For Immediate Release

January 19, 2010

Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General, SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth



In September of 2009, Typhoon Ondoy was followed a week later by Typhoon Pepeng, hitting the Philippines with torrential rain and massive flooding. These typhoons caused unprecedented damage, destroying homes and property, affecting hundreds of thousands people. The extensive disaster, coupled with the disaster of the Philippine government’s ineptitude in dealing with the massive damage, brought about the need for Filipinos in the United States to come together and help their kababayan (countrymen/women) back in the Philippines. The result was a nationally coordinated relief effort spearheaded by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) and its youth arm, SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth, with the most prominent centers of the relief effort happening in New York/New Jersey, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, various Filipino grassroots community organizations participated in this national relief effort by forming the Bay Area Bayanihan for Philippine Disaster Relief project. The group decided that Migrante International would be the recipient of collected donations. Migrante International is a grassroots alliance in the Philippines that addresses the needs of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s) and their families in the Philippines. This coordinated effort ensured that the relief effort would be the most responsible, reliable, and accountable in getting the donations to the communities in the Philippines most affected by the disasters, without interference by government agencies. Distinct from other relief organizations, this effort was purely grassroots, accomplished without a significant role played by government agencies or large scale charitable foundations.

Since the immediate aftermath of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, the Bay Area Bayanihan for Philippine Disaster Relief project volunteers worked tirelessly in coordinating donation drop off sites throughout the Bay Area. The response was overwhelming, with mountains of in-kind donations piling up at the drop off sites. By the time of shipping in December 2009, 300 boxes of clothes, food, and medical supplies were sent to the Philippines, as well as more than $30,000 in monetary donations from generous people in the community in addition to a $50,000 relief project donation from the City of San Francisco.

This relief effort, however, did not come without hard struggles. Among the roadblocks that slowed the aid in reaching the victims were the directives placed on donations by the Arroyo administration, stating that all donations had to be approved by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) through DSWD accredited organizations. The directives further stated that the donations going to organizations not accredited with the DSWD would be taxed. However, the community remained aggressive and vigilant, and after meetings with the local Philippine Consulate and their counterparts in New York, the Bay Area Bayanihan for Philippine Disaster Relief was able to get the donation taxes lifted and assurance that Migrante, International would still receive the donations.

As of January 2010, all 300 boxes of donations were successfully received in the Philippines by Migrante International, and they are in the process of sorting and giving the donations to families most affected by the disasters. The next shipment of donations from New York/New Jersey will follow very soon. The $50,000 donated by the City of San Francisco will be used in constructing water filtration systems as well as disaster and health capacity building projects in communities most affected by the disaster. Although this was one disaster, this grassroots international relief effort will continue on as long as the need persists.

The Bay Area Bayanihan for Philippine Disaster Relief, along with their kababayan in the Philippines, celebrate the community coming together in this successful relief effort in the midst of the disasters, both natural and man-made. It extends its deepest thanks to all those who donated their time, work, and money in sorting out the clothes, food, and medical supplies and packing them in all 300 boxes. Deepest thanks as well go to the community organizations who volunteered their spaces to be donation drop off sites, despite the disruption in their programming. This effort truly exemplifies the Filipino spirit of bayanihan, which translates into communal and collective support.

Please, see pictures below from Migrante, International receiving and unloading our cargo container of almost 250 balikbayan boxes at DSWD for further delivery to affected families and communities earlier this month – a good start to the new year for so many families!  To learn more about this nationally coordinated relief effort, please visit


PRESS RELEASES: Filipino-Americans say Arroyo’s directives on relief efforts, a nuisance

14 October 2009

Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General, SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth,

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 For more information, please contact Anne Beryl (516) 9011832 for East Coast, and Ryan Leano (626) 5344971 for West Coast, or email at ###

STATEMENTS: “Arroyo does more harm than help after Ondoy” – NAFCON

02 October 2009

Reference: Fr. Benjamin E. Alforque, President, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), Email:

“Arroyo does more harm than help after Ondoy” – NAFCON

September 26 marked the start of another trying period for the Philippine nation as Typhoon Ondoy (international name, Ketsena) left the central part of the country in wreckage. Not only was it one of the most unforgettable disasters causing damage for and killing hundreds of people, it also showed the true bayanihan spirit among Filipinos. In the midst of tragedy, this spirit manifested not only locally, but internationally.

The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), a member organization of MIGRANTE International and a nationwide alliance of Filipino-American organizations committed to protect, advance, and uphold Filipino’s rights in the US, recognized the need to respond quickly, in order to address the concerns of compatriots whose families back home were affected directly by the typhoon. NAFCON immediately launched the Bayanihan Typhoon Ondoy Disaster Relief campaign.

On the other hand, the Philippine Government’s corruption was once again revealed in the lack of attention given to major facilities and services intended to deliver quick responses to national calamities. The P800-million contingency fund for emergencies, which could have been used to prepare the nation for Ondoy’s wrath, was reportedly spent for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s foreign trips, luxurious dinners and expensive houses built outside the country.

With the Arroyo administration’s comprehensive track record on corruption, Filipinos in the US cannot be blamed if efforts by the Philippine government are seen as insincere. The recent directives set by Arroyo regarding relief efforts impose more red tape by having the need for donations to be approved first by certain government departments.

Taxing on donations that do not go through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is only a manifestation of further exploitation of Filipinos overseas by the Philippine government, which takes pride in its “Bagong Bayani” (New Hero), but is actually doing otherwise. This move can only lead to our Kababayans getting discouraged in sending much needed help to the motherland, whose only concern is to extend aid to their own families and to other distressed fellow Filipinos during these trying times.
These steps being taken by Arroyo to control the outpour of support to the Philippines is a display of arrogance, making her administration look good and undermining efforts of people’s organizations whose relief efforts are made possible even without help from her government.

In absence of the services Arroyo’s administration has failed to provide in preparation for and in response to typhoon Ondoy (and all other typhoons to come), it has resorted to the implementation of these directives to leave an impression that it has done a lot in uplifting the nation after the tragedy. NAFCON sees it otherwise and believes it to be a cover-up of what Arroyo could not accept: that her government cannot do the rebuilding of the nation alone and that the Filipino people, through collective action, can rise up with help from families, friends and allies abroad.
For more information on Bayanihan for Typhoon Ondoy Disaster Relief, please visit or for “BALSA” (Bayanihan para sa Sambayanan, or People’s Cooperation for the People) as one of our partner alliances in the US.