For Immediate Release
November 24, 2009
Contact: Terrence Valen, Organizational Director, Filipino Community Center–member of NAFCON, Northern California, Bay Area Bayanihan for Philippine Disaster Relief
Bay Area Filipinos Come Together for Philippine Typhoon Victims
In just 2 months time, Bay Area grassroots organizations raised almost $20,000 and collected more than 300 boxes of clothing, food, medical, and school supplies for victims of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in the Philippines.
This large community-led collection of donations marks a triumph for the church and human rights groups, community centers, women and student organizations, teachers and health care workers, bank and government employees that, despite economic problems in the United States and the Philippine government’s tax directives, came together in the name of community-to-community “bayanihan” (tagalog for “communal effort & unity) to support Philippine flood victims.
The Bay Area Bayanihan for Philippine Typhoon Relief, as the relief team is called, gave a grassroots alternative to donors who did not want their donations to be channeled through agencies of the Philippine government due to its history of corruption and lack of transparency.
The thousands of dollars and hundreds of relief boxes collected were a product of numerous fundraising events such as benefit shows and public tabling organized by 15 grassroots organizations and collection sites throughout the Bay Area.
Philippine Government Proves Inept in Responding to Calamities
However, the majority of the relief boxes are still stored in the Filipino Community Center (FCC) in San Francisco because of expensive shipping costs, a responsibility that should be shouldered by the Philippine government.
After weeks of communicating and negotiating, the group met Vice-Consuls Fred Santos and Doy Ver of the SF Philippine Consulate to set agreements last Friday, November 20, and the Consuls claimed that the Philippine government doesn’t have the funds to ship the relief boxes.
“The Philippine government should have supported this effort and helped to ship everything to our kababayan in the Philippines,” said Terrence Valen, Executive Director of the FCC. Given the disasters that hit the Philippines every year, the government should already have a protocol for responding to these calamities.
However, according to the Consuls themselves, the government has instructed them to be “creative” in coming up with ways to ship donations that they collected, proving that they don’t have planned procedures in getting donations to the Philippines.
And now that the community gave them this opportunity to restore even a little confidence of everyday Filipinos in their government representatives, they merely reiterated their incapacity, ultimately proving that Filipinos around the world can’t rely on the Philippine government even in times of calamities. “Their claims that they don’t have the money to ship our relief donations ring empty in most people’s ears — to us these sounded more like excuses given Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s track record of corruption and extravagant spending,” added Valen.
In fact, the Consulate in San Francisco was not aware that Filipino grassroots organizations in New York who have been doing relief work have already reached an agreement with the Philippine Consulate in their area that all goods will be “further delivered” to Migrante International after they reach the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
As of Monday, November 23rd, they are still awaiting response from the New York Consulate to assure the Bay Area groups that their collected goods will ultimately be sent to Migrante International, a community-based organization that work with families of overseas Filipino workers and is rooted in poor communities that have been deeply impacted by floods throughout the Philippines.
Filipinos Vow to Continue Bayanihan, Expose Philippine Government’s Inadequate Response to Disasters
The Bay Area community has proven that in this time of natural disaster and global economic crisis, the collective effort of regular people — youth and students, church people, teachers, healthcare workers and caregivers, community organizers — is the most effective means and most reliable force in sending help to those in need.
Given the claims of the Consuls that no funds are allocated for shipping costs, the Philippine government has again failed to help its people and has proven that the everyday Filipinos were right in distrusting the government.
The Bay Area Bayanihan for Philippine Typhoon Relief vows to continue to expose the limitations of our local consulate representing the Philippine government’s overall ineptness in handling the disaster, ship the relief donations through fundraising and community support, ensure donations go directly to grassroots recipients, monitor closely government spending that should have been spent for the benefit of people, and continue to empower communities through grassroots support.
On December 6th, Stanford’s Pilipino American Student Union (PASU), a member organization of the relief team, will hold a benefit concert on their campus to raise donations for typhoon victims and help compensate for shipment costs of relief boxes.
Relief boxes at the Filipino Community Center
Students Sorting and Packing Relief Goods