Government told: “Don’t treat us as children of lesser God”

Typhoon victims in Rizal province complain of Palace neglect
Government told: “Don’t treat us as children of lesser God”
by Roy Morilla, Gigi Babon, Rey Manangan and Billy Reyes

Antipolo City- Upland farmers and lake fishermen in Rizal province on Thursday charged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her officials of state neglect over Malacanang’s failure to send rescue teams and conduct relief operations in a number of affected farming and fishing villages in the province.

“This government is treating farmers and fishermen affected by tropical storm Ondoy as children of lesser God. Please allow us to inform this corrupt presidency that we are decent, productive and patriotic sectors of society. We don’t deserve this extreme display of government neglect and state abandonment,” the activist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said in a joint statement.

KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella said in Montalban, Rizal, hundreds of peasant households were ravaged by typhoon Ondoy, “But government rescue and relief operations are nowhere to be found. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her officials are probably moonlighting elsewhere, while thousands of our farmers are struggling hard for survival. ‘If there were relief operations it was selective, where recipients of relief goods are subject to the discretion of local barangay officials and patronage politics,” he said.

Marbella said in Sitio Sapa, Barangay San Rafael in Rodriguez, Rizal, 68 households were affected by heavy floods since Saturday, affecting over 300 farmers, and another 180 households were flooded by waters and mud in the adjacent villages dislodging not less 800 farmers and residents.

For his part, Pamalakaya vice-chairperson Salvador France, said no relief operations were conducted in the Laguna Lake portions of Binangonan in Rizal province. Based on the report his group received from their chapter coordinators in the province, no relief goods or any kind of government assistance were given to affected fishermen.

“Huge billboards promoting Palace infrastructure projects in Binangonan and other parts of Rizal province say “GMA cares”, but there is no truth to that. The truth is Mrs. Arroyo does not care, the word care just exists in her towering propaganda billboards for her own image building , nothing more, nothing less,” said France.

France said in Barangay Tayuman, Tayuman and Tagpos, all in Binangonan town, a total of 250 fishing households were affected by typhoon Ondoy roughly 1,000 lakeshore residents. He said many of them are currently housed in evacuation centers, but they have no access to relief goods and assistance from the local government and support groups is nil.

The Pamalakaya leader said in Talim Island, a total of 145 households representing the fishing barangays of Ticulio and Pipindan were affected and are still submerged in deep waters. There was no report of any relief operations conducted in said barangays, which is some 30 to 45 minutes boat ride from Binangonan proper.

In order to address the urgent needs of affected farmers and fisherfolk in Rizal province and other ravaged provinces—Laguna, Batangas, Cavite and Quezon in Southern Tagalog, Bataan, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and Aurora in Central Luzon, the KMP and Pamalakaya coalesced with other rural-based organizations like the Unyon ng Mga Mangagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the Amihan peasant women federation, the student support group Nnara-Youth and the church-based Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and formed its own relief network for typhoon Ondoy victims known as Oplan Sagip Kanayunan-Balsa.

Organizers said Oplan Sagip Kanayunan-Balsa will lead rural-based groups in soliciting relief goods and material assistance for farmers and fishermen in two regions affected by storm Ondoy. They said the national offices of Pamalakaya, KMP and Amihan will serve as drop off centers for relief and material support and cash donations for rural people victimized by tropical storm Ondoy. #

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