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Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Sandy

Back to the forgotten Mega Calamity Tacloban: Mayor Alfred Romualdez failed response? And Attacked by President Benigno Aquino III? 

Do you remember the Tacloban catastrophe? This gigantic tsunami that devastated an entire island?

Where hundred of cadavers were left “uncollected” for a week, and the fleeing covering their noses to get to the port?

And the only way out is through sea and a few helicopters to vacate the injured and the famished inhabitants?

Did Tacloban’s mayor Alfred Romualdez failed to respond in a timely manner?

And why Philippines President Benigno Aquino III Attacked the mayor on CNN?

A repost from selected top posts on The Filipino Scribe of Nov. 17, 2013

Aquino’s animosity toward Tacloban mayor hampering relief efforts?

Speaking to CNN International’s Christiane Amanpour last November 12, President Benigno Aquino III repeatedly reiterated that super typhoon Yolanda (international code name ‘Haiyan’) wrecked so much havoc, especially in the Eastern Visayas region because the “local (government) response failed.”

He told Amanpour that “two or three” local government units (LGUs) were “simply overwhelmed” by Yolanda. Watch Amanpour’s entire interview here.

Even without being mentioned by name, Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez is certainly one of those Aquino is referring to.

A day before his interview with Amanpour, Aquino was said to have walked out of a briefing with Tacloban City officials after he got irked by the said LGU’s unpreparedness (Malacanang later clarified that he merely went to the bathroom).

With Aquino seemingly bent on putting all the blame on Romualdez, the latter played defense. In an interview with GMA News, the mayor complained about what he described as insufficient aid from the national government.

Wala namang giyera, bakit hindi magpadala ng tatlong batalyon dito para hakutin na natin lahat ng patay?” Romualdez said. He also explained that relief goods are not being transported to devastated communities because of the lack of usable vehicles.

alfredo romualdez tacloban

Tacloban City Mayor Alfredo Romualdez (Credits:http://www.CorrectPhilippines.org

In relation to this, a point-by-point report (the author cannot be determined as of this time) on what is happening is now going viral on the Internet.

In a nutshell, the post explicates that Romualdez sought as much help as possible from the national government both before and after Yolanda rammed the city. And in all those instances, Romualdez received decidedly inadequate assistance.

Here are some of the items listed. Check Correct Philippines.org for the entire post:

1. After Typhoon Yolanda struck, the Mayor of Tacloban requested the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) to make a “RESPONSE OVERKILL” on the rescue and relief operations. Unfortunately, the response from the National Government was very cold and half hearted.

2. On Day 2 of Typhoon Yolanda aftermath, the Mayor requested the NDRRMC to deploy 2 Marine Battalions to help immediately establish peace and order and rescue/relief operations. Unfortunately, this plea for help was unheeded by the National Government.

5. The Mayor requested the National Government to put more vehicles and personnel for cadaver retrieval but up to now only 4 trucks from the National Government are doing this. Only 8 trucks from the National Government are doing relief work. Tacloban is now reeking from the smell of death and relief operations are still moving at a snail’s pace.

7. To add insult to injury, the Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary (Mar Roxas) wants the Mayor of Tacloban (Alfred Romualdez) to write a formal letter to Philippine President Noynoy Aquino supposedly to inform him that he could no longer function as Mayor, thereby surrendering authority to the DILG Secretary (Mar Roxas).

To say that there’s a personal animosity between Aquino and Romualdez would be an understatement.

For starters, the mayor of Tacloban is a nephew of former First Lady Imelda Marcos. Even until now, Aquino and the Romuladezes are on clashing sides of the political spectrum. The mayor’s cousin, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Romualdezis currently the president of Lakas-CMD, the party of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The administration made a vigorous bid to unseat Romualdez during last May’s polls.

In fact, Kris Aquino, the president’s youngest sister and television superstar, personally campaigned for Florencio ‘Bem’ Noel, the president’s bet. “If Bem wins (for mayor), I will give whatever Tacloban needs in just one call,” Kris quoted the president as telling her during a campaign rally.

Despite all these, plus the president’s sharp criticism of Romualdez’ tenure as the city chief, he won re-election handily.

In hindsight, Kris is perhaps right. Aquino would probably be more decisive in dealing with the disaster in Tacloban if the city is being led by his anointed candidate.

Who do you believe?

PS: Is it possible to set aside political differences when it comes to disaster response?

In dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy last year, United States President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie showed remarkable ability to work side-by-side for the greater good.

Christie, a top supporter of Obama’s Republican challenger Mitt Romney, repeatedly noted how he and the president remained in touch throughout the calamity. Read our post about it here.

Is Real Change handicapped by Professional Activism?

