Leyte Rescue and Relief Operations in Dire Need of People Power
Concerned with the national government's ill-preparedness to respond to the Leyte landslide and other recent disasters, environmental groups call on people power to muster the current requirements for relief and rescue operations in the town of St. Bernard, Southern Leyte.
The Citizens Disaster Response Center (CDRC) in its *Disaster Alert* cited the need for lifesaving equipment for emergency situations. It also calls for more doctors, health workers and medicines, to back up the Rural Health Unit doctor in the area to attend to the continuous flow of survivors and evacuees. "The survivors," it said, "are prone to lung or respiratory infection due to the dirty water and mud that they swallowed. It is feared that half of those rescued could succumb to infection within 24 hours unless immediate treatment be given."
CDRC identified the following as the immediate needs of the affected families: potable water, medicines (especially antibiotics, intravenous fluids, antiseptics, and pain relievers), stretchers, bandages, food, blankets, and clothing. Donations may be dropped at their office in 72-A Times St., West Triangle Homes, Quezon City. They may also be reached through telephone number 929-9822.
The Arroyo administration has already identified the needed steps to mitigate landslide and prepare the local populace for disaster, such as massive reforestation and the setting up of locally-based early warning systems. Apparently, the Arroyo administration failed to implement their own recommendations," says Clemente Bautista Jr., national coordinator.
In the same province in December 2003, more than 200 people were already killed in the landslide that happen in several municipalities in Panaon Island. The most tragic happened in November 1991 when Ormoc City was struck by flashflood and landslide where 8,000 people perished.
"It is already common knowledge that the Arroyo administration's central concern is to preserve itself in power that in situations like this we are expecting it to again absolve itself of any responsibility, blame mother nature and the lowly upland settlers as the culprit of these landslides, while it goes around for "photo-ops." Our people, as always, will have to rely on its own strength and cooperation," lamented Bautista.
"What is pathetic about the situation is that the government has seen this disaster coming, not only in Leyte but in several parts of the country. CEC's estimate is that with La Nina, most of the fragile upland communities in the eastern-lying provinces would be in general risk of this landslide," added Dr. Aloysius Baes of the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC).
"The DENR has only a year ago came up with a listing of the areas prone to landslides, yet what has been done? The DENR secretary was more seen shielding brickbats for the President around the "Hello Garci" tapes. Absurdly, it has even hastened the denudation of our forests by its obsessive promotion of extractive industries like mining and logging," he explained.
What is apparent now is that relief and rescue missions in Leyte, CARAGA, and other landslide/flashflood affected areas have to be done intensively, temporary evacuation of the people in all disaster-prone areas be carried out, urgently in the context of La Nina, while efforts to provide alternative farmlands to these communities in these disaster-prone areas must be underway." ended Bautista. #
Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy, Central, Quezon City,
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Email: kalikasan.pne at gmail.com,
kpne at edsamail.com.ph, royalroi at yahoo.com
*Large Flood in the Philippines from 2002-2006*
*Number of Large Floods***
*2006 (as Feb17)*
**Does not include the deaths and victims in St. Bernard landslide in Feb17, 2005*
*** Floods that usually occur every one to two decades*
*Data Collected by Dartmouth Flood Observatory*
*FOREST COVER OF EASTERN VISAYAS
(By Province, Area in Hectares)
As of December 31, 2003***
Forest Management Bureau Website