Saturday, August 9, 2008

Successful Relief Operations

With the UK-based humanitarian organization, Christian Aid (CA), responding to the call for help of Sibuyan ISLE/SAM, together with the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Inc. – Kasama sa Kalikasan / Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE Phils.), the Task Force Sibuyan Relief Operations was convened two days after typhoon Fengshen (Frank) devastated Sibuyan Island. The AMRSP as partner of Sibuyan ISLE in its environmental advocacy, initiated relief drives with its members through schools and congregations, as well. La Salle Green Hills (LSGH) is one of the schools which quickly responded to the call together with the College of St. Benilde (CSB) of De La Salle. Through AMRSP, LSGH sent relief items which were repacked at the Claret School of Quezon City (CSQC). St. Scholastica’s College (SSC) of the Benedictine nuns sent relief items, too.

The relief items which weighed approximately 40 tons were transported to Sibuyan Island on 21 July 2008. Distribution by land and sea was done through the Basic Ecclesial Communities and Parish Social Action Centers of the Vicariate of Sta. Barbara (Sibuyan Island) of the Diocese of Romblon in coordination and monitoring of Sibuyan ISLE, LRC-KsK/FoE Phils. and CA. Selection of beneficiaries was based on international humanitarian standards prescribed by the SPHERE Project. General qualification is that the recipient should be poorest of the poor, which responds to the Catholic Church’s preferential option for the poor, hence, hierarchy of prioritizations and screenings was prudently and justly considered. More than 3,500 households (approximatey 17,000 peope) have already benefited from the relief operations.

Notably, the task force experienced bringing the relief items directly to the beneficiaries by taking motorized bancas and a 7-kilometer walk with the indigenous peoples passing through rivers because the roads are not still passable.

The assessment shows that: a) there is an on-going food shortage due to the possible toxic contamination of chemicals from the sunken MV Princess of the Stars, hence, fear of fishing and expensive food sale; b) agricultural crops were gravely devastated especially coconut, vegetable and banana plantations; c) roads in gravely stricken villages are still not passable; d) at least two coastal elementary schools were gravely damaged, percentage of absences of students is increasing because fishing which is generally the source of income of families is limited; e) the people especially the children are still traumatized of the typhoon and the sunken ship’s ramifications.

The task force complied with the international humanitarian standard of conducting relief operation in just one month, that is from June 25 to July 25, especially in the isolated island of Sibuyan.