Sunday, 17 November 2013

Statement from the Labor Party of the Philippines about the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan.

Colleagues on this email list might be interested in reading the statement below from the Labor Party of the Philippines about the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan. They have set up a fund appealing for solidarity for victims.

Martin Empson
Treasurer, Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union group

CAPITALISM IS destroying the planet. Now we suffer. The devastating horror unleashed by the monster-typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) upon the eastern and central Philippines regions is unspeakable. As of this writing, estimates of the number of casualties and actual damages are tentative because many areas remain isolated, and communications, power, road and port systems are down.
An initial estimate by the provincial government of Leyte and the regional police put the death toll at more than 10,000. Some 70 to 80 percent of houses and structures along the typhoon's path were destroyed. In Tacloban City alone, officials told the media that the death toll "could go up" to 10,000, as people died en masse from surging tidal waves.

We have yet to account for some of our party members, including the leader of the city's federation of tricycle drivers and operators. Another member, a newly elected village official in Southern Leyte, is still not in contact. We just hope that they have survived the wrath of Haiyan. There is also little information about Eastern Samar towns where Haiyan made first landfall from the Pacific.
The massive loss of life and destruction are indeed beyond words to describe. The death toll will surely climb when actual rescue and retrieval operations reach the isolated areas. National and international aid is coming in, but there will definitely be a catastrophic scarcity of most essentials, such as food, water, power, housing and medicines. The national and local governments were caught unprepared to deal with the colossal impact of Haiyan. And we still have four or five more typhoons coming this year, according to official weather forecasts.

The poor--the army of low-income, unemployed and underemployed people--suffer the most in every disaster. It is because they lack the means to protect themselves during calamities, and the ability to survive and recover thereafter.
Most of the poor, both in rural and urban areas, live in hazard zones (slums, riverbanks, creeks, coastlines, mountain slopes) that are prone to both natural and man-made disasters. Their houses are made of light materials, just enough to cover them from sunshine and rain, but not from surging floods, landslides or tidal waves.

Moreover, the country's biggest employer, the agriculture sector, is first to suffer from the impact of both La Niña (floods) and El Niño (long drought), which are now common phenomena due to climate change, and further endanger the country's food security and employment opportunities.
Regrettably, the poor don't even know why nature is so unkind to people, most especially to them. They have not been informed that today's wrath is more man-made than a natural phenomenon. They have yet to understand that it was capitalism that exploited and destroyed this planet beyond its limits, creating in effect a destructive fusion of economic, social and climate crisis.
The Philippines has the highest stake and the strongest case to bring before the ongoing United Nation's Climate talks in Warsaw, Poland. Previous climate talks produced nothing, as the process is dominated by developed countries that are known for committing something, yet doing nothing.
The timing is indeed "tragically ironic," one writer has pointed out. The 19th Conference of Parties (COP19) in Poland opened right after the Philippines was hit by the Earth's strongest typhoon in recent history, leaving thousands of dead out of more than 4 million people who suffered from what scientists consider a monster storm.

We welcome all international aid and solidarity work coming from Northern countries. This is the least they could do--put their one cent to climate emergencies such as in the Philippines. But we demand more. We want climate justice. Capitalist countries must be held accountable for the climate crisis. They must be forced to pay the climate debt they owe to poor nations.
Capitalist countries, we emphasize, are responsible for the climate crisis. They emit more carbon into the atmosphere--many times over what the poor countries do. The greenhouse gases emitted from capitalist industries drive global temperatures to new levels. This causes climactic reactions like warmer oceans and rising sea levels, and eventually leads to the formation of monster typhoons as in the case of Haiyan.

For over a century, capitalists have profited from nature by monetizing it rather than protecting its rich natural resources. And the poor people and poor nations suffer the most from the climate crisis created by rich nations. The Philippines is among the topmost vulnerable countries. In fact, we have suffered enough from devastating typhoons such as Frank (Fengshen, 2008), Ondoy (Ketsana, 2009), Sendong (Washi, 2011), Pablo (Bopha, 2012), and now Yolanda (Haiyan, 2013). The worst may be yet to come.

What makes the crisis more devastating is that Haiyan struck the Philippines when Filipinos are still reeling from a recent earthquake that killed hundreds of people. The monster storm also came when Filipinos are fighting massive corruption scandals involving a huge amount of public service funds.
Corruption in the Philippines reduces the ability of both the national and local governments to respond to climate emergencies of this magnitude because billions of public funds are lost to official scams.

More than that, the ruling class's embrace of free-market ideology since the 1980s has made poor people more vulnerable. The rich therefore are equally responsible and must be held accountable for the peoples' miserable condition.
Neoliberalism made government rely completely on the private sector to create employment. Public services such as water and power were privatized. Prices of goods and services were deregulated. This resulted in massive unemployment and underemployment (close to 30 percent). Social infrastructure and services are in a poor state. The poverty rate remains at 28 percent while hunger affects 19 percent of the population.

Just imagine this number of poor people living in one of the country's poorest regions facing the wrath of super-typhoons. The post-Haiyan images will speak more of their miserable situation. They really are in dire need of immediate aid and rehabilitation. Many have already resorted to confiscations of available supplies in several stores and malls. We consider those as justified actions and much better if collectively organized to isolate criminal elements and individual push for survival. Where the government fails, the people should collectively rise up.

We therefore warn the government to avoid using force against our helpless people. The people need food, water and homes to stay in, not a police force to quell their spirit to survive. In the first place, a government that fails to eradicate high-level corruption has no justifiable reason to use force in suppressing the peoples' desperate struggle for life.

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