UK) with 80 million pounds or an equivalent of P5.6 billion. From an initial 50 million pounds, British Prime David Cameron announced the additional 30 million pounds in aid to the Philippines.
The European Union (EU) gave 60 million euros or P3.6 billion in foreign aid. On top of it, Germany, the richest country in the EU gave to the Philippines a donation of 4 million euros or equivalent of P 240.0 million.
From Down Under, Australia gave a foreign aid of $30.0 million or an equivalent of P1.2 billion. New Zealand gave close to $5.0 million or P200.0 million. Canada, Australia and New Zealand are members of the British Commonwealth just like Malaysia and Singapore.
The other good news—offers of loans from multilateral financing institutions (MFIs), such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). From an initial $500 million, the World Bank added an extra $408 million or a total of $908 million to help the Philippines. The ADB, for its part, has offered a $392-million loan.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) likewise recently offered an equivalent of some $500 million in loans to assist in our recovery. Japan also sent its foreign aid amounting to $52 million or P2.2 billion in terms of emergency grant and relief. The $20.0 million was coursed to the ADB from Japan’s poverty reduction program.
Doing things right
The reconstruction of the devastated towns and cities in Eastern Visayas is a perfect opportunity for the Philippines to once-and-for- all do things right with the proper planning and implementation of the projects and programs. With Leyte and Samar, the same can be done as in northern Cebu, northern Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan and Antique.
Indeed, the rebuilding to be done for the post-calamity recovery can show to the world what the Filipinos can really do. This is also the perfect opportunity to tap the vast talents of Filipinos here at home and abroad to help in the reconstruction efforts.
I know of top high-caliber Filipino architects and engineers who are in excellent positions to assist and would only be happy to help. But they would not volunteer their services unless they are invited. So the challenge now for the Rehabilitation Czar in the person of former Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson is how to effectively harness their talents.
Hopefully, the exercise of rebuilding will finally put the elusive “planning” in our culture together with the correct construction of houses, buildings and public infrastructure.
This is also a good opportunity for the architecture in our airports, seaports, bus terminals, city and town halls and provincial capitols to reflect our cultural heritage by using Filipino design. This has been the advocacy of our Pilipinas Sandiwa Heritage Foundation, Inc. (PSHFI) for the past years.
Unfortunately, then DoTC Secretary Mar Roxas, the same guy who wants to be President, could not even give our foundation the courtesy of reply to our letters to him.
Rick B. Ramos at firstname.lastname@example.org