Mong Palatino

Blogging about the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific since 2004


@mongster is a Manila-based activist, former Philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of Asia-Pacific affairs.

Published by Bayan Metro Manila

The pandemic and typhoon disasters tested the resilience of many Filipinos. But even the most resilient won’t survive if the government is slow to respond, refuses to be held accountable which prevents it from learning where it failed, and prefers to be indifferent even if the poorest in society are unjustly suffering more from natural and man-made calamities.

Thus, we reiterate our urgent demands: relief and rehabilitation, accountability, and climate justice.

Legislators should ensure that the 2021 national budget will earmark enough funds for extending aid to flooded communities. Resources should be reallocated to provide cash assistance, livelihood opportunities, and rehabilitation of damaged houses and public infrastructures. Legislators can easily slash the bloated budget of the government’s anti-communist task force and realign it to social services and public works that are needed today in several regions of Luzon.

Aside from relief, the people are also clamoring for accountability. What happened to the calamity funds which should have been used to enhance the country’s disaster preparedness? What caused the massive flooding? Are dams to blame? What about the quarrying, mining, and logging operations? Who should we assign the bigger responsibility: the companies in charge of these extractive activities or the politicians who supported them? We hope President Rodrigo Duterte who often speaks about aggressively confronting those who destroy the nation will not be caught sleeping on the job.

Our long-term demand is climate justice which requires political will since it means a rethinking of current economic and environmental policies that could have exacerbated the harsh impact of global warming. Decades of plundering our national patrimony have not only impoverished many communities but also made them more vulnerable to environmental disasters. Farmers and indigenous peoples are the rural frontliners who take care of our food supply and ancestral lands yet they are also the first to suffer from mudslides, landslides, and extreme flooding tragedies. Meanwhile, those who profit from destroying our watersheds and polluting our waters are allowed to escape accountability.

We address these calls to the national government since it has the mandate to mobilize the bureaucracy in distributing relief, probing the role of agencies and officials in their disaster response, and enforcing laws and programs aimed at empowering communities as climate change continues to bring more difficult challenges today.

At the same time, we believe President Rodrigo Duterte is the worst disaster to hit the nation this year because of his militarist approach in dealing with the pandemic, the bungled response to the economic crisis, the roll-out of an ill-prepared online distance learning, and the slow coordination of relief and rescue operations during the successive flooding in Luzon. He is a reminder that a reckless and inept leadership will only drown the people in suffering.

Therefore, our efforts should not only be limited to gathering and handing out relief goods, but an equally if not more important expression of solidarity is our collective action against Duterte’s criminal negligence.

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