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.