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DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

According to BSP Governor Ben Diokno, the trail of destruction Odette caused to agriculture and tourism will be felt until 2022. He now expects agricultural production and tourism activities to face disruptions that will delay the hoped for recovery.

Governor Ben’s grim outlook is not surprising after we have seen the destruction in the typhoon-hit areas like Siargao, Bohol, Palawan and other places in the Visayas and Northern Mindanao. But it is worrisome to hear the normally optimistic BSP Governor give this assessment.

He has no choice. The typhoon caused significant damage to food and water supplies, infrastructure, electricity, communication, and transportation. The affected areas represented 36 percent of the country’s gross domestic product as of 2020, according to BSP’s estimates.

As of Christmas, over a hundred cities and municipalities are without power. The estimated cost of damage to infrastructure, according to the NDRRMC, is at P4 billion.

The Department of Agriculture estimates damage to crops at P3.6 billion, excluding damage to agricultural infrastructure and equipment.

Damage to tourism infrastructure in Siargao Island was estimated in the billions of pesos by the governor of Surigao del Norte.

Odette couldn’t have come at a worse possible time. We were hopeful of starting economic recovery as the number of COVID cases sunk to the lowest levels.

But Omicron came around and then Odette. The new year, 2022 may be a repeat of 2020 for our economy, a really stressful year.

It is strange that the government’s disaster mitigation agencies were taken by surprise by the ferocity of this destructive typhoon. Reaction time to assist typhoon victims was too slow and may have caused more deaths and miseries.

This is why it baffles the mind why Duterte felt threatened by the quick response of VP Leni. Duterte warned the Vice President she shouldn’t try to look good at the expense of the Duterte administration.

Duterte forgets that VP Leni is also an elected public official, the second highest in government. She has the obligation to respond quickly to public needs. She was the face of government in the early hours after Odette exited the country. Duterte should thank her.

Time is also of the essence. Immediate needs include ready-to-eat food, water, temporary shelter, shelter repair toolkits, hygiene kits, jerry cans, generators, solar-powered lamps, flashlights, fuel, and debris clearing.

To VP Leni’s credit, she has transformed the OVP into an agency able to react quickly to such situations. She had been doing this over the last five years. The VP is no longer just a spare tire.

Duterte himself belatedly admitted their response was delayed and he blamed government procedures, which he called stupid. Duterte also said COVID has depleted government funds and that there is no more money for this calamity. Excuses are not helpful.

VP Leni’s annual budget is a minuscule P1 billion. According to COA, Duterte had 13.47 billion worth of confidential, intelligence, and extraordinary expenses in 2019. It could have only gone up by now.

The enormity of the challenge in bringing relief to a wide area of the country demands an all hands on board approach. Every little bit of help counts, wherever it comes from. It is not about who gets the credit, but more about how to get the work done as quickly as possible.

But it is not surprising. The Duterte administration has always found it difficult to work with other parties, including the private sector.

Early on in their term, they rejected the Public Private Partnership approach for infrastructure development. They banked on Chinese assistance, which came in trickles. Japan has been more helpful.

With COVID, the private sector offered to help, but the administration was very reluctant to share responsibility.  Even the use of the vaccines the private sector bought was severely restricted to the point of risking expiration dates.

With Odette, the private sector once again went all out in helping provide a quick response.

As usual, the ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya disaster response teams were immediately on the ground, even if their main sources of income were severely restricted by Duterte’s franchise revocation. It was heartwarming to see a photo of their truck entering Kabankalan in Negros, one of the worst hit areas.

The largest corporations and businesses from various industries in the Philippines, like Jollibee and McDonald’s Kindness Kitchen, provided food to thousands of individuals.

San Miguel turned over 10 trucks of canned goods to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for distribution. Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines and Manila Water donated thousands of gallons of drinking water for distribution to affected areas.

Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. donated relief goods to Cebu and Southern Leyte.

Meralco, Aboitiz Power/Aboitiz Foundation, Cotabato and Davao Light and Power Corp. have sent linemen to Cebu, and potentially to other provinces, to help restore power, which was identified as a critical need for the telcos, hospitals, and evacuation shelters.

Philippine Air Lines, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia offered seats to humanitarian workers and free cargo space to transport relief goods. Lorenzo Shipping and the Philippine Liner Shipping Association have also committed free pier-to-pier transportation of goods to the affected islands.

Consunji Construction sent teams to repair evacuation shelters in Siargao and Cebu. Ayala Corp./Ayala Malls provided temporary shelter to customers.

In partnership with Philippine Airlines, the Makati Medical Center and Energy Development Corp. sent a medical team to Siargao and rescued hundreds of stranded people. The team is also working with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to distribute supplies.

The Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), the disaster coordinating group of the private conglomerates, deployed its first team to Southern Leyte to distribute the immediate needs of affected communities.

While government agencies are set up to provide all of those needs, it has been the experience that mobilizing government bureaucrats and assets takes time. Private efforts provide the necessary stop-gap measures that are badly needed by the typhoon victims.

The Filipino bayanihan spirit is alive and it is the duty of Duterte to encourage such goodwill in the hearts of our people in a time of calamity.

Forget who gets the credit first and just focus on getting the job done with no delay.



Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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