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Philippines left: In wake of Typhoon Pablo, global South demands 'reparations and climate justice'

Typhoon hits the Philippines, December 4, 2012.

By Partido Lakas ng Masa (Party of the Labouring Masses), Philippines

A total ban on all logging and mining activities!

Implement massive reforestation and a sustainable development plan!

Climate justice now!

We demand full reparation from rich countries and their corporations!

December 11, 2012 -- The Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) extends full sympathy to the victims of Typhoon Pablo: to the families of those killed and missing, and to the millions suffering from the destruction of their homes and crops and those still waiting for relief. The PLM demands answers to serious questions raised by the government’s response to the catastrophe.

These include: why, despite the authorities warning of the impending disaster in advance, no concrete evacuation plans were in place; evasiveness about the death toll; delays in getting food and other supplies to survivors and diversion of resources to prevent small-scale looting by desperate survivors rather than providing food.

That both the death toll and the number reported missing continued to rise days after the typhoon had passed indicates that the government’s response focused more on political spin than life-saving preparations.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration gave warning well in advance. But the government seemed to think it was doing its duty by having President Noynoy Aquino appear on TV to tell people they should evacuate.

In many affected areas, that was all. Geologist Mahar Lagmay said that while most people in the affected communities had been aware of the danger, they had not known where to go for safety.

The PLM contrasts this response with disaster response in Cuba, which also lies in a cyclone-prone area, but where the UN International Secretariat for Disaster Reduction has noted far lower death tolls.

This is achieved by adequate infrastructure, such as buildings and roads; institutionalised and well-resourced response systems, including the ability to activate shelters that are staffed with trained medical personnel; and the integration of hurricane training into the general education system.

All of this reflects Cuba’s socialist system, where meeting human needs is prioritised.

We also condemn the large-scale looting of the Philippines by foreign logging and mining companies, which contributed greatly to this tragedy. The government’s condemnation of illegal logging and small-scale gold mining ignores the real culprits.

We call for a total ban on logging and mining in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental, the areas hardest hit by the tragedy. These areas have been devastated by these operations for a long time, and further logging and mining will destroy what’s left of the ecology.

To start the process of rebuilding, we also call on the government to implement massive reforestation and develop sustainable crop agriculture that will provide food security for people in the damaged areas and elsewhere. It’s about time that the country deviates from plantation monoculture of export crops and large-scale mining.

Lastly, we find it ironic that the devastation in Mindanao came in the wake of the UN Conference on Climate Change in Doha, Qatar which again failed to deal with increasing greenhouse emissions by the rich countries. The failed conference locked in the planet for another decade of unchecked gas emissions which bring devastating climate impacts.

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