DTI on CNN iReport: 'Diskwento Caravan' a public service
MANILA, Philippines – Is the government taking advantage of survivors with the "Diskwento Caravan" (Discount Caravan) doing the rounds of disaster areas?
A user-made iReport on the CNN website says as much, but the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) points out that it does the opposite.
The caravan, selling basic goods and non-relief items at discounted prices to people affected by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), is in fact a form of public service.
It says 6 delivery trucks from Cebu were transported to Tacloban with items in tow for the caravan to sell to people in the area.
GMA's video explains that the caravan's prices for goods were discounted – from 10% to 30% – compared to regular pricing in stores. The quantity of items purchasable by individuals was also limited to avoid hoarding.
The video also shows DTI Secretary Gregory Domingo appealing to local business owners to avoid abusing the situation by gouging commodities prices.
In the report, GMA's Julius Segovia also said the DTI was also looking into freezing the prices for construction materials, as these would be the next immediate need for people to rebuild their homes.
The CNN iReport
It took a different twist altogether in the iReport, basically questioning why goods are being sold to typhoon survivors when there are tons of relief goods being sent by foreign donors.
The iReport posits that people in Tacloban City "were left no choice but to grab this little opportunity because, as they stated, they might die [of] hunger if they will just depend on the 'little' amount of food donations being distributed by the Philippine government."
The iReport continues, "This fact is VERY DISAPPOINTING and VERY FRUSTRATING since the whole world knew that the donations for the Filipino people were overflowing since day one after the typhoon.
"While the government of other countries have been thoughtfully giving great amount of help to the Filipino people affected by the typhoon, the government of the Philippines seems to be unwilling to help its own people," the report asserts.
The iReport has spread fairly widely over social media, garnering over 256,000 views, 170 comments, and 82,000 shares as of this writing.
The user who posted the report, named hcsl, joined the site on the day the post was placed, according to the joining date on hcsl's profile page. As of this writing, the discount caravan article is the only post on the account.
A long-standing initiative
The DTI released a statement on the Gov.ph website November 26 to address the issue. DTI Secretary Domingo explained that the caravans had been occurring "for many years" and is "a public service conducted by DTI in partnership with big manufacturer and/or distributors."
The Diskwento Caravan was also active in Bohol following the October earthquake.
The DTI website also notes in a separate November 26 statement that the caravan was already conducted in 6 cities in Samar and Leyte.
A second run of the caravan is underway. As a follow-up to GMA's report, the DTI says this caravan will have basic goods and non-relief items as well as construction materials, batteries, flashlights, and additional necessities for sale.
The DTI response points to the value and reasoning behind the caravans. The caravans have provided "many truckloads of bread, canned milk, assorted other canned goods, other types of beverages, sanitary napkins/panty liners, and many other products that are otherwise unavailable in the area" in Samar and Leyte over the last 10 days.
DTI's response also attempts to correct the notion that the government and the DTI are recipients of the majority of the donations sent by well-meaning parties.
The DTI asserts that not every government agency receives donations or aid money, with most of the assistance and donations going directly to local and foreign aid agencies rather than the government.
DTI not a recipient of aid
Domingo said the DTI "has a very meager budget and gets zero donations," and that the government has set up the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH) website to track the aid that has come in and how it is spent. The DTI does not appear to be part of the FAiTH monitoring team.
He said the manufacturers and distributors offering goods for the caravans are doing this as a public service. "Most of them do not make money" on the caravan's activities.
The caravan team is composed of employees of the DTI and of its partner companies who take "30-hour shifts from the time they leave the Cebu port on a RORO to Leyte/Samar to the time they get back to Cebu after holding the Diskwento Caravan without the benefit of a hotel room or assured toilet facilities," he said.
"It is their desire to help that keeps them going," Domingo said. "I only hope they don’t read the negative comments regarding the Diskwento Caravan on iReport as it will certainly break their hearts."
A recent inspection of the article on CNN's iReport page reveals that CNN has added a producer's note above the piece, citing the DTI statement made by Domingo on the Gov.ph website.
Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) affected more than 10 million people in several regions in the Philippines. Multilateral and international agencies helping out in the relief and rehabilitation acknowledge that this is the biggest humanitarian operation they have done, and have called for more donations from various countries. – Rappler.com