Mindanao, Visayas disaster survivors unite in Tacloban for survivors’ confab

By Dean Lacandazo

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Around 200 survivors and supporters from previous natural and man-made calamities in Mindanao and Visayas islands arrived today in Tacloban City for a national disaster survivors’ conference. Organizers said that the conference is aimed at consolidating disaster victims against what they believe as the Aquino government’s criminal neglect of their plight.

Survivors from Mindanao were welcomed this afternoon by from different islands in the Visayas in a ceremonial salubungan in Marasbaras district, Tacloban City.

Photo by Max Santiago
Photo by Max Santiago

Alongside the People Surge Alliance for Typhoon Yolanda survivors based in Eastern Visayas, the Yolanda survivors’ alliance AYUDA from Central Visayas, Kusog Sang Pumuluyo from Western Visayas and survivors from the 2013 Bohol earthquake welcomed the Mindanao survivors’ contingent through ritualistic rites and flag dances. The combined groups of survivors then marched along Maharlika Highway to the venue of the conference at nearby San Jose District.

Dr. Efleda Bautista, Chairperson of People Surge, said that they intend to share experiences and forge cooperation with the different survivors’ movements. The delegation from Western Visayas came from the coastal communities of