“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” Psalm 57:1
The images of destruction from the aftermath of the raging storms and floods seem to look like the apocalypse came down upon us. The three extremely destructive typhoons – Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses, that came almost one after the other, have rendered millions of Filipinos cold and hungry as their homes and belongings were submerged in water. Many lives were lost. Once again, the country’s vulnerability to natural hazards exacerbated by the climate crisis, came to the fore. All these while the COVID-19 pandemic rages.
While the Philippines is one of the countries prone to disasters due to climate change, the experiences with Ondoy and Yolanda, should have prepared the government for disaster mitigation and ecological protection. The miserable condition that people find themselves mired in, shows how ill-prepared our government is to handle disasters. It also shows the aggressive impacts of the disembowelment of our mountains, destruction of our forests and clogging of our waterways by government approved so-called development projects like large-scale mining, logging and mega dams. Worse, government priorities lie elsewhere exemplified by a decrease in the calamity budget for 2020. The 2021 budget also have cuts in health and other social services while increases were evident for infrastructure, debt service and the military including a gargantuan budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The latter is notorious for its rampant and unrelenting red-tagging of personalities and organizations including churches and humanitarian groups. Meanwhile, Filipinos are treated to shallow beautification projects like the dolomite beach in Manila Bay. This deplorable situation being suffered by the Filipino majority is in sharp contrast with God’s intention for care for humankind and the entirety of Creation.
Moved by the Christian edict to extend compassion and humanity to our neighbors in crisis, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines joins the people in their effort to rise above the destruction brought about by the series of disasters. The Council affirms that a timely, relevant and accountable assistance is the right of every disaster-affected people that should be met by the government at all cost. In the context where public health and life-saving needs are unmet, no time should be wasted to reach those who need support the most.
We strongly call on our lawmakers to re-align sufficient budget to aid people’s life-saving and recovery needs and disaster risk reduction programs that include community-based mitigation and preparedness. We call on the national and local authorities to strengthen its humanitarian response mechanisms with the civil society organizations and grassroot communities themselves, as principled in the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction Act (RA 10121) to ensure that no one is left behind.
We also call for the security and protection of humanitarian responders, especially those at the local level. We support the resounding cry of the Filipino people for our national government to declare a Climate Emergency and decisively address the long-term vulnerabilities of the people to disasters and climate change impacts, while putting an end to environmental destructive programs and projects.
We implore our member churches, constituents, and partners in faith to unceasingly pray and work with the people for the protection of our environment and a sustainable society that values life and human dignity. Let us debunk the myth of resiliency. Let us support the people’s demand for justice and accountability from the government.
18 November 2020
REV. FELIPE B. EHICAN, JR.
RT. REV. JOEL O. PORLARES
Vice – Chairperson
DRA. GAY B. MANODON
Vice – Chairperson
MA. KAY CATHERINE F. ALMARIO
Vice – Chairperson
MAJOR ALLAIN M. NIETES
BISHOP REUEL NORMAN O. MARIGZA