PHILIPPINES — The Catholic Church’s social action arm has urged the Duterte government to seek international help as widespread flooding from two recent typhoons inundated several parts of the country. “The nation is in quandary,” is how Father Antonio Labiao, executive director of Caritas Philippines described the situation in the wake of yet another storm.
Two storms in a fortnight
Typhoon Vamco, called Ulysses locally, made landfall in the Philippines on 11 November, causing massive flooding in various parts of Luzon, including Metro Manila and Cagayan. The 21st storm to hit the Philippines this year has killed at least 53 people, injured 52 and left 22 missing, according to the Philippines police and army.
The storm battered areas still reeling from the Super Typhoon Goni, the world’s strongest typhoon so far this year that claimed 25 lives and destroyed thousands of homes. Goni made landfall on 31 October. The typhoons struck as the Philippines continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. On Saturday, 1,650 new coronavirus infections and 39 more deaths were reported.
“Every life matters”
Father Labiao said that in Cagayan, people, in particular children, the elderly and the vulnerable are crying out for help – some have died already. “The Catholic Church, especially the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao, is mobilizing all its resources to reach Cagayan Valley the soonest,” he said, adding, “We cannot do this without everyone’s help.” “All stakeholders need to be on board.”
“We urge our government to seek help from the international community now,” Fagther Labiao said. “It is clear that we cannot do this alone. It is imperative that we leave no one behind. Let us all help each other. Let us save everyone. Every second counts. Every life matters.”
Meanwhile, the Vincentian Foundation is reaching out to the victims of Typhoon Ulysses in Manila. Vincentian priest Father Dani Pilario appealed for urgent help for illegal settlers living in shanties under bridges because they could be trapped by flooding caused by heavy rain that saw a river in the Marikina area of the metropolis rise by a meter in less than three hours.
The priest noted that the flooding is made worse with dams releasing water or overflowing. Unaware of this danger, many people, he said, could easily be trapped or washed away altogether.
Resilience of people
However, Father Pilario was amazed at the resilience of these squatters under bridges who were smiling despite their hard conditions. When the Vincentian Foundation team reached the affected people with relief material, the priest said they looked very relaxed. “We already know what to do, Father. We have been here for a long time,” they said.
However, Father Pilario said that although this might be the case, they too had their limits: “When a government does not have a housing program which forces families including children to live in such circumstances, then this society is abusing people’s resilience.”.
The Vincentian priest criticized the government saying it is more worried about its own survival and hold on power than sheltering and caring for people during natural disasters.
The Jesuits of the Philippines have also appealed for help for the affected people.
President Rodrigo Duterte said on 12 November that he had ordered government agencies to mobilize and provide aid to victims. “Rest assured, the government will not leave anybody behind,” Duterte said on national television.