It’s disconcerting to find so few faces in the prominent ranks of the environmental movement that reflect the realities and experiences of those bearing the brunt of climate collapse.

Estimates show that since 1990 more than 90% of natural disasters have occurred in poor countries and that, globally, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by air, soil and water pollution.

Numbers also demonstrate that low-income households are hit the hardest by disasters, due to factors such as poor infrastructure and economic instability.

Yet those making strategic decisions are sitting in air-conditioned board rooms, hoping their conversations will pave the way for profound systemic change. Those most impacted by socioeconomic ills and environmental degradation are rarely present at those tables.

This disconnect is quite alarming. Those of us frustrated with this scenario have turned to a deeper analysis and framework over the last decade—that of climate justice. Defining “climage” justice is a work in progress; honoring and integrating it are lifelong struggles.

Henia Belalia posted on AlerNet this Oct. 29, 2013:

Is Professional Activism Getting in the Way of Real Change?   

“With budgets and voices so loud, professionals’ messages overshadow the call for uprisings coming from the trenches.

  

To tackle the root (read: radical) causes of the climate crisis, we must first acknowledge that environmental degradation exacerbates existing economic, racial and social injustices—an interconnectedness that should define our analysis and actions.

To truly win, land and justice defenders must recognize overlapping systems of oppression within this capitalist structure, and take strategic cues from the communities most impacted by colonization, militarism and poverty. That means building movements across issues and beyond divides based on race, class and gender, while elevating the voices that have been historically marginalized: indigenous peoples, communities of color, women, LGBTQ people, and the low-income population.

To do so will take a profound decolonization of minds and professional institutions.

For many in this country, resistance isn’t a choice—it’s not fashionable—it’s plain survival.

Walking through the streets of northern Philadelphia, my heart sinks. The rundown streets of a forgotten city, its gifts and peoples deemed disposable by the state’s corporate and governmental elites. Empty lots, dozens of schools shut down, despairingly long waiting-lists for access to public education, while across the invisible divide, bright lights shine and champagne glasses clink, unperturbed.

In the Far Rockaways of New York City, I come across wounds still bleeding, left open to the winds. Memories of Hurricane Sandy lie in the debris lining the sidewalks, the closed-down businesses and uneven pavements, the local hospital on the brink of closure.

The mass incarcerations of our brothers, fathers, lovers of color, stuck in vicious cycles of debt, drugs and street violence, the straight shot from a poor home to a gray prison cell. The overflowing detention centers, filled with terrified youth ripped from their families, many of them waiting to be deported to countries they haven’t set foot in since early childhood.

Indigenous nations, whose land we’re standing on, surviving 500 years of cultural and ethnic genocide, in the form of boarding schools, involuntary sterilization of their women, and broken treaties.

These are the unsung faces of the resistance. The lived experiences of the warriors and very survival should not only drive the direction of our movements, but will inevitably determine the success of our struggle for collective liberation.

Instead, within the existing mainstream culture, while organizing has shifted to career-based models, anti-oppression work has become fashionable, and even worse, fundable.

Through training, some may have learned the politically correct language to use, but much of the “anti-oppression” process has remained superficial, void of a real consideration for intersections of race, class and gender. This has resulted in a few token organizers of color hired into the ranks of respectable positions in big non-governmental organizations, with an unspoken expectation that they will be speaking for other brothers and sisters of color.

Meanwhile, for those coming from low-income households or without a college education, the doors of opportunity within the environmental and climate movement are almost always out of reach.

For a person once seduced by an organizing career and its false promises of liberation, it was a rude awakening. As a brown migrant woman, often tokenized as the “good kind of Arab,” if I wanted a meaningful voice in this movement, I was going to have to take up space for myself, much like many had done before me. That also meant taking responsibility for my own layers of privilege, like my college education and access to resources, that most in my family aren’t privy to.

The professionalization of change-making has created a non-profit industrial complex (NPIC) which hinders rather than promotes liberation movements. At Power Shift 2011, a national climate conference bringing together thousands of youth, there was a literal physical divide between the workshop spaces for the college students (mostly white middle-class) and the front-line communities (low-income, mostly youth of color). Since they were assigned different training tracks and curriculum, one of the only overlaps was during keynote speeches.

This year, at the same conference, several delegations of marginalized youth were promised funds for food and transportation that were either never or only partially delivered. These practices are counter-productive to social change, as they perpetuate the very systemic oppression we’re fighting. These practices are counter-productive to social change, as they perpetuate the very systemic oppression we’re fighting.

Meanwhile, NGOs are competing for membership and campaign victories, racing for measurable results that will prove to their funders that they deserve yet more money.

