Relief efforts in a pandemic

Published November 22, 2020, 11:24 PM

by Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal


Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal

Last week, we drove to Isabela province up north.  We had a convoy to deliver goods and supplies which family and friends pooled together to help those affected by Typhoon Ulysses.   The main roads to Isabela are passable, and I saw relief convoys on the way to and from Isabela.  I had initially intended to visit Isabela and Cagayan, but just had to just send the supplies to Cagayan.

Normally when donating, we try as much as possible to go down to the people themselves, as it’s the best way to ensure you’re turning over the donation directly to those affected.  This has been a guiding principle in helping people for decades.

However, in the time of COVID-19, we have to shift our approach.  Unless you’re giving meals, I think it’s best to coordinate your donations with relief organizations or the LGU (either the provincial or city/municipal government).  They’re more organized and know the situation on the ground better.  By coursing through your donations though the LGUs, you can make sure those items will be given to the right recipients.  If you or your group/organization intend to hand over personally to victims, please make sure you synchronize with the LGU and/or DSWD to make sure you’re people who have not yet been visited/assisted.  It has happened in the past where, due to lack of coordination, relief goods were given repeatedly to some recipients while others were not provided relief.

Many people have been helping.  I’d like to express our appreciation to the unsung heroes who’ve worked tirelessly to help those affected.  From local officials, volunteers, relief organizations, the military and police, and countless of faceless and nameless individuals who’ve taken the time and effort to help.  Most especially to those who tragically lost their lives trying to save fellow Filipinos.

While in Isabela, I saw a couple of vehicles on the side of the road, distributing packs to residents in the area.  There appeared to be no physical distancing in the group of beneficiaries.  Under normal times, this was something you’d expect to see, but considering we’re in a pandemic, it’s better to be safe.  If you decide to donate directly, please ensure that people you’ll be giving to will all be wearing face masks and maintaining physical distancing.

While in Isabela, I was able to talk with Governor Rodito Albano and Vice Governor Bojie Dy about what happened and the unprecedented flooding the province experienced during and after Ulysses.  Based on my conversations with officials, there were several plans and programs previously made (some plans decades old), but somehow, got mired in bureaucratic red-tape of the national government, and people are paying the price for that now.

This is what we need to focus on right now.  What to do and what to plan for not only for the next few months and years, but what to do that ensures sustainable growth for decades to come.  In particular, how to minimize the flooding in Cagayan Valley.

I’m in the process of collating documents about the previous plans made, all the way back to the time of former President Marcos.  It’s a tall task, but I believe it’s something that has to be seriously looked at, to ensure we have a viable path for the future of our children.

Stay Safe.  Stay Healthy.   Wear a Mask.