FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Reference: NAFCON National Office
A Year after Ondoy and the Overwhelming Support of Filipinos in the U.S.
On September 26, 2009, Typhoon Ondoy struck the Philippines , killing hundreds of people and displacing thousands more. Although many consider Ondoy as one of the worst “natural” catastrophes in Philippines history, Rev. Benjamin Alforque, NAFCON President commented, “The real catastrophe is not the typhoon but the government neglect and corruption that led to the overwhelming number of avoidable casualties.”
For decades, members of the government profited by selling mining and logging rights to foreign corporations without regard for its people. The irresponsible mining and logging destabilized the soil where thousands of Filipinos live. Soil destabilization created places prone to severe mudslides that toppled over and wiped away entire communities during Ondoy. Rev. Alforque continued, “If the government acted in the interests of its people, they would have prohibited the mining and logging to protect our kababayan.”
The government-made catastrophe continued when Ondoy hit and the nation had no money for emergency relief. Anne Beryl Corotan, Chairperson of SanDiwa (NAFCON’s youth and student arm) commented, “The government could not even afford to purchase rubber boats to rescue survivors of the floods.” The President at the time, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), spent the entire P800 million relief fund on extravagant trips throughout the world.
The government’s role in creating disaster became clearer when a blogger named Ella released pictures of entire government warehouses filled with rotting relief goods. Even after people throughout the world responded in force to assist victims of the typhoon, the government could not deliver.
In the face of the GMA administration’s failures, NAFCON organizations coordinated relief work independent of the government. NAFCON initiated BAYANihan for Philippine Disaster Relief. In partnership with Migrante International, a migrants’ organization working directly with the communities most effected, whom are also families of migrant workers around the world, NAFCON made sure that the donations gathered would be distributed immediately to those people who needed them.
As part of NAFCON’s relief effort, money along with hundreds of balikbayan boxes began piling up at the different drop-off sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles , and New York/New Jersey. In the end, BAYANihan for Philippine Disaster Relief generated 750 boxes of goods as well as over $50,000 in cash.
In June 2010, Ryan Leano of SanDiwa, visited with Migrante. Leano commented, “Migrante took me to visit the communities that received our donations. The people sold much of the donated clothes to help buy beds, building materials and tools. They are still rebuilding.”
One year after Ondoy, former President and now Congresswoman Arroyo still needs to be prosecuted for her role in the government-made catastrophe. Rev. Alforque said, “Arroyo needs to be held accountable, not only for her failures in the wake of Ondoy, but for the series of corrupt practices throughout her administration.”
The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) is a national network of Filipino organizations, institutions, and individuals committed to advancing the rights and welfare, celebrating culture and history, and building unity among Filipinos living and working in the United States . Founded in 2003, NAFCON members are based in over 23 cities across the country. Member organizations include: SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth, National Ecumenical Forum for Filipino Concerns, Filipino Community Center–San Francisco, Filipino Community Support–Silicon Valley, Philippine Forum—New York and New Jersey, F.I.R.E.—New York, Habi Arts—Los Angeles, Liwanag Kultural Center—Daly City, Filipino Ministry of DSB—San Bernardino, Fellowship for Filipino Migrants—Illinois, and Filipino Migrant Heritage Commission—Virginia.
SanDiwa, the youth and students arm of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), is a national alliance of youth, students, and community youth organizations, united to (re)educate, celebrate, and advocate for issues that affect our Filipino communities in the United States and in the Philippines. As an alliance, we seek to work cross-culturally in reclaiming our humanity and to work collaboratively with “other” minority groups to protect the rights and welfare of young Filipinos all over the United States .