By Chito Chavez and Martin Sadongdong
A militant agricultural group stressed the government’s supposed snail-paced delivery of aid and response to the earthquake victims of Mindanao will result to a humanitarian crisis.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) leader Rafael Mariano noted that almost 40,000 families are already affected and reeling from the successive quakes that hit Mindanao, particularly in Cotabato and Davao provinces.
He said the successive quakes left 22 fatalities with more than 400 wounded and two persons remain missing.
The KMP said that based on the latest situation report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), some 37,706 families (188,533 individuals) were affected in 238 barangays across Regions 10 and 12 in Mindanao.
The report added that more than 4,800 families are in evacuation areas and temporary shelters while almost 1,500 families also in need of assistance are outside evacuation centers.
In Cotabato province alone, the KMP said the number of quake-affected families has reached 25,000 families according to media reports.
“Quake-stricken communities also need of immediate relief such as temporary shelter, hot meals, food, drinking water, medicine, sleeping mats, hygiene kits, clothes and other relief goods,’’ the KMP said.
Despite the staggering humanitarian effects of the Mindanao quakes, Mariano said the government’s response is very dismal and slow.
NDRRMC Executive Director Ricardo Jalad, meanwhile, reiterated that there is enough relief items for the affected families of the series of earthquakes that struck parts of Mindanao since October 16. Their attention is now focused on the efficient distribution of relief goods.
“The management of the effects of the earthquakes and the relief operations are still within the capability of the Philippines. We can still handle it, there is no necessity to call for international assistance but we are grateful to these countries who have expressed their readiness to assist as well as those who have already provided donations,” Jalad said in a press briefing at NDRRMC operations center in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
“The big challenge now is ensuring the efficient and orderly distribution of relief goods and management of evacuation centers. The next challenge will be ensuring the transition of affected people to early recovery,” he added.
As of writing, at least 47,000 family packs from the Department of Social Welfare Development (DSWD) have already been forwarded to affected families.
Jalad also raised the possibility that the IDPs seen begging for food and water along the highways in Makilala, Cotabato could be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who “want to shame the government” and show that there is a humanitarian crisis, as reported to him by ground officials.
“Some sectors are taking advantage of the situation to shame the government so I doubt that they have to be in groups and they were using placards to ask for food,” Jalad claimed.
The first quake happened on Oct. 16, followed by another jolt last Oct. 29 and 31 with more aftershocks expected.
Since the first quake, Mariano claimed the government failed to conduct a comprehensive disaster response and action plan.
“Instead of being on top of the emergency situation and relief efforts, Defense Secretary even had the gall to power trip amidst the sorry situation of Mindanaoans,” said Mariano also the Anakpawis Partylist president.
Mariano a former Agrarian Reform secretary under President Duterte also scored DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s recent order to impose checkpoints in quake-affected areas to screen kibitzers, to properly record the arrival of relief goods and workers and to ensure that only legitimate and authorized relief workers are granted access to evacuation centers.
“Martial Law is still imposed in Mindanao. Checkpoints are posted everywhere. Why is there a need to screen the relief goods and assistance, volunteers, and even the recipients of relief goods?” Mariano asked.
“Quake victims and survivors are becoming hungrier and more desperate with each passing day that they do not receive any form of assistance. The successive quakes disrupted their daily economic lives and it seems that the government neglected them,’’ he added..
“Yung mga tao na may hawak na placard at namamalimos na sa mga tabing highway, hindi po sila naudyukan (The placard bearing people asking help along the highway were not forced). They felt they needed to do that to get the attention of the local and national government. They are seeking for help and assistance,” Mariano ended.