An update from Leon Dulce and the 350 Pilipinas / Power Shift Pilipinas team

I just came home from a national relief caravan last November 21 to 25 organized by the Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan (Cooperation for the People) or BALSA, of which Brigada Kalikasan is a part of. It was a remarkable and massive undertaking of various sectors and social movements, including peasant federations, trade unions, environmental advocates, political activists and even survivors from Typhoon Bopha, where we saw the mobilization of 600 volunteers from across the country travelling into the remote, least-served communities affected by Haiyan to deliver relief, services and solidarity.

Through the various efforts under BALSA, we were able to deliver food relief, psycho-social therapy and medical services to over 27,000 least-served families in the Leyte and Samar provinces! Despite the caravan’s long and hard travel across land and sea, it felt truly amazing to have touched the lives of our fellow countrymen, especially as they shared to us that they have not yet received aid from government two weeks after Haiyan ravaged their community.

This would not have been possible if not for those who quickly responded to our call for donations from Brigada Kalikasan’s networks and especially from the international community. As of November 26, we have already raised over ten thousand dollars (US$10,359.92) and several tons of relief goods, some of which we have contributed to the BALSA national relief caravan and other relief missions we supported in the Leyte, Samar and Panay island regions.

We encourage everyone to sustain the donation drive through the Brigada Kalikasan web portal as we prepare for the next national relief caravan this December, and as we move to the phase of infrastructure rehabilitation, livelihood recovery and climate change adaptation. Follow the website as well for calls for volunteers.

From solidarity to justice in the face of criminal negligence

Indeed, beyond delivering relief, we also brought the warm solidarity we shared in the various vigils held across the world. But the real, desperate needs of Haiyan survivors are very apparent and in need of continuing support. What our social movements are reaching is just a fraction of the entirety devastated by Haiyan: as of November 27, the government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that a total of 2.1 million families (or 9.9 million individuals) were affected and estimated damages of up to P24.5 billion across 44 provinces in the 9 affected regions. Power lines are still out, and water, food and communication are still severely limited in the majority of the affected areas. Most schools, hospitals and other public service institutions have virtually come to a standstill.

We personally witnessed tent and candle towns rising above the debris amidst persisting rainfall. Fisher folks lost all their boats and other implements to the storm surges, while farmers can only stare at the hectares upon hectares of uprooted coconut trees and flooded rice fields. This plight is expected to continue months or even years after Haiyan’s landfall, largely due to what the growing public opinion is calling the “criminal negligence” of the administration of President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III before, during and after Haiyan’s extreme climate episode.

In a position paper released last week, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment succinctly captured the Philippines’ disaster and climate crisis in the following statement:

“This has been the story of BS Aquino’s governance for the past three years: year in and out, hundreds of billions of pesos in damages to infrastructure and livelihood, thousands of lives are lost and millions are adversely affected as politicians from the local governments up to the President himself continue to coddle environmentally destructive projects, pilfer public coffers, and condemn their constituents to chronic poverty and its consequent vulnerability.”

The Filipino public is fast realizing the need to claim justice from the government’s lack of both immediate and long-term responses to the country’s disaster and climate crisis. In the National Capital Region, families, friends and supporters of Haiyan survivors have initiated the Tindog Network (‘Tindog’ is ‘Rise Up’ in the local Waray language in Eastern Visayas) to demand from the government for faster relief and rescue, decent burial for the dead, adequate supply of basic needs, livelihood assistance and financial assistance and just compensation for the survivors.

The people have begun to connect the dots between Typhoon Haiyan and the need for climate justice. We hope for everyone’s continued support as we plan to tie together the massive disaster response efforts and the growing climate justice movements through the coming Power Shift PH campaigns in the first quarter of 2014.

Maraming salamat!

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