So now the disaster left by supertyphoon Haiyan (a.k.a. Yolanda) that struck central Philippines in November 2013 will serve as a platform to “showcase” Filipino “resilience” to European delegates visiting Manila next month. From the 4th through the 6th of June, the Philippines will be hosting the Asia Europe Meeting’s (ASEM) Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM). The initiative, organised by the Philippine government, reportedly aims to “draw lessons from Super Typhoon Yolanda.”
The star of the show will, of course, be Filipinos exhibiting their world-renowned “resilience”…
“We are the poster child of resiliency and we have been cited for our resilience and other international conferences have referred to the Philippines because of our determination to rise up again and again,” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Asec. Maria Zeneida Angara Collinson, chair of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila conference, said in a press conference Thursday.
I wonder what it is like being a victim of a supertyphoon like Haiyan and being spoken for by bozos like these — being made a “showcase” to a bunch of foreign delegates. Indeed, when citations are made by foreigners, Pinoy Pride quickly wells up. Indeed, it is true. Filipinos “rise up again and again” from disasters — because the same problems keep beating them down again and again.
One wonders what it is exactly Filipinos need to learn about disaster risk reduction management from all these foreign delegates when there are enough people on the ground who have had direct experience dealing with the aftermath of devastating typhoons. Indeed, a lack of will amongst the powers-that-be in Philippine government to listen to real experts was exhibited in full living colour to the world at the height of the Haiyan crisis when no less than Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III insisted on grossly underestimating the initial death toll estimates in the days following Haiyan’s exit…
According to President BS Aquino, the original estimated death toll of 10,000 “came from local officials who perhaps were ‘too close’ to the center of destruction to make an accurate guess.” That official, Elmer Soria, the chief superintendent for the central Philippines province of Leyte, was reportedly fired for “sharing the alarming estimate, which was quickly a focus of reports from the local news media and international news organizations.” The official explanation issued by the Philippine National Police (PNP) was that Soria was “relieved from his post” because “he might need to go through a stress debriefing.”
The Philippines isn’t lacking in experts in the field of managing the handling and processing of large numbers of dead bodies following a major calamity either. Yet, Filipino officials broke all the rules nonetheless. Many of these competent disaster management professionals, like Soria in the above example, were swamped by the triumph of all the wrong arguments and the views of the ill-informed.
President BS Aquino reportedly responded to criticism his office had been receiving regarding the snail-paced release of reports of the death toll with this doozy: “It’s because you have to make sure that there is the certification or a coroner’s report before it is made official,” apparently ignorant of the fact that there is no such thing as a Coroner’s Office in the Philippines. Noted forensic expert Dr Raquel Fortun cited this demonstration of the President’s astounding ignorance as just one among other appalling instances of the Philippine government’s ineptitude that left her feeling “burned” from the whole experience of trying to directly contribute to the relief effort.
Fortun and her group started on November 18 but had to pack their bags after five days. This was after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) questioned their mode of identification.NBI officer-in-charge Medardo de Lemos already apologized, noting it was only a misunderstanding between the two camps. Fortun was with experts from the Department of Health and World Health Organization, while the NBI sought the help of the Interpol.
And no amount of money and other resources thrown into the relief effort could beat the institutionalised thievery and renowned doctrine of incompetence-as-state-policy that characterises everything about the Philippines…
Official incompetence has also been painfully evident in this government’s phlegmatic response to super typhoon Yolanda and its disastrous aftermath. Slow and inefficient in bringing relief immediately after the storm, the government has also dragged its feet in rebuilding the typhoon-battered areas.Today, seven months after the storm killed more than 6,000 people and rendered half a million more homeless in the Visayas, the administration has yet to come up with a master plan for the rehabilitation of the affected areas. And, despite the generous outpouring of aid from all over the world, the government has not spent a single centavo for temporary shelters needed in Tacloban City, which suffered the most from the typhoon. The ones that exist in the city today have all been built with privately donated funds.
The prospects for a full rehab of the areas devastated by Haiyan has long been recognised as being dim and much of the relief goods and funds donated all but going to waste. This is in considering the Philippines’ mediocre track record of taking full advantage of otherwise abundant resources at its disposal. Early reports on the snail-paced and disorganised disaster response mounted by the Philippines immediately following early revelations of the full extent of the devastation wrought by Haiyan were quite telling. Even as vast sums of money and resources came pouring in to aid the relief effort, the astounding inefficiency of the Philippine bureaucracy was all but fatal so much so as to bring to serious question the recovery prospects of Tacloban City and other affected areas.
To now organise and host — likely to the tune of millions of dollars — an international conference to “learn” from the Haiyan experience would have come across as laughable if it weren’t for the mind-numbing tragedy that frames it. An abundance of lessons and local expertise to champion these lessons are sitting right under Filipinos’ noses all but under-appreciated. And in this age of readily-accessible knowledge, flying in delegates from Europe for another talk-fest about Yolanda is just plain dumb.
[Photo courtesy International Business Times.]