PNRC donates P2M to tsunami victims

- Nikko Dizon -
The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) donated some P2 million ($35,000) to the victims of the powerful tsunamis that hit six Asian countries, claimed the lives of 138,631 people and displaced over five million others.

The donation will be divided among Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, the three hardest hit countries.

PNRC chairman Sen. Richard Gordon announced this during the distribution of relief goods by the PNRC Friday to over 500 families in Barangay San Luis in San Isidro, Aurora who had been displaced by four successive powerful typhoons that struck before Christmas.

PNRC Fund Generation Department director Gwendolyn Pang said the money donated by the PNRC to the global relief effort came from the PNRC’s regular funds.

"It’s our way of giving back too, but we had to choose the hardest hit countries because we ourselves are still reeling from the damages caused by the recent typhoons," Pang said.

She said the PNRC received $2 million from donors when Typhoons "Violeta," "Undang," "Winnie" and "Yoyong" struck eastern and southern Luzon early last month, killing at least 1,000 people, most of whom drowned in flashfloods or were buried under landslides triggered by the massive forest denudation.

Reminders of the destruction wrought by the typhoons remains. On the helicopter ride to Aurora, Gordon pointed to the logs that had been washed ashore. Landslides on the Sierra Madre mountains in the Bondoc Peninsula marked the slopes with deep scars left by avalanches and ravaging floods.

"There are still many trees but the ground is soft, causing the landslides — which is why it’s very important for the government to begin hazard mapping," Gordon said.

The PNRC’s distribution of relief goods to the typhoon victims here at home is a continuing effort, Pang said. Most of those who survived the typhoons lost homes and means of livelihood, turning their day-to-day existence into struggle against starvation and deprivation.

Besides the families in San Isidro, 1,500 residents affected by the storms in Dinggalan and 400 residents of Baler also received relief good from the PNRC.

As he distributed the relief goods, Gordon urged the recipients to be self-reliant and not to depend too much on doleouts. "We can be poor but still have our dignity," he said.

Gordon said the PNRC would also soon distribute housing materials for building roofs and walls, construction tools, and household items in a food-for-work program for the typhoon victims.

The recipients said the relief goods — mostly spaghetti noodles and sauce, a can of pineapple juice, a t-shirt, and toy among goods — would make their New Year’s Eve celebration at least more bearable in light of the tragedy they experienced.

There are still, however, those who were not as lucky to receive relief packs as often as others. The PNRC, with the help of the local government units (LGUs), distributes tickets to the victims beforehand for a more organized distribution.

Rolando Micua, a father of six, heard about the PNRC’s relief operation in Dingalan too late but still traveled an hour and half from another barangay in the hopes of still getting a ticket, or even "leftovers."

Micua, a fisherman, said he and his neighbors are in dire straits because their bancas were destroyed in the typhoons. Since early December, Micua said they have only received relief goods four times.

Still, many of the victims considered themselves luckier than the tsunami victims.

"Their experience is worse than what we went through. Now at least, we are getting help," said Maria Cristina Olaguer, who saw thick mud and huge logs rampage down the mountains and wash away the homes of many of her neighbors, some of whom were killed in the avalanches.

Olaguer added that their lives are "back to zero" but they still look forward to a better New Year. "We never lost hope," she said.

Gordon also directed PNRC personnel to coordinate with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the National Coordinating Center (NCC) in drawing up a disaster preparedness plans for earthquakes and tsunamis.

"We are lucky that this horrendous catastrophe has spared our coastlines in the Philippines. But we deeply share in the sufferings and sadness that the calamity has spread among our brothers and sisters in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Somalia, Tanzania, Sychells and Bangladesh," he said.

The disaster preparedness plan for reducing the death toll and dealing with the destruction caused by earthquakes and tsunamis should include early warning systems synchronized with seismological organizations and agencies in the United States, Japan, Europe, China and other countries, he said.

The Philippines is part of the international tsunami warning group of the United Nations that shares information and tsunami warnings mainly focused on the Pacific ocean. President Arroyo has ordered the release of P17 million to upgrade the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration’s (Pagasa) weather forecasting ability, including its ability to detect tsunamis.

He wants Pagasa and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvolcs), which are attached agencies of the DOST, to be directly involved in formulating the early warning systems and disaster preparedness plans.

Gordon has also directed PNRC personnel to synchronize their efforts with the International Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the world’s largest humanitarian organizations, in the development of the early warning systems and preparedness plans.

He said the PNRC is ready to participate in the worldwide efforts of the International Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to raise relief and rehabilitation aid for the earthquake and tsunami victims in Asia and Africa. — With Jose Rodel Clapano

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