In a 9-year period, big greens received over $10 billion in funding, with only 15% of grants (between 2007-2009) allotted to marginalized communities. This discrepancy is appalling, especially given the fact that more money means more institutional costs and infrastructure, which often translates to compromises and watered-down actions.

This top-down funding strategy ignores the history of resistance—that large-scale social change stems from the grassroots and a sturdy leadership from the oppressed peoples who have a vested interest in fighting for freedom.

It’s hard to imagine a popular uprising being initiated by those relying on the comforts of paychecks and organizational stability, so those voices shouldn’t dominate the narrative. Often it’s professional activists heard shouting into megaphones, calling for escalation and taking it to the streets. As economies crash, natural disasters multiply, and countries are torn apart by war, that call rings true.

But what happens when an organization like MoveOn.org adopts Occupy’s grassroots message for the purpose of publicizing nationwide direct action trainings, but discourages trainers from promoting civil disobedience because of their organizational politics?

Or when the Natural Resources Defense Council and World Wildlife Fund work with the fossil-fuel industry, the latter quite satisfied to  buy them out and define their own opposition in the process? These examples show a disconnect and an inability to build genuine relationships with those on the ground.

With budgets and voices so loud, the professionals’ messages overshadow the call for uprisings coming from the trenches. Though those cries may not be amplified by megaphones or on the front pages of websites, they can be heard rumbling through the neighborhoods, detention centers, prisons, native reservations, homeless shelters, and broken-down apartment buildings.

So the question is, how will the mainstream respond when front-line communities take to the streets, when communities of color reclaim our power and stand our ground? Will the movement be ready and willing to demonstrate intentional and genuine solidarity?

With anti-oppression on the tip of everyone’s tongues these days, it is critical to remind ourselves that working with those who’ve been historically oppressed is not about atonement of guilt, stroking of egos, or moving personal agendas forward.

Andrea Smith refers to this in a recent piece, as an “  entire ally industrial complex   (that) has developed around the professional confession of privilege.

This practice of atonement perpetuates power imbalances by re-centralizing the voices and experiences of those carrying historical privilege, this time elevating them to the role of righteous confessors. This “anti-oppression” work Smith writes about is missing the mark entirely.

From Naomi Klein to Van Jones, from organizers of the ’99 WTO protest to blockaders of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas, a similar message resonates: the non-profit industrial complex needs to deepen its class analysis, tackle white supremacy within its own institutions, and dump the colonialist “savior” syndrome.

Professional activists must challenge institutionalized and structural privilege within their own organizations, in terms of air time, resources, influence, and how much space they take up.

What can professional activists do to decolonize the mainstream movement?

1. Make financial resources available to those communities that need it most, rather than filling the bank accounts of multi-million-dollar organizations.

2. Open up seats at the decision-making table for the freedom fighters on the front lines, rather than inviting them for the photo op once all the strategy has been laid out.

3. Get out of the way when those whose stories must be told are speaking up, rather than writing up studies about their experience.

4. Take the time to learn and practice genuine ally-ship that doesn’t translate to condescending tokenism.

To reflect integrity, this process cannot be driven by the need for personal and organizational recognition. Challenging our own internalized -isms is a constant work in progress, one that can take a lifetime.

From the jungles of Mexico, the Zapatistas wisely remind us of the longevity of this process, that we must walk on asking questions—”preguntando caminamos.”

To those of you on the front lines, to the brothers and sisters of color wearing ancestors in our flesh, carrying in our bodies the historical traumas of a system designed to break our spirits and exterminate us, it is a testament to our resilience that we’re still here, that we’ve survived over time.

To those who still wonder when the time for a radical shift will come, it has. Our day-to-day reality won’t be getting scary somewhere down the road, in some distant future—there’s a war being waged against our communities right now!

In this day of climate crises and economic collapse, of lingering white supremacy and patriarchy, the struggle is as much about resistance as it is about community survival programs, as much about taking down the fossil fuel industry as decolonizing our own minds. This moment calls upon us to get real about what that will take from us, what the responsibilities entail, and what real solidarity looks like.

If this movement is serious about winning and shifting our current paradigm, we are going to have to give up some comforts and get out of the way when the times call for it.

Note: Hénia Belalia is on the National Coordinating Committee of Deep Roots United Front, and the former director of Peaceful Uprising. She identifies as a climate justice defender, theater director and day dreamer of collective liberation.
Her work is rooted in a constantly evolving practice of allyship to frontlines of struggle, with a focus on the intersections of environmental and social justice.

A few of the “45 Most powerful pictures” in BuzzFeed for 2012

1. A boy in Nepal being evicted from his home

A boy in Nepal being evicted from his home

A boy cries as he holds his sister in his lap after a confrontation with squatters and police personnel in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Image by Stringer / Reuters

2. A couple discovering their family records survived Hurricane Sandy

A couple discovering their family records survived Hurricane Sandy

Rosemary McDermott and her husband opened a safe containing a family genealogy in the Breezy Point section of Queens.

They salvaged the safe from the basement of Rosemary’s mother’s home after Superstorm Sandy.

Image by Mark Lennihan / AP

3. Mars

Mars

Thanks to Curiosity, this is one of the clearest images of Mars ever taken.

Source: NASA

4. Felix Baumgartner’s 24-mile free-fall from space

Felix Baumgartner's 24-mile free-fall from space
Image by Red Bull Stratos/Jay Nemeth / AP

5. A man being pepper-sprayed directly in the face

A man being pepper-sprayed directly in the face

Israeli border police officers use pepper spray as they detain an injured Palestinian protester during clashes on Land Day in March.

Security forces fired rubber bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades to break up groups of Palestinian stone-throwers as annual Land Day rallies turned violent.

Image by Ammar Awad /LANDOV / Reuters
6. The man who set himself on fire for Tibet
The man who set himself on fire for Tibet

A Tibetan exile runs through a street during a protest against the upcoming visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Image by STRINGER / INDIA / Reuters

7. A Bolivian woman taking on a group of riot police

A Bolivian woman taking on a group of riot police

Thousands of people with crutches and in wheelchairs protested against the government of Bolivia in February. They were protesting what they believe to be an inadequate welfare system.

Image by David Mercado /LANDOV / Reuters

8. The Waldo Canyon fire

The Waldo Canyon fire

The Waldo Canyon fire burns an entire neighborhood near the foothills of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

In June, Colorado endured nearly a week of 100-plus-degree days and low humidity, creating a devastating formula for volatile wildfires across the state.

Image by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post / AP

9. Outside the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado

Outside the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado

Storm clouds gather above a memorial for the victims in the shooting across the street from the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in July.

Image by Ed Andrieski / AP

10. Anti-gay hate crimes in Ukraine

Anti-gay hate crimes in Ukraine

Unidentified people beat Svyatoslav Sheremet, head of Gay-Forum of Ukraine, in May.

Sheremet was attacked after meeting with members of the media to inform them that a scheduled gay parade was canceled due to threats of violence from neo-Nazis and other hate groups.

The attackers ran off when they realized members of the media were documenting the attack.

Image by Anatolii Stepanov / Reuters

11. People who lost family members during the uprising in Egypt react to Hosni Mubarak’s prison sentence

People who lost family members during the uprising in Egypt react to Hosni Mubarak's prison sentence

Relatives of people who died during Egypt’s revolution react after a court sentenced President Hosni Mubarak to life in prison in June.

Image by Suhaib Salem / Reuters

12. Kicking riot police in Greece

Kicking riot police in Greece

A man in Greece kicks riot police back.

Image by ARIS MESSINIS / Getty Images

13. Family being forced to go back to Myanmar

Family being forced to go back to Myanmar

Mohammad Rafique, a Rohingya Muslim from Myanmar, begs a Bangladeshi coast guard official not to send his family back to Myanmar.

Image by Saurabh Das / AP

14. Nik Wallenda tightroping over Niagara Falls

Nik Wallenda tightroping over Niagara Falls

Nik Wallenda tightroped over Niagara Falls on a 2-inch-wide wire. He’s the first person to ever cross directly over the falls from the U.S. into Canada.

Image by Frank Gunn / AP

15. The father saving his daughter’s life in Syria

The father saving his daughter's life in Syria

A Syrian man carries his wounded daughter outside a hospital in the northern city of Aleppo in September. Syrian troops shelled several districts in Aleppo and clashed with rebels.

Image by MARCO LONGARI / Getty Images

16. Manhattan without lights

Manhattan without lights

Before and after shots of Manhattan after Hurricane Sandy. Nearly 200,000 people lost power in downtown Manhattan for about a week.

Image by Edwardo Munoz / Reuters

17. A little Palestinian girl vs. an Israeli soldier

A little Palestinian girl vs. an Israeli soldier

A Palestinian girl tries to punch an Israeli soldier during a protest against the expansion of the nearby Jewish settlement of Halamish.

Image by Majdi Mohammed / AP

18. The Space Shuttle Enterprise flying above New York City

The Space Shuttle Enterprise flying above New York City
Image by Handout / Getty Images

19. The wedding held during a monsoon in Manila

The wedding held during a monsoon in Manila

Ramoncito Campo kisses his wife Hernelie Ruazol Campo on a flooded street during a southwest monsoon that battered Manila, Philippines, in August.

The newlywed couple pushed through with their scheduled wedding despite severe flooding that inundated wide areas of the capital and nine nearby provinces.

Image by Ramoncito Campo / Reuters

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