What are the contributing factors that have prevented urgent, efficient relief to affected areas? Does the prevalent government corruption as seen with the pork barrel scandal play a factor?
By Ugnayan ng Mga Anak Bayan
We express our deepest sympathies and condolences to our sisters and brothers who have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
As women, immigrants, U.S.-born, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/ Transgendered/Queer, working class and Filipino/Filipino-American youth, we mourn the tragic loss of the thousands of lives and destruction of the environment, especially indigenous lands. We feel great sorrow for the survivors who are experiencing loss and for those who are looking for loved ones, still suffering from uncertainty.
We are especially concerned about the children, youth, LGBTQ and women — an already vulnerable minority — who bore witness to Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation, who struggle to survive in the chaos of a criminally ill-prepared government and who may be subjected to human trafficking, exploitation, rape and violence.
As U.S.-based Filipino/Filipino American youth, we stand in solidarity with the Filipino people as the emergency response continues and rebuilding process begins. In light of such monumental tragedy that has directly impacted millions of our people, we reflect on the following:
Why has Haiyan been so catastrophic for the Filipino people
We have listened to first-hand accounts of our family members and friends in the Philippines. We have heard of gruesome stories of entire families and towns buried under the wreckage, acres upon acres of crops uprooted, livelihoods decimated,homes brought to the ground and survivors scavenging for basic needs such as food, water, shelter and medicine.
We draw on our history as a people to gain perspective on how this could happen. We understand that this catastrophic environmental disaster is a culmination of the oppression of our people and the abuse of our land. The extent of Typhoon Haiyan’s destruction is a culmination of the 450- year history of Spanish colonization, U.S. war, occupation and imperialism. Our people’s history is linked to the gravity of our current situation. We can no longer deny the impact of the impoverishment of our people and the pillaging of our natural resources.
Why are we outraged in the aftermath of Haiyan?
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been donated by individuals, organizations and governments. But our families, friends and even international news media have reported that relief has been criminally slow. It is enraging to witness our sisters and brothers, especially children and mothers, in dire need and without assistance. Without access to clean water and food for eight days, time is of the essence. Thousands of lives hinge on direct, immediate action.
We demand answers as to how the Philippines has been so ill-prepared to respond to a national emergency. We ask: What are the contributing factors that have prevented urgent, efficient relief to affected areas? Does the prevalent government corruption as seen with the pork barrel scandal play a factor? What about bureaucratic maneuveringby clans who rule over a particular territory? Or how political opportunism in the form of plastering political party stickers, propping up affiliate organizations and promoting careers have hindered relief goods? What culpability do President Aquino and the Armed Forces of Philippines have in the delay? One thing for sure: any political roadblocks that have prevented the delivery of relief goods has and will result in more fatal casualties. Such negligence is disgusting and deplorable.
What should we do to support the survivors of Haiyan?
We must stand in solidarity with the people of the Philippines. We must understand the difference between charity and solidarity. We must see charity for what it is: a patronizing act to absolve us from our the guilt of our privileges. We must think and act critically so that we do not repeat systemic patterns of neo-colonization, brute racism,political manipulation, and victim blaming. We must act in solidarity and extend support towards sustainability; and responsibly link and raise our consciousness to the necessary struggle to reclaim our collective humanity.
In these difficult times, we must find perspective. The Filipino people have had a long history of fighting for basic our rights to life, land and liberation, wherever we may be. We are a people who do not succumb to helplessness and desperation; we are a people whose proclivity to rebuild and get back on its feet runs in our people’s veins. We have confidence in the most marginalized members of Philippine society possessing the will and capacity to unite as one and rise up from the devastation. We recognize that this demonstrates more than passive resilience — but it is a continuation of an active struggle, a resolute defiance and an honorable resistance in the face of all forms of violence.
What is our role in the environmental disaster?
It is not enough for the world to just bear witness to these harrowing accounts within the comforts of our home. We need immediate and long-term action. While monetary, in-kind donations, and volunteer work are of utmost importance at the moment, they can only go so far. We need to take a stand that this vicious cycle of environmental calamities that are occurring more and more often are not just tragic coincidences. It is the very real, very raw manifestation of climate change that did not just happen overnight.
How have we in the Global North, and especially as people living in the belly of US Imperialism, contributed to calamities like Typhoon Haiyan? It is hypocritical to address the magnitude of super typhoon Haiyan’s destructive effects without isolating the root causes of climate change. We need to have a firm grasp of who produces massive carbon emissions. We need to identify the perpetrators, the enablers of multinational corporations and governments that are beholden to greed, operating at the expense of pillaging and abusing mother nature. It is our responsibility to question, investigate, expose, and challenge the very system that enables its existence at the expense of our sisters and brothers in the Global South, including the Philippines.
How can we contribute to genuine change?
We are the future ancestors of generations to come. As this generation of young people, we must do our part by lessening our carbon emission, finding alternatives to producing and consuming energy. We should invest in grassroots, transnational organizations like TIGRA-GABAYAN, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in the US and local producers in the community. We can start changing our future today, by changing our ways of living and challenging our own governments to act on using sustainable energy. This is how we show genuine solidarity for the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.
The Philippines will no doubt rise above the rubble of Haiyan’s devastation. The question is, will we as a global community unite and rise up in arms in waging war on the root causes of climate change? There is no quick fix to this devastation, and it will most certainly be a long and difficult road to recovery. It is our role to extend people-to-people support, especially to the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our society. We must commit to organize wherever we may be — to raise our consciousness and take critical action towards genuine transformation, in the interest of humankind and the world we coexist in with mother nature.
Turn our compassion, outrage and consciousness into progressive action. Donate generously and responsibly to one of Ugnayan’s endorsed organizations. Get organized to work for grassroots solutions towards environmental justice and an end to all forms of violence. For more information call (347) 298 - 7664 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.