The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today said that devastation of the millions of Filipino lives and livelihood is not solely caused by the successive storms but also by the reactionary state’s failure to sufficiently prepare for and respond to the calamities.
The Party urged the people to hold the Duterte regime accountable for its neglect to undertake disaster preparedness efforts to mitigate the impact of natural calamities.
Typhoon Ulysses lashed at Luzon yesterday and caused severe flooding in Metro Manila especially in Marikina City, as well as in scores of provinces across Luzon. A total of 1,262 barangays were affected by the typhoon, 1,006 of which experienced flooding. As of today, the death toll has already risen to 14 while three individuals remain missing. Yesterday’s typhoon was the fifth in a span of less than three weeks.
CPP Chief Information Officer Marco L. Valbuena stressed that disaster preparedness and response has never been Duterte’s priority. “Government agencies are grossly underfunded and facilities and rescue equipment for preemptive evacuation of large communities are extremely limited,” he said.
Under the Duterte regime, allocations for disaster preparedness have been cut by 60% from P39 billion in 2016 to a measly P15.7 billion this year. Local government units are similarly underfunded and incapable of carrying out efficient local disaster response efforts.
Duterte’s contempt for disaster preparedness was exposed as early as 2017 when he cut funding for the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazard (NOAH) project of the Department of Science and Technology which undertakes mapping of hazard risks. Project NOAH has since been absorbed by the University of the Philippines.
Valbuena also pointed out that massive floods, landslides and mudflows affecting low-lying areas are also “a result of denudation of forested mountains and oversiltation of rivers.”
Conservative estimates put the rate of destruction of Philippine forest cover at 47,000 hectares annually. This includes closed and open forests as well as mangroves which help in preventing erosion, floods and storm surges.
Instead of implementing environmental rehabilitation efforts, Duterte’s economic agenda is focused on promoting destructive mining and logging operations, as well as infrastructure projects and other artificial beautification programs such as the controversial dumping of dolomite sand at a portion of Manila Bay.
He described Duterte’s clamor for climate justice as a “sham” pointing out to how logging and mining corporations are allowed to freely operate in the countryside and plunder the environment with impunity.
He added that urban decay is being further aggravated by Duterte’s chaotic commercial infrastructure building binge, poor waste management and the continuing influx of rural migrants in city centers due to lack of economic opportunities in the countryside.
On top of this, he also emphasized that mass poverty makes the majority of Filipinos vulnerable to disasters. Millions of people are living in poor housing in both cities and countryside that are prone to floods and landslides. They have meager resources for self-evacuation.
The backward and crisis-ridden economic system prevents country from raising its capacity to prevent, prepare and overcome disasters which bring devastating impact on people’s livelihood, especially agriculture. Damage to agriculture by typhoons Quinta and Rolly is estimated at P8.4 billion. Typhoon Rolly alone caused P12.8 billion in damages in infrastructure. This estimate is bound to further climb in the coming days as damages wrought by succeeding typhoons are still being calculated.
Because of meager and lowered wages, as well as income losses due to reduction in buying prices of agricultural produce, the people are set to face grave difficulties in overcoming the destruction of their properties. Millions have yet to receive any aid and compensation from the Duterte regime.