Joined up thinking for the Irish Left
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Philippines: They Destroy, We Suffer
Friday November 22, 2013 09:49 by PM / PLM/ PMCJ
Capitalism is destroying the planet. Now we suffer. The devastating horror unleashed by monster-typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) upon the eastern and central Philippines regions is unspeakable. As of writing, estimates of the number of casualties and actual damages are tentative because many areas remain isolated and communications, power, road and port systems are down.
By Labor Party - Philippines
An initial estimate by the provincial government of Leyte and the regional police put the death toll at more than 10,000. Seventy to 80 percent of houses and structures along the typhoon’s path were destroyed. In Tacloban City alone, officials told the media that the death toll “could go up” to 10,000, as people died en masse from surging tidal waves.
We are yet to account for some of our party members, including the leader of the city’s federation of tricycle drivers and operators. Another member, a newly-elected village official in Southern Leyte, is still without contact. We just hope that they have survived the wrath of Haiyan. There is also little information about Eastern Samar towns where Haiyan made first land from the Pacific.
Massive loss of life and destruction are indeed beyond words to describe. The death toll will surely climb when actual rescue and retrieval operations reach the isolated areas. National and international aid is coming in, but there will be definitely a catastrophic scarcity of most essentials such as food, water, power, housing and medicines; the national and local governments were caught unprepared to deal with the colossal impact of Haiyan. And we still have four or five more typhoons coming this year, according to official weather forecasts.
The poor suffer the most
The poor – the army of low-income, unemployed and underemployed people – suffer the most in every disaster. It is because they lack the means to protect themselves during calamities and the ability to survive and recover thereafter.
Most of the poor, both in rural and urban areas, live in hazard zones (slums, riverbanks, creeks, coastlines, mountain slopes) that are prone both to natural and man-made disasters. Their houses are made of light materials just enough to cover them from sunshine and rain, but not for surging floods, landslides, or tidal waves.
Moreover, the country’s biggest employer, the agriculture sector, is first to suffer from the impact of both La Niña (floods) and El Niño (long drought), which are now common phenomena due to climate change, and further endanger the country’s food security and employment opportunities.
Regrettably, the poor don’t even know why nature is so unkind to people, most especially to them. They have not been informed that today’s wrath is more man-made rather than what they usually consider a natural phenomenon. They are yet to understand that it was capitalism that exploited and destroyed this planet beyond its limits, creating in effect a destructive fusion of economic, social and climate crisis.
Philippines getting nature’s wrath
The Philippines has the highest stake and the strongest case to bring before the on-going United Nation’s Climate talks in Warsaw, Poland. Previous climate talks produced nothing, as the process is dominated by developed countries which are known for committing something yet doing nothing.
The timing is indeed “tragically ironic”, one writer has pointed out. The 19th Conference of Parties (COP) in Poland opened right after the Philippines was hit by the Earth’s strongest typhoon in recent history, leaving thousands of dead out of more than four million people who suffered from what scientists consider a monster storm.
We welcome all international aid and solidarity work coming from Northern countries. This is the least they could do – put their one cent to climate emergencies such as in the Philippines. But we demand more. We want climate justice. Capitalist countries must be held accountable for the climate crisis. They must be forced to pay the climate debt they owe to poor nations.
Capitalist countries, we emphasise, are responsible for the climate crisis. They emit more carbon into the atmosphere – many times over what the poor countries do. The greenhouse gases emitted from capitalist industries drive global temperatures to new levels. This causes climactic reactions like warmer and rising sea levels and eventually leads to the formation of monster typhoons as in the case of Haiyan.
For over a century, capitalists have profited from nature by monetising it rather than protecting its rich natural resources. And the poor people and poor nations suffer the most from the climate crisis created by rich nations. The Philippines is among the topmost vulnerable countries. In fact we have suffered enough from devastating typhoons such as Frank (Fengshen, 2008), Ondoy (Ketsana, 2009), Sendong (Washi, 2011), Pablo (Bopha, 2012), and now Yolanda (Haiyan, 2013). The worst may be yet to come.
State of corruption and free market
What makes the crisis more devastating is that Haiyan struck the Philippines when Filipinos are still reeling from a recent earthquake that killed hundreds of people. The monster storm also came when Filipinos are fighting massive corruption scandals involving a huge amount of public service funds. Corruption in the Philippines reduces the ability of both the national and local governments to respond to climate emergencies of this magnitude because billions of public funds are lost to official scams.
More than that, the ruling class’s embrace of free market ideology since the 1980s has made poor people more vulnerable. The rich therefore are equally responsible and must be held accountable for the peoples’ miserable condition.
