The best from people, the worse from government-A A +A
By Tyrone Velez
Thursday, January 17, 2013
SOME 5,000 survivors of Typhoon Pablo in Southern Mindanao barricaded last Tuesday the highway of Montevista to dramatically express their frustration over government’s neglect.
It has been 40 days after the tragedy, yet government has done almost nothing for the rehabilitation of homes and farms. The survivors come from towns severely hit by Pablo, from Monkayo, Nabunturan, Compostela and Montevista in Compostela Valley province and the towns Baganga and Cateel in Davao Oriental.
One of the survivors was Datu Matunao, a Matigsalog tribe leader from Barangay Mangayon of Compostela town, who sobbed while speaking: “Upat ka oras ko nagbaktas aron lang makanaog gikan sa bukid. Aron lang makapadayag sa mga mulo namong mga lumad. Mag-unsa na lang mi? Among mga kayutaaan na-bar down na. Ang kabukiran nanga-opaw na tungod sa pagpangawkaw sa mga dagkong kompanya sa logging. (I walked four hours just to come down here, so that I can speak for the Lumads. What will happen to us? Our lands have barred down. The mountains are now bald because of huge logging operations.”
Matunao’s message has long been made by indigenous peoples leaders for many times over the years. They have warned of the folly of stripping what remains of our forests to plant cash crops like bananas and palm oil or to strip the land for mining. Now, trees or whatever remains of it in Compostela Valley that are supposed to absorb the heat and rain are gone. The mud has ruined farms. Even the birds have no trees to nestle on.
Another resident, Roel, came all the way from Baganga, Davao Oriental to ask “Asa naman ang 18 million nga calamity fund sa among probinsya? Nganong wala man namo kini nabati? (where is that 18-million peso calamity fund for our province? Why can’t we see any of it yet?)”
Baganga, which is one of the worse hit towns affecting coconut and rice farms, was also the place where residents raged and forced open a rice warehouse last December in the midst of hunger.
Roel and other residents who joined the barricade said they were disgusted to find that sacks of first class rice donated to their provinces were replaced with stocked NFA rice. Many residents like Roel who live in interior villages have received little or no help. Until now, they live in makeshift tents, embracing the rains and heat that come for the past 40 days.
Their barricade has prompted a response from the DSWD that they will attend to their immediate needs which is the rehabilitation of their homes.
While disaster brings out the best from people, it brings out the worse from government. It is deplorable that survivors have to wait this long (40 days) and are pushed to take collective action to get government’s attention. The Aquino government has just forgotten what happened here in Southern Mindanao, and even the President just flew in days after the storm for a few hours of photo ops and is never heard since.
Such insensitivity is also seen in officials who do not look for deeper solutions and responses to prevent another Pablo. Survivors of Sendong and Pablo, and environmental groups say the disasters in Mindanao are not brought by “acts of God.” The culprits are logging and large-scale mining, especially in Davao Oriental where there are 31 mining tenements, application and operations and Compostela Valley has 43.
Do we need to wait for another storm and another angry mob to get government to act?
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Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 17, 2013.