When words fail; Mending fences with China

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

Words are often inadequate to express meanings or describe events. This was true of the stories of devastation that super typhoon Yolanda wreaked on Leyte and Samar and other small barangays. There were just too many stories of suffering and misfortune competing for the space to be heard.

Try and visualize the scene of a hungry woman alone lying next to her three dead children in a flimsy hut blown over by the typhoon’s horrific winds and no one to help her. Hers is just one story but the thought stayed in my mind, trying to fill up details to make it more real. But it was of no avail.

So too were stories on government neglect and incompetence and about survivors who died when help, food and water did not reach them in time.. The stories come from the victims themselves.

Kuehn Bienvenida, a visiting foreigner, came up with a picture of mountains of donated relief goods stocked high after these had been repacked in DSWD warehouses.

This was hard evidence of what was described as the Philippine government’s extreme cruelty to its suffering citizens that the world must know. These were said to have come from Indonesia and elsewhere. They were stored in the warehouse all this time while the people of Tacloban and Samar waited.

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In the face of such suffering from evil and incompetence there were also good works and creative ideas from those who wanted help instead of lamenting misfortune. One that caught my attention among the many postings for aid to the victims was the Rotary Club of Makati Dasmariñas’ Donate a Boat boat project.

The boat project hones in on a specific place where the fisherman live — Dolores, Eastern Samar. The letter-writer’s brother, Philip Nazareno was there last year (September 2012) for a medical and surgical mission.

“It is a town which was infested with communist rebels but, thankfully, the rebels have already given up their arms. Since Dolores is a coastal town facing the Pacific Ocean, the people in this town subsist on fishing.

Unfortunately, all the boats of the fishermen of Dolores were washed away. Since fishing is their main source of livelihood, I am afraid that if we do not give these fisherfolk any livelihood, they may be tempted to, once again, take up arms.

That was how the idea for donating a boat came about. It would mean so much more than just relief goods — it would give them back their livelihood and their self-esteem.”

 Instead of giving relief goods to Dolores, they have put together a Rebuilding Plan by providing small fishing boats for the fisher folk of Dolores, Eastern Samar.

A small boat costs P5,000 plus an additional P500 for the katig (the outrigger of the banca), the lambat (fishing net), the sagwan (oars), etc.  Payment for the boats should be made to the “Rotary Club of Makati Dasmariñas”. An official receipt with the amount will be issued for donors to the Fishing Boat Project for Dolores, Eastern Samar.

They hope to be able to turn over the boats by December in time for Christmas.

The boat plus implements such as outrigger, oars, and fish net) is P5,500 or around $130. It should be deposited to the Philippine National Bank; Account Name: Rotary Club of Makati-Dasmariñas; Account No.: 383-3091000-30. If sending through international wire transfer (from abroad), the Swift Code is PNBMPHMM. For those who are depositing, please scan deposit slip and email to [email protected] (cc: [email protected]).

You can drop payment at the office of the Rotary Club of Makati-Dasmariñas at the Herrera Tower (Suite LG-12), Rufino corner Valero, Salcedo Village, Makati (look for Myleen Baniqued). If within the Makati Central Business District, call Myleen at 4823395 for pick up of check if in Makati CBD.

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Peoples from around the world responded to the Philippines’ cry for help in the aftermath of Yolanda. But more than the material help given the response showed the oneness of the world. There is hope for humanity when peoples are able to come together in crisis regardless of differences or economic status. The driving factor was show solidarity when faced with disaster and human suffering.

This was true especially of the responses that came from China and the United States. The Philippines is at the center of their competition for supremacy in the region.

There were attempts to waylay the goodwill generated by the two. At least in FB I saw some some bad mouthing from misguided persons who would rather continue hostile exchanges and stoke the conflict even in the face of the tragedy to the Philippines. Happily these are being ignored by the competing superpowers. They remain focused to use their skills and resources to help the Philippines.

Filipinos cheered when the USS Washington steamed into Philippine waters to show its might and power. It is described as  â€œthe second of two battleships in the North Carolina class,” in Wikipedia and the third ship named in honor of the 42nd state.  There was praise for the speed with which the battleship was dispatched to the Philippines. But there were also skeptics who wondered why the US should have to send a battle ship with a huge contingent of soldiers. These remained musings of amateur political analysts.

Meanwhile the Chinese government sent its The Peace Ark Hospital Ship, the first 10,000- ton class hospital ship in the world, to the Philippines for medical aid. Although there were still some Chinese smarting over the suit filed by the Aquino government on the South China sea conflict, the hardline Global Times came with a strong editorial which urged the Chinese government to put this aside and show its own strength in the soft power supremacy in the region.

The Philippines is a beneficiary of the one-upmanship contest if the incumbent government handles it well. This is an extraordinary opportunity to mend our fences with China. It has made a move to overrule Chinese netizens in the Internet still smarting over the Philippine suit in the UNCLOS.

It too has its own critics for coming later than the US.  But the scale of Yolanda’s destruction is such that help will be needed for a long time. Indeed China is in time to pitch in for both short and long term rehabilitation. Who knows? The cooperation developed in crisis could lead to a solution to South China Sea conflict.










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