Neoliberalism made government rely completely on the private sector to create employment. Public services such as water and power were privatised. Prices of goods and services were deregulated. This resulted in massive unemployment and underemployment (close to 30 percent). Social infrastructure and services are in poor state. The poverty rate remains at 28 percent while hunger affects 19 percent of the population.
Just imagine this number of poor people living in one of the country’s poorest regions facing the wrath of super-typhoons. The post-Haiyan images will speak more of their miserable situation. They really are in dire need of immediate aid and rehabilitation. Many have already resorted to confiscations of available supplies in several stores and malls. We consider those as justified actions and much better if collectively organised to isolate criminal elements and individual push for survival. Where the government fails, the people should collectively rise up.
We therefore warn the government to avoid using force against our helpless people. The people need food, water and homes to stay in, not a police force to quell their spirit to survive. In the first place, a government that fails to eradicate high level corruption has no justifiable reason to use force in suppressing the peoples’ desperate struggle for life.
Appeal for solidarity with Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan victims:
Partido ng Manggagawa (PM)
Philippines: Let our people live! Climate justice now!
By Party of the Laboring Masses (PLM)
The people are still reeling from the impacts of possibly the biggest typhoon to strike the country. Death toll numbers are rising rapidly. There is massive devastation. Many are still trying to contact their relatives, friends and comrades, but communication systems are down, in the hardest hit areas. How should we, as socialists, respond to the crisis?
First, we have to support and take whatever measures are necessary to protect the people. This means all measures that bring the people immediate relief. In the hardest hit city of Tacloban, in South Eastern Visayas, the people are already taking what food and relief supplies that they need from the malls. The media reports this as looting and the break-down of law and order.
But we say: let our people live. This is not "looting". People are taking food, where they can get it, in order to survive. If there is no timely and organised support system from government, people just have to do it themselves and they should organise themselves to do it more effectively. Even some grocery owners understand the need for this. According to one report of a man who broke into a grocery store, "The owner said we can take the food, but not the dried goods. Our situation is so dismal. We have deaths in our family. We need to save our lives. Even money has no use here now.” Where possible, PLM will assist them to organise to take over food supplies and necessary relief goods.
Then there's the issue of the government response. Our experience has been that it has always been too slow and inadequate. Any efforts are undermined by corruption. The exposure of the organised plunder by the political elite and sections of government, of development funds or “pork barrel” funds meant for the people, is a testimony to this. This outraged the country and brought almost half a million people out in to the streets in a massive show of protest on August 26 this year. While one plunderer has been arrested, the president has not responded decisively to clean up the system.
The public funds plundered by the elite should have been used for preventative measures to support the people weather these disasters: for infrastructure, including better sea walls and communication infrastructure; for early warning systems; for well constructed and therefore safe public housing, to replace huts and shacks built out of dried leaves and cardboard; for health and education; for equipment and personnel for rapid emergency response, and the list is endless. But no, this was not the case, it was eaten up by the greed of the elite classes.
Unfortunately, we have no reason to believe that the government and the system will deliver and meet the needs of the people this time round either. The self-interest of the elite, and their control of the government and the system that is designed to perpetuate their interests, through the plunder of the people's assets and resources, renders the entire set-up futile in the face of a disaster on this scale.
Then there are our international "allies", such as the United States government, who have sent us their best wishes. But these "allies", so-called, are also responsible for the situation faced by our people. These typhoons are part of the climate crisis phenomenon faced by the world today. Super Typhoon Haiyan (referred to as Yolanda in the Philippines) was one of the most intense tropical cyclones at landfall on record when it struck the Philippines on November 7. Its maximum sustained winds at landfall were pegged at 195 mph with gusts above 220 mph. Some meteorologists even proclaimed it to be the strongest tropical cyclone at landfall in recorded history. Haiyan’s strength and the duration of its category 5 intensity — the storm remained at peak category 5 intensity for an incredible 48 straight hours.
The still-increasing greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the climate crisis are disproportionately emitted by the rich and developed countries, from the US, Europe to Australia. For centuries, these rich, developed countries have polluted and plundered our societies, emitting too much greenhouse gases to satisfy their greed for profit. They have built countless destructive projects all over the world, like polluting factories, coal-fired power plants, nuclear power plants and mega dams. They have also pushed for policies allowing extractive industries to practice wasteful and irresponsible extraction of the Earth's minerals. They continue to wage environmentally destructive wars and equip war industries, for corporate profits. All of this has fast tracked the devastation of the Earth's ecological system and brought about unprecedented changes in the planet's climate.
