DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A farmer who took the helm in leading hungry Lumad and residents after Typhoon Pablo wrecked the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental last year appeals to the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) not to lose hope.
“As a typhoon survivor, I am asking the people of Visayas to always think that you are alive and there is a huge task at hand. Hold on. Do not lose hope,” said Karlos Trangia, spokesman of Barug Katawhan.
Trangia said the survivors of Pablo are worried for the residents in the Visayas because they know how hard it is to start again from scratch with many of their relatives either dead or missing.
“It will also be very difficult to start rebuilding your life if you are hungry. Like what we experienced during Pablo, trucks and planes keep coming in to bring in relief goods but these supplies fail to reach the affected communities most especially in the far-flung areas,” Trangia shared.
Trangia added that while sacks of rice form huge walls inside government warehouses, some would turn out to be unfit for consumption. “The survivors of Typhoon Yolanda must also prepare that they will encounter relief goods that are spoiled,” Trangia said.
He said that the first few days will be chaotic but the residents themselves should create order and not solely rely on the government.
Barug Katawhan led the organization of affected communities in Mindanao after Pablo struck the area last December.
Trangia recalled that Barug Katawhan was able to create various committees in the sub-villages and villages that were tasked to address specific concerns of the residents, including food and medicine.
Barug Katawhan also began a series of massive protests – including a 10-hour occupation of a major highway in Montevista town – after the relief goods failed to reach their communities weeks after the disaster.
“That protest was a success after Secretary Dinky Soliman herself faced us and committed to deliver 10,000 sacks of rice,” Trangia said.
Last February, Barug Katawhan occupied and raided the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Davao City over the alleged continuing poor delivery of aid in the communities.
“It was not looting. We are only taking what is ours. We need food. There is available food but these are all locked up in the warehouse. It is very painful for us that time knowing that food, only a few meters from the area we were occupying, is not being distributed to the hungry,” Trangia said.
Trangia also urged the public and the media to stop from tagging the survivors of Yolanda as looters. “I know how they feel. And it hurts that they are being called looters. They are not looters. They only wanted to survive. They want to feed their children,” Trangia said.
Trangia commented that after a disaster, it is an instinct to grab what you can, including food, water and items – just to survive.
“But the residents must organize themselves. They must act in an organized manner and that everything that they get must be divided according to the needs of their communities,” Trangia said.
“They must conduct meetings and consultations among themselves. From these meetings, they can create plans on how to slowly rebuild their lives and formally pressure the government to step up the relief services,” he added.
Lessons from Pablo
Despite the problems, Barug Katawhan and DSWD were able to create a partnership particularly in helping each other in assessing and addressing the needs of the communities.
“Many died inside the evacuation centers. Imagine the walls and the roof of these evacuation centers crushing those who are taking shelter in it. Imagine water, mud and debris swallowing these evacuation centers,” Trangia said.
“It happened during Pablo. Now it happened again in Yolanda. And we thought that the administration of Aquino has learned that they must ensure that these evacuation centers are really safe for the residents,” added Trangia.
He commented that if the government is unsure about the safety of these evacuation centers then the people must not be given false hope that these structures will protect them.
“Second, even after Sendong, Pablo and the earthquake in Bohol, the government is still lame in providing quick response and relief for the survivors. The first few days after the storm are very critical. Many will possibly get sick or die because of the lack of food, medicine and water,” Trangia said.
Trangia said Barug Katawhan helped in raising at least P15 million worth of relief goods for those who were devastated by Typhoon Yolanda. This will be personally delivered by Balsa Mindanao in Leyte and Samar.
Balsa Mindanao is a multi-sectoral group composed of health groups, militant organizations and non-governmental organizations launched during Typhoon Sendong.
“We know that this will be very hard for the people of Visayas. But we are confident that they will be able to spring back to their feet. We are not just resilient. We are brave and sharp-witted. Do not be afraid to organize and speak out and criticize. Demand from the government but at the same time create efforts in your communities that will help your families,” Trangia said. – Rappler.com
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