Typhoons Ketsana (Ondoy here in the Philippines) and Parma (Pepeng here in the Philippines) have caused so much devastation through so much flooding that hundreds of lives were lost, half a million people were rendered homeless, and all sorts of homes, property, agricultural lands and infrastructure were damaged.
There is no doubt that a whole lot of money will be spent on providing rescue and relief for the typhoon victims, and also for the rebuilding and reconstruction following the damage caused by the floods brought by Ketsana (Ondoy) and the other damage brought by Parma (Pepeng). The disaster has certainly brought about much concern from all over the world, which resulted in an outpouring of assistance in order to provide aid to these typhoon victims.
In the Philippines alone, there was a multitude of support to get the wheels of assistance turning. Several foundations, non-government organizations (NGOs) and those in the private sector gathered donations in cash and in kind to provide aid for those who were victimized by the floods and were forced to be displaced from their homes.
Medicines and basic necessities, such as food, water, clothing and toiletries were gathered and distributed at evacuation centers. Of course, a lot of money was also raised through donations both from the Philippines and from the international community.
Now I don’t know what the exact figures are, and I don’t really know who’s diligently keeping a tab on it, but there was definitely a lot of money raised. The combined effort of television networks in the Philippines raised approximately some Php200 million so far. The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) has also collected donations via text and also through Paypal apart from direct cash donations.
The international relief effort has also raised a lot of funds through the likes of Australia, Japan, Germany, European Union, Spain, Great Britain, the United States, Canada and still others. With an average of $1 million being given by each country, the total funds raised could easily reach $10 million.
International organizations have also raised funds for the Ketsana typhoon victims, with the likes of UNICEF, AmeriCares, the Asian Development Bank and more contributing a combined effort of a few million dollars.
The United Nations has also made an appeal to raise $74 million, and has already allocated $7 million from the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund due to the devastation caused by Typhoon Ketsana and Super Typhoon Parma.
Now – I don’t know the exact sum of how much money was raised to directly help in the relief and rebuilding efforts caused by Ketsana and Parma, but that is definitely a lot of money, and to where does it exactly go?
When funds are donated from the local and international community,to whom is the check addressed to? Where are these funds kept and who is in charge of the disbursement of these funds? Of course, NGOs like the PNRC appropriate their funds for rescue and relief operations, which include the distribution of basic necessities and medical supplies, but then what about the other funds that are outside the reach of the PNRC?
Apparently, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) through DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. (Jun Ebdane) has claimed that their agency lacked funds in construction projects that could’ve helped flood prevention.
“Our system of mega-dikes, dams and other flood mitigation projects in Metro Manila just couldn’t hold the high volume of water that Ondoy (Ketsana) brought to us. Although we have made plans for more flood mitigation projects ahead of time, funding problems have stalled their immediate implementaton,” explained Ebdane.
Jun Ebdane also suggested that squatters, or informal dwellers, who put up their shanty homes along riverbanks was one of the major causes to blame for the flooding. He cited a recent study conducted by Japan International Cooperation Agency, which said:
“Flooding is becoming a more serious problem in Metro Manila and other flood-prone areas because of the rapid urban expansion, inadequate river channel capacities, and insufficient equipment for maintenance for existing drainage facilities, which have been continiously clogged by squatting and garbage dumping.”
In line with this, the DPWH is now asking for a bigger budget from the international financial aid in order for them to carry out their task in cleaning the drainage systems and the garbage left by Ketsan and Parma.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is also going to need funds for their projects in asissting the half a million (or more) that were made homeless by the storm. DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral said that the DSWD continues to provide assistance to the more than 122,00 families affected by typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy). The DSWD has released P22 million from its calamity fund for the purchase of relief goods, composed mostly of food, according to DSWD Public Affairs and Advocacy Division chief Precy Villa.
I’m not very good at math, but P22 million pesos is not even half a million US dollars (at an exchange rate of P48 to $1), and certainly there is supposedly a couple million dollars of funds that can be used to provide more goods, or even better facilities for evacuation centers.
Now – I don’t know where the money is going or how it will be spent, but someone better be a diligent accountant and take note of what is coming in and where it is going out.
The Philippine Senate has already expressed a strong opposition for President Gloria Macapgal-Arroyo‘s decision to declare the entire Philippines under a state of calamity and even extending it to a year. Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., and Senators Noynoy Aquino III, Manny Villar Jr., Mar Roxas II, Chiz Escudero, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Alan Peter Cayetano warned against the relaxed rules in the disbursement of funds during a state of calamity, which might lead to abuses on the part of the executive branch, specifically with Malacañang, the various government departments, and the local government units.
According to the Senators the entire nation need not be placed under a state of calamity since not all areas were affected by Ketsana (Ondoy) and Parma (Pepeng), such as Mindanao.
The senators also argued that rules during a state of calamity has regarding the disbursement and utilization of funds become more relaxed because of the urgency for their use.
“When you declare that is going to be for a year, there might be calls for augmentation as far as those funds depleted are concerned. (The question is) will all the funds really address the calamity or will be used for something else because the rules have been relaxed?” Senator Noynoy Aquino said.
“I do not want a prolonged state of calamity, because in the same way that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, calamity tends to corrupt. The longer the declaration of a state of calamity, the longer the corruption,” Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said.
Apart from the corruption, Senators also warned that a year-long state of calamity throughout the entire nation could drive out potential foreign investors, and could create more problems for the country such as job losses and supply shortage.
The Makati Business Club, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines and the Federation of Philippine Industries among other business groups were also keen to express that eventually Malacañang might eventually declare a state of emergency and the exercise of police powers. Yes, something like Martial Law.
Maybe the Makati Business Club et al are getting ahead of themselves with conspiracy theories, but the bottom line is that 122,000 families and over half a million people will need financial aid to help them survive and remain healthy enough for them to get back on their feet again. Definitely, critical operations must be done to also curb the problem of garbage that clogs the drainage systems of major cities in our country, especially in the very congested areas of the National Capital Region. Funds must also be appropriated to the restoration of farm lands. Somewhere along the way – I just sincerely hope that the funds (that will amount to millions of dollars) will not be lost in the selfish pockets of those who will be responsible for them.