But these are the same rich countries whose political elite are ignoring climate change and the climate crisis. Australia has recently elected a government that denies the very existence of climate change and has refused to send even a junior minister to the climate conference in Warsaw, Poland. The question of climate justice –- for the rich countries to bear the burden of taking the necessary measures for stopping it and to pay reparations and compensate those in poorer countries who are suffering the consequences of it -– is not entertained even in a token way.
The way the rich countries demand debt payments from us, we now demand the payment of their “climate debts”, for climate justice and for them to take every necessary measure to cut back their greenhouse gas emission in the shortest time possible.
These rich "friends and allies", so-called, have preached to us about our courage and resilience. But as many here have pointed out, resilience is not just taking all the blows with a smiling face. Resilience is fighting back. To be truly resilient we need to organise, to fight back and to take matters in to our own hands, from the relief efforts on the ground to national government and to challenging and putting an end to the capitalist system. This is the only way to ensure that we are truly resilient.
Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM)
Donations can be sent to: Transform Asia Gender and Labor Institute
Account No. 304-2-304004562
Swift Code: MBTCPHMM
Metrobank, Anonas Branch Aurora Blvd., Project 4
Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
Mobile/cell No. +63(0)9088877702
PayPal donations can be made here: http://transform-asia.org/
Rich Countries: Cut your Emissions Now! Pay your Climate Debts! No to Climate Profiteers!
By Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ)
We, members of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), who came from the grassroots communities and basic sectors and are greatly affected by the irreversible impacts of climate change, strongly urged developed countries to pay-up their climate debts now!
For centuries, these developed countries have polluted and snatched away from developing countries their fair and sustainable share of the atmosphere, emitting too much greenhouse gases to satiate their greed for profit. They have built countless destructive development projects all over the world like air-polluting factories, coal-fired power plants, nuclear power plants, mega dams and others. They have also pushed for policies allowing extractive industries to practice wasteful and irresponsible extraction of the Earth’s minerals. All of these have fast-tracked the devastation of the Earth’s ecological system that brought about unprecedented changes in the planet’s climate.
Since developed countries have contributed much to the problem and have stolen the rightful share of developing countries to the atmosphere, the former have incurred “climate debts” to the latter. Even worse is that while developing countries are low contributors to the problem, they bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change.
Like the way these developed countries (lenders) demanded debt payments from us, developing countries (borrowers), we demand now the payment of their “climate debts”. PMCJ reiterates the need to pay for the developing countries’ full incremental cost of doing climate adaptation and mitigation measures including the loss and damage from climate change impacts. This provision was based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and historical responsibility enshrined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
PMCJ’s demand is addressed to the high-level finance experts who will be participating in the First Experts’ Meeting on Long-term Finance (LTF) under the UNFCCC on July 16-17, 2013 at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City. Philippine delegation representative, Commissioner Nadarev Saño, co-chairs the LTF with the representative from Sweden. This meeting will discuss the parameters of pathways for mobilizing scaled-up climate finance and examine enabling environments and policy frameworks in the context of mobilization and effective deployment of climate finance.
In this LTF Meeting, PMCJ will call on the experts to make it as their top priority the mobilization of funds from developed countries to developing countries as payment for their “climate debts”. The climate change-affected communities, marginalized and vulnerable sectors of farmers, fishers, indigenous peoples, rural/urban poor and women are one in demanding these to be paid-up.
PMCJ also urged the developed countries to cut their GHG emissions drastically in the most urgent time possible because no amount of money will be enough if GHG emissions continue to increase.
Currently, the Philippines is the front-liner in disaster impacts and topped the vulnerability rank. In fact, the Philippine Government has been losing annually an average of two (2) percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) due to damages caused by extreme weather events such as Typhoons Ketsana (Ondoy), Bopha (Pablo), Washi (Sendong) and Parma (Pepeng). Worst, the country lost both properties and lives. Many Filipinos have suffered because of these disasters and resources were wasted due to the unpreparedness and inadequacy of funds to address losses, damages and rehabilitation.
Lastly, PMCJ also demands the high-level finance experts to prioritize contributions for public funds rather than putting more money on the private sector facility – funds that are in the form of grants and not loans, and additional to existing development aids. Developed countries, led by the US and EU, are still pushing that the facility will hold funds to be used for leveraging private sector investments, thus putting bias in favor of private capital. This is an added obstacle in realizing the goal of mobilizing climate funds intended for the need of the vulnerable developing countries and communities given the current problem of inadequacy of the current pledges.
For PMCJ, most private sectors involved in the climate crisis do not offer solutions but to profit more.
As a network, we say NO to CLIMATE PROFITEERS!