After super storm Odette brought massive loss of life and damage to property in the Visayas and Mindanao earlier this month, there was some outpouring of support from the global community. Days after the calamity only the US, China, and the European Union committed monetary aid, later joined by Canada.
As of press time, the death total had reached close to 400 but scores remained missing in the worst-hit areas.
President Rodrigo Duterte initially said that government funds had been “immensely depleted” by the pandemic but he committed to somehow raise at least PHP10 billion (around US$200 million) for the victims of Odette.
Budget officer Tina Canda said the possible sources of the PHP 10 billion would be PHP2 billion (US$40 million) from the Office of the President’s contingency fund, PHP2 billion from the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management (NDRRM) and the rest from the General Appropriations Act of 2022 AKA the national budget.
Other countries followed the first donors but the total amount committed was far below what is needed to mount a meaningful recovery effort.
The agriculture sector alone lost more than PHP2.2 billion (about US$44 million), according to the Department of Agriculture.
In previous disasters, dozens of countries would commit to send either cash or relief goods to the Philippines. Not this time.
It was the private sector along with international organizations such as the Red Cross that delivered the initial assistance desperately needed by the victims, as large parts of the areas hit by the storm were left without power, water, and food.
Those with their own vehicles could not leave their areas as gasoline stations quickly ran out of supply and bank ATMS were not working.
The Energy department said they “cannot say” when power would be restored, although most experts say it will take up to a month or two to raise the fallen power lines.
As of late last week, the donors included the following:
· The US, which committed to provide US$200,000 (PHP10 million) through the US Agency for International Development;
· China committed US$1 million (PHP50 million) emergency cash assistance along with 10,000 metric tons of rice plus another PHP8 million worth of relief goods;
· The European Union allocated EU1.7 million (PHP96.4 million) in emergency assistance through the Office of the EU Commissioner for Crisis Management;
· Canada committed CA$3 million (PHP120 million) of which CAD$500,000 (PHP20 million) will be through the Red Cross International. An additional PHP1.9 million was released specifically for the Caraga Region;
· South Korea pledged humanitarian aid in the amount of US$2 million (PHP100 million);
· Japan promised an unspecified amount of aid in the form of generators, tents, sleeping bags, tarpaulins, and water containers directly to the Department of Social Welfare and Development;
· Ireland committed EU250,000 (PHP14.2 million) as humanitarian aid. While a member of the EU, the Irish aid in euros is separate from what was set aside by the union, and
· New Zealand donated NZ$500,000 (PHP17 million) through the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.
The total commitments thus far amounts to a little more than PHP407 million, which should only be enough to take care of the immediate needs of food, water, and emergency shelter for a short period.
If the government is unable to source the billions of pesos needed for a meaningful recovery and reconstruction plan, the affected areas are facing a possible humanitarian crisis which is likely to spill over to the rest of the country.