For the past few days, I am amazed and astounded by the touching response by our fellow Filipinos here and abroad to the call for help with regards to the victims of typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana). These unselfish acts of charity and help are manifestations of the bayanihan spirit that we thought to have been forgotten. This bayanihan spirit is people power in action.
However, I am saddened by several tweets and Facebook messages about the obvious lack of coordination with regards to relief operations. This lack of coordination results to inefficiency and waste. Imagine one relief center with surplus of donations but lacks volunteers to pack these goods; imagine another relief center turning away volunteers because the center does not have enough goods to pack. Imagine the chaos. Imagine the time wasted. Imagine information regarding relief scattered in several locations; imagine information in one location is different from another. This is not the fault of volunteers and relief organizations; they should be commended for acting without being urged, giving without expecting any return.
The biggest losers in this lack of coordination are the victims of typhoon Ondoy. They lost their homes, their things, their families and friends, and their lives. They are staying at rooftops, at crowded evacuation centers, hungry, sleepless, battered. They are hoping for help. Help is available. But for some of them, help cannot reach them, because of this lack of coordination in relief efforts.
The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) is supposed to be the lead agency with regards to coordinating relief effort. Unfortunately, from day one of the disaster, the NDCC has chosen to abdicate its mandate. With the lead agency out of the picture, the relief effort is ad hoc, uncoordinated, inefficient. And the victims continue to suffer.
It is imperative that someone should lead the relief efforts. The initiative to lead is now in the hands of the private sector. From day one, it is the private sector that has taken the lead in relief operations. Now the private sector must seize the initiative in leading a centralized coordination center, so that information, material, and volunteers can be shared and allocated efficiently. This center shall be the focal point for information collection and dissemination, for coordinating collection of goods, for assigning volunteers where they are needed; in short, to find where materials and volunteers are needed, and send help as soon as possible. The center can map out areas where most help is needed, and to ensure that all areas needing help are attended to.
I am appealing to those leading individual relief efforts to meet and agree in establishing a coordinating body, jointly staffed by relief organizations, sharing resources and information. A united effort will reduce inefficiency and waste. A united effort will ensure that help will be extended where it is needed. A united effort is bayanihan at its best. A united effort is people power at its finest.
With another typhoon in the offing, we cannot afford to be disunited at these trying times. Let us show that we are a nation united in time of crisis. Thank you.
(Photos by Leah Navarro)