A Year after Ondoy and the Overwhelming Support of Filipinos in the U.S.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press Statement

Reference: NAFCON National Office

Email: info@nafconusa.org

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.”

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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 .

 

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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 visithttps://bayanihan4ondoy.wordpress.com.

EVENTS: Sounds, Sights, Move for the victims of the Philipines Typhoon

Flyer Nov. 12th

Please join San Francisco Committee for Human Rights (SF-CHRP) in the Philippines for a benefit event with live performances/ art auction / dancing for the victims of the typhoons in the Philippines.

Sliding scale donations at the door: $7 – $1000

Your donations will be going through the Filipino Community Center and San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (SFCHRP), under “Bayanihan for the Victims of Ondoy,” a larger community-based effort which comprises numerous grassroots organizations, church groups, non-profit organizations and concerned individuals, is coordinating actions to facilitate the distribution of aid to the victims of the calamity. We are undertaking a relief drive to raise money and collect supplies to send to the Philippines. We humbly ask for your participation with our efforts to help these affected communities to rebuild their lives. Any form of assistance would be much appreciated.

All Donations will go to:
MIGRANTE INTERNATIONAL
Migrante International is an alliance of progressive organizations composed of overseas Filipinos and their families. We uphold and advance the rights and welfare of overseas Filipinos within the framework of the Filipino people’s national democratic struggle.

BAYAN MUNA
c/o BAYAN USA (oversea chapter)
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance) was formed in May 1985, bringing together more than a thousand mass organizations composed of more than a million members. Represented were different classes and sectors committed to the people’s struggle for national freedom and democracy.

GABRIELA WOMEN’S PARTY
c/o GABRIELA USA (oversea chapter)
GABRIELA -Philippines which has a membership of 200 women’s organizations throughout the country, work with mothers and families in many urban poor communities.

GABRIELA will make sure that those who need it most, especially women and children get the relief (unfortunately, some disbursement efforts are not that organized leaving only the strong to get the goods and the most needy, still without relief. GABRIELA has the social networks and the knowing who has lost loved ones and homes and the commitment and working relationships to reach those most in need.

They are not only doing relief work, but more importantly, rehabilitation of homes and communities.

If you are not able to attend the event but would like to make an online donation, please logon to BAYAN-USA’s PayPal account at http://bayanusa.org. If you make an online donation, please let us know how much you donated at info@gabusa.org, so that we are able to track our fundraising efforts. Thank you.

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