Binay on buried rice in Leyte: 'Bordering on criminal neglect'
MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay scored Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman after she confirmed reports that 284 sacks of rice intended for victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) were found to have been buried in Leyte.
“Such act borders on criminal neglect. Thousands of Filipinos suffer from hunger every day, especially those affected by calamities, and yet we have a government that allowed food to rot,” said Binay in a statement on Saturday, December 5.
Yolanda ravaged parts of the Visayas region in 2013, killing thousands and inflicting massive destruction on infrastructure and communities. (IN NUMBERS: Two years after Typhoon Yolanda)
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) had been criticized for its lapses in the distribution of relief goods to Yolanda-stricken areas. (READ: Soliman admits lapses in Yolanda relief, won't resign)
On Wednesday, the DSWD office in Eastern Visayas admitted to Interaksyon that 284 sacks of rice supposedly for Yolanda relief operations rotted while in storage in a warehouse in Dagami town, Leyte.
An informant tipped the local police to a site in Barangay Macaalang, where the sacks of spoiled rice were buried.
According to Interaksyon, Senior Inspector Anthony Florencio, local chief of police, initially denied the report. Later, after inspecting the site himself, he confirmed that the sacks were marked with logos from the National Food Authority and the DSWD.
In a statement on Thursday, Soliman acknowledged the gap in her department’s capacity to manage relief goods and stressed that several improvements are "already being done.”
“I have ordered a thorough investigation of the incident to find out who are liable and to file appropriate administrative charges against them, in accordance with civil service rules,” said Soliman, responding to the call of several lawmakers to probe the incident.
“Disaster survivors have the right to receive safe relief goods. It is our duty to protect survivors of disasters from further harm that is why we decided to dispose of these goods immediately. We wanted to make sure that these goods that were unfit for human consumption would not be given to the survivors,” she added.
'Not the only time'
Binay remains disappointed at the DSWD, however, saying “this was not the only time food for calamity victims had gone to waste.”
The Vice President cited a 2013 Commission on Audit (COA) report that revealed food packs worth P2.8 million intended for 7,527 families affected by Yolanda were lost to spoilage “due to improper handling.”
In a 2014 report, COA said the DSWD was left with P141 million worth of undistributed and expired or about-to-expire relief goods.
According to Binay, Soliman’s admission of DSWD’s lapses “only highlights the reality that she has failed to provide the department the efficiency and compassion required in providing immediate aid to calamity victims.”
“This is a gross disservice to both the calamity victims who needed all the assistance they could get, and the taxpayers and donors who contributed to the government’s calamity fund,” Binay said.
“In times of disaster, government should be able to provide immediate relief to the victims. There’s no room for dilly-dallying. Their survival largely depends on government’s ability to extend the needed assistance,” he added. – Rappler.com