FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
14 October 2009
Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General, SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth, email@example.com
Filipino-Americans say Arroyo’s directives on relief efforts, a nuisance
The Philippines had been a disaster-ridden area recently, with typhoons Ondoy (international name Ketsena) and Pepeng (international name Parma) claiming the lives of hundreds in just a span of two weeks.
With the outpour of aid from supporters and Filipino migrants abroad, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued directives stating that all donations must go through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or else, donations will be taxed. The directives also indicate that only food, medicines and medical supplies (with the two latter requiring approval from the Department of Health or DOH) will be accepted, therefore leaving clothes, shoes and other such donations at risk of getting confiscated upon reaching the Bureau of Customs in the Philippines.
The directives, according to the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), a national alliance comprised of Filipino organizations in 23 cities in the United States, are “untimely”, “inappropriate” and block much-needed support in these times of calamity from entering the country.
“The Philippine government cannot prevent concerned Filipinos from abroad to gather and send relief materials (aside from food, medicines and medical supplies) to the typhoon victims in the Philippines. Our kababayans back home also need clothes, shoes and other things to replace what they have lost. The government could surely not gather all these support by itself as proven in its inefficiency to even provide the most basic needs of the Filipino people,” Fr. Ben Alforque, President of NAFCON based in San Bernardino, California, said.
Effects of Arroyo’s Directives on Community Efforts Abroad
In different states, member organizations and supporters of NAFCON and SanDiwa (the youth arm of the alliance) have already gathered monetary donations amounting to more than $10,000, and hundreds of boxes with material donations are awaiting to be sent home to the Philippines.
But with the directives in place, organizations who have been making initiatives are having a hard time looking for shippers or air freights that could deliver for free since the Philippine government has already consigned most of these establishments and would only allow accredited organizations in the Philippines to receive donations. Sending and receiving organizations are then required to complete paperworks that need to go through much bureaucracy.
“It is absolutely absurd for Arroyo to issue such directives at a time like this. Why now when the Filipino people need all the immediate help they can get? These red tapes only breed discouragement among our kababayans, bringing about second thoughts in sending aid to the Philippines,” Fr. Ben added.
Despite the different organizations looking for other ways to send the donations to the Philippines hassle and cost-free, NAFCON, with its member organizations in different states, still believes that the Filipino people must demand the Philippine government to allow into the country any form of help from migrants and supporters abroad — free and without tax.
“We are not about to give up. The government must address these concerns and should stop making profit out of the goodwill of Filipinos abroad. The Philippine government is known to make profit out of social services instead of providing these for free to its citizens. This is why our kababayans here in the US are losing trust in the Philippine government and are turning to people’s organizations in sending relief to the typhoon victims instead,” Anne Beryl Corotan, President of SanDiwa, based in New York, remarked.
Community Actions vs Arroyo’s Directives
In light of these restrictions, community meetings and actions have been taking place in different states, with the members of the communities actively participating in the resolve to send the donations no matter what.
Asked about what they fear if they course the donations through the Philippine government agencies and on what Filipinos abroad must do, Maureen Manuel, a New Jersey resident and member of Philippine Forum, one of NAFCON’s member organizations, said, “Knowing the Philippine government, we won’t be surprised if we find the confiscated material donations (clothes, shoes, etc) in ukay-ukays (flea markets). If we send our donations through its agencies, we are afraid that the donations will not reach the rightful recipients. That is why we must always be watchful and should not let Arroyo’s directives hinder us from helping our fellow Filipinos.”
Volunteers and donors, seniors and youth alike, still keep coming to the centers of these Filipino organizations, helping fold, sort through, and pack the donations into balikbayan boxes.
“Arroyo must learn from our simple kababayans who ask for nothing in return when they volunteer and step into our centers, and who only have their kindness and donations to offer as support for our fellow Filipinos back home,” Fr. Ben ended.
Updates on NAFCON/SanDiwa’s Bayanihan for Typhoon Disaster Relief can be monitored through http://bayanihan4ondoy.wordpress.com. For more information, please contact Anne Beryl (516) 9011832 for East Coast, and Ryan Leano (626) 5344971 for West Coast, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. ###