Text & Photos by Ariel Neidermeier
It’s difficult to leave this city when it’s still in the throes of rehabilitation. I’ve been struggling to let go of my emotional attachment to Tacloban, which is deep and abiding.
As I’ve written in previous posts, there is a dire need for stable housing for the families who are still living in tents on the coastlines of the city. This need is heightened as the month of June and the start of the rainy season in the Philippines approaches.
According to reports, foreign governments and aid groups pledged over $600 million to the relief effort following the typhoon. The Philippine government says it can only account for $14.3 million of this money. This is the constant question that has hung in the air as I’ve spent the last two months working in Tacloban: why is rebuilding going so slowly? Where did this money go?
The most obvious answer to these questions is corruption. Historically, politics in the Philippines have been fraught with embezzlement, bribery and nepotism. It’s not unlikely that the unaccounted for money “disappeared” into the pocket of a high-ranking agency or official. That said, there have been strides to make the aid effort more transparent. Just a few months ago, the government launched a website called the “Foreign Aid Transparency Hub” to help the public track donations to the government. But, there are many holes in the data given on the site. Most glaring is the fact that pledges promised and received are recorded but there is no description of how the money was used once it reached the government. The Philippine government might consider adding this information in order to deliver the full transparency that the website promises to give about the relief effort.
If you do decide to donate to the relief effort in Tacloban, I can’t stress enough the importance of donating to NGOs( non-governmental organizations) that do not give the funds directly to the government, but rather use the money towards local projects and counterparts on the ground. In this respect, I recommend giving to organizations like Oxfam International and All Hands Volunteers which use donations for local projects and counterparts on the ground that are managed closely, every step of the way.
Finally, I will never forget the ability the Filipino people have to live with joy despite such struggle and hardship. I asked my Filipino friend Pol how he was able to laugh despite all the destruction and death that surrounded him. He said, “We are used to hardship. That is the history of the Philippines: we’ve been conquered so many times by different nations, struggled through disasters: typhoons , earthquakes, landslides. We just have to bare it and stand up. Smile. Laugh it off.”
I have no doubt Tacloban and the survivors of this tragedy will stand up and rise through this tragedy. Bangon Leyte. Tindog Tacloban.
For more information about the progress All Hands Volunteers has made in Tacloban and to get a first hand look at the work, watch the video below.
You can also catch up with all my blogs on the relief efforts in the Philippines exclusively on AsAmNews.
Thank you so much for reading. Maraming salamat po. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas.