Typhoon after typhoon, Bicol’s poor suffer the most

Nov. 12, 2020


Due to the typhoon, Bicol farmers have lost yet another opportunity to make ends meet. They were supposed to harvest their produce in the months of October and November only to find their palay buried deep in flood waters.

Aftermath of Supertyphoon Rolly in Tiwi, Albay (Used with permission / Photo by Bro. Ciriaco Santiago III)

MANILA, Philippines – “Low bat.”

This is how a Bicol-based development worker described the ongoing efforts of local government units as they scamper to address the people’s needs, in the aftermath of supertyphoon Rolly, and now Typhoon Ulysses, which began pummeling many parts of the country yesterday, Nov. 11.

“In the past, village officials would make rounds immediately after a typhoon and provide affected residents with emergency relief packs, which have been procured and prepositioned by the local government. These days, however, there has been nothing but rounds,” Bing San Carlos told Bulatlat in a phone interview in the aftermath of supertyphoon Rolly.

Bicol residents have just begun rising above the rubble left by two typhoons that recently battered the nation but are now being struck again as Typhoon Ulysses, with international name Vamco, wreaked havoc since its landfall yesterday, Nov. 11. But for the local chapter of farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Bicol, typhoons Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses only exacerbated their dire living conditions amid poor government response on the dreaded pandemic and decades-old problems and injustices that continue to persist today.

Hunger and poverty

Though the National Economic and Development Authority considered the Bicol region as the “fastest” for supposed “improved agriculture and fishery services, more economic opportunities in industry and services, and improved social services” among 17 regions in the country back in 2018, more than a quarter or 27 out of 100 Bicolanos were living below the government’s poverty line.

This worsened when the lockdown due to COVID-19 response was implemented. Farmers and agricultural workers, most especially, were not able to go out in the fields to work. Before this, they earn about two to four dollars a day for an entire day of work in the field, said KMP Bicol. This is hardly enough to support their family.

Income of Bicol farmers has also plummeted over the flooding of imported rice, following the implementation of the rice liberalization law. Palay farm gate prices have dipped to as low as P7 ($0.14) per kilo, which is not enough to cover their expenses in tending their farms.

Due to the typhoon, Bicol farmers have lost yet another opportunity to make ends meet. They were supposed to harvest their produce in the months of October and November only to find their palay buried deep in flood waters.

Just a month since the Philippine government implemented a lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, women farmers group Amihan has already raised alarm over the worsening hunger that Bicol farmers were facing, due to poor social protection provided to them. Food packs, for one, lasted for only two or three days when the lockdown has been going on for weeks.

This was proven true in an SWS survey back in May 2020 showing that hunger incidence in the country doubled amid the pandemic.

Impact on response

As it stands, typhoon survivors in the Bicol region continue to wait for much-needed relief – a seeming implausible scenario as the region has been known both here and abroad for implementing programs that promote disaster risk mitigation and resiliency. The lessons and preparedness have seemingly been forgotten.

San Carlos, who has been making rounds in many Typhoon Rolly affected communities, said that even better-off cities such as Naga was not as prepared as it used to be. Situation is far worse in smaller municipalities. Daraga, one of the hardest hit, has used up at least 70 to 80 percent of its calamity fund this year for its COVID-19 response, according to a local government official.

The humanitarian worker noted the absence of prepositioned emergency relief packs, and hygiene kits that were considered staples in the local government’s response.

“The (national) government has the funds. But it should know its priorities,” KMP Bicol said.

The Philippines expects several more typhoons to hit the country until the year ends. The poor again are expected to bear the brunt of government neglect. (Reposted by davaotoday.com)

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