MANILA, Philippines – To accept foreign disaster relief also means swallowing “national pride,” said the Philippines’ disaster chief on the sidelines of a disaster-related seminar Tuesday, April 17, as part of the 2012 Balikatan exercises with the US military.
Undersecretary Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said there is generally nothing wrong with such pride. He himself admitted he has that attitude. “Huwag kang manghingi kung kaya mo pa,” Ramos told Rappler in an interview. (Do not ask for help if you can still afford it.)
“Pero huwag kang magmayabang kung nagugutom na ang mga tao,” he quipped. (But do not be too proud if the people are already starving.)
The Philippines, indeed, received foreign aid in many, if not most, of the major disasters that have stricken it in recent history. One such disaster is Tropical Storm Sendong, which devastated southern Philippines late last year.
To lessen the Philippines’ dependence on foreign aid, Ramos said he wants to begin with public awareness in times of calamities. “Para mabawasan ‘yung casualties,” he explained. (To lower the number of casualties.)
The Balikatan, which includes humanitarian activities, began Monday, April 16, amid protests by various activists.
Beyond public awareness, however, analysts have stressed the responsibility of local government units as well.
In an episode of Rappler’s weekly show #TalkThursday, an expert said the key is to build each local government’s concrete plans and apply these down to the barangay level. “If we’re able to match our efforts with the local governments’ capacity-building at the local level, that will, of course, translate to national capacity,” said Manila Observatory executive director Antonia Loyzaga.
A number of municipalities, however, “lack practical experience on how to plan (for disaster risk reduction), how to prepare, and how to keep it going,” said Margareta Wahlström, United Nations (UN) secretary-general’s special representative for disaster risk reduction.
The think-tank Ibon Foundation, among other groups, has criticized the Philippines’ dependence on foreign aid.
“For one, aid remains oriented towards furthering donor foreign policy interests more than the country’s considerable development needs, as in the case of Japan and the US,” Ibon Foundation said in an earlier paper. “Aid from multilateral agencies has also continued to have attached explicit and implicit conditionalities inimical to the interests of the Filipino people.”
Rich countries have recently reduced their aid to developing countries – a move that an aid group interprets as putting lives at risk. – Rappler.com