Filipinos Vow to Continue Bayanihan for Typhoon Victims and Expose Philippine Government’s Inadequate Response to Disasters

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

terry@filipinocc.org, 415-203-0696

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

PRESS RELEASES: “Community Action Indeed Fruitful, with or without Calamity” – NAFCON

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
05 November 2009

Reference: Anne Beryl Corotan, Chairperson, SanDiwa National Alliance of Filipino American Youth

“Community Action Indeed Fruitful, with or without Calamity” – NAFCON

From East to West Coast, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) in the United States can finally send the 800 balikbayan boxes full of donations for typhoon victims in the Philippines — TAX-FREE — to its partner alliance, Migrante International, the worldwide alliance of grassroots organizations addressing concerns of Filipino migrants with chapters in Europe, Hongkong, Australia, Canada and Middle East. And this victory of the Filipino people overseas did not just come about without the community coming together and making it happen through collective action.

“While it is true that the OFWs keep the Phil. economy afloat thru remittances, it is the power of US wide organization and mobilization that made this an inevitable succcess,” Rico Foz, Executive Vice President of NAFCON, said.

More than a month into the Bayanihan for Typhoon Disaster Relief — accentuated by community forums, mobilizations, fundraising events, sorting and packing of donations by volunteers from the Filipino communities and people’s organizations throughout the US — the Philippine government has finally dropped the taxes for the boxes that NAFCON will be sending to the Philippines.

Dialogue between NAFCON and Philippine Consulate in New York

In a dialogue with the Philippine Consulate in New York last November 3, NAFCON presented its demands with regards to the relief goods. The discussion concluded with all 800 boxes (approximately) of donations to be delivered duty-free and VAT-free, with the consulate and DSWD accountable in ensuring that all donations sent through the sending organization (NAFCON) will be received by the intended recipient (Migrante). The only requirements asked would be contact information of both sending and receiving organizations and a packing list which gives details of the contents of the boxes. Moreover, the ban on sending used clothing has been lifted and will be observed as long as the “calamity period” is still in effect. As of press time, there has been no set deadline as to when the calamity period ends.

NAFCON has also clarified from the consulate the procedure on how to send the boxes. According to the consulate, the donations must be addressed to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as a consignee with a note that says “further delivery to Migrante International”. Upon arrival of the goods into the Philippines, DSWD will call recipient and Migrante will pick up the boxes. The procedure goes the same for all NAFCON regions, with the Philippine consulate in New York to notify other Philippine consulates and the embassy.

The dialogue was attended in by Rico Foz (NAFCON Executive Vice President), Anne Beryl Corotan (SanDiwa National Alliance of Filipino American Youth Chairperson), Jonna Baldres (Migrante International Coordinator in US East Coast), and Atty. Felix Vinluan as legal counsel from the NAFCON side; and Consul General Cecilia Rebong and Consul Leandro Lachica from the Philippine consulate side.

Transportation of donations still remains a challenge

In light of the taxes being dropped, transportation of the donations, however, remains a challenge.

“NAFCON regions have agreed to raise $10,000 nationwide in two weeks to pay for shipping costs. We have sent solicitation letters to different airlines and cargo shipping companies and we are still waiting for replies. There were some who gave positive responses and there were some politicians who expressed their willingness to help, but what’s heartwarming is that our own kababayans themselves, even if they have no money left at all in their pockets, are finding ways to help raise the funds,” Bernadette Herrera, a coordinator in the Filipino Community Center in San Francisco, member organization of NAFCON, said.

According to NAFCON, while there are more than sufficient donated cash received, the alliance will NOT touch that as their donors’ intention is to give it to the typhoon victims and not to cover shipping. NAFCON will continuously hold fundraising events and awareness campaigns until such time that our kababayans struck by the typhoons in the Philippines have recovered, as stated earlier when the relief campaign has started.

To thank all the volunteers and everyone who helped in the relief campaign and to acknowledge the Filipino community’s successes in conducting the relief drive, NAFCON and SanDiwa will be holding events in their own regions within the next few days, such as the Sumisigaw Fil-am Youth Cultural Festival in New York with the theme “Youth unite against natural and man-made disasters” at Queens Museum of Art on November 21.

Donations upon arrival into the Philippines

With constant communication and coordination with Migrante, NAFCON has secured all logistics for the relief drive in the Philippines in place — including storehouse where the boxes will be delivered, volunteers, trucks for transporting and all other important details needed for the distribution of the goods. As a grassroots alliance, Migrante will be coordinating with other sectoral organizations and alliances for the distribution of the goods to the most affected areas of the typhoons — with Pepeng, Ramil and Santi closely following Ondoy.

“NAFCON has chosen that the donations be sent to Migrante as it has a wide organized national network of OFW families and badly hit poor communities for distribution. With Migrante, we trust that the goods will reach their intended beneficiaries as their members are immersed in the community of migrants’ families themselves,” Father Ben Alforque, NAFCON President, based in San Bernardino, said.

With the disasters that hit the country, Filipino migrants all over the world have shown their strength and compassion for the homeland despite being thousands of miles away.

“Here in US alone, there are 4 million Filipinos scattered throughout different regions, and with the Bayanihan for Typhoon Disaster Relief, Filipino migrants have displayed a strong force and integrity to contend with. It is sad, however, that the Filipino migrants’ voice have been continuously repressed and silenced as shown in the delisting of the Migrante Sectoral Partylist in the upcoming 2010 elections,” Jonna Baldres, coordinator of Migrante in the US East Coast, said.

Despite the calamity, and even without calamity, Migrante has continued to render aid and assistance to Filipinos abroad. Its unfailing service to Filipino migrants has been shown in several campaigns with NAFCON, such as the Sentosa Nurses Campaign, Justice for Fely Garcia Campaign and a lot more.

“The services that Migrante has offered our kababayans here in the US are insurmountable, not even the Philippine government can overcome. For that, we will continue to work with them and serve the Filipino people hand in hand with them, with or without calamity, elections or not,” Fr. Ben added.

Now that the proper procedures for the sending of donations have been secured and clarified, NAFCON urges our kababayans to continue to be vigilant, cautious and to continuously keep an eye on the Philippine government.

“When the donations reach the Philippines, Migrante will be our watchdog in making sure that the donations are intact upon receipt from DSWD and will guarantee that the goods will be distributed to the affected communities,” ended Fr. Ben.

For updates on NAFCON/SanDiwa’s Bayanihan for Typhoon Disaster Relief, please visithttp://bayanihan4ondoy.wordpress.com.

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