Catholic priest calls for accountability in gov’t response to super typhoon

Catholic priest calls for accountability in gov’t response to super typhoon

By Tracy Cabrera

A RESIDENT carries his bicycle while wading through floodwaters to reach the shelter provided by the local government of Marikina to evacuees after typhoon Ulysses hit the city in suburban Manila on November 12.

DESPITE pronouncements from President Rodrigo Duterte that government will not leave anybody behind amidst the devastation left behind by super typhoon Rolly and tropical storm Ulysses, a Catholic foundation noted that for some of the victims of the flashfloods in several areas of Luzon, help did not come fast enough.

In response, Vincentian priest Father Dani Pilario and his group has initiated efforts to give relief aid to the victims of both typhoons which saw at least 25 people, forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes and brought the worst flooding the Philippine capital has experienced in years.

Typhoon Ulysses (international name Vamco) slammed into the country on November 12, a week after monster storm Rolly (international name Goni) ravaged the country.

In Manila, Fr. Pilario said urgent help should be given to illegal settlers living in shanties under bridges because they could be trapped by flooding caused by heavy rain that saw a river in the Marikina area of the metropolis rise by a meter in less than three hours.

“The most vulnerable and affected during floods and rising water levels are people living under bridges,” the priest pointed out in a social media post.

The flooding is being made worse by full dams releasing water or overflowing, creating strong currents, the priest said.  

Many people were unaware this was happening, he added. As a result, “these human beings under bridges can easily be trapped or washed away altogether.”

On the same day the storm made landfall, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he had ordered all concerned government agencies to mobilize and provide aid to victims.

“Rest assured, the government will not leave anybody behind,” Duterte said on national television.

But it did not come fast enough as one Manila resident narrated that she and her family waited for hours on their rooftop before a boat came to their rescue.

“We waited, trapped for almost four hours. We could not swim because the current was so strong. All we could do was to hold on to our roof and pray that someone would come for us,” Marikina resident Geraldine Datiles said in a radio interview.

Fr. Pilario said he was surprised to see illegal settlers living under bridges with smiles on their faces after the typhoon.

“When we visited them today (to give relief goods), they looked so relaxed and said, ‘We already know what to do, Father. We have already learned. We have been here for a long time,’” he said.

However, he said that although that this might be the case, they too had their limits.

“When a government does not have a housing program which forces families including children—a lot of children—to live in such circumstances, then this society is abusing people’s resilience,” the priest added.

He questioned how a government could not provide shelter to such a big slice of society and show more care for its people, especially during natural disasters.

“If (a government) only cares for itself, for its own survival in power, then the people, whom it promised to serve with all the resources at its disposal, are left to survive (or die) on their own. We should call for accountability. Enough is enough,” he said. (ia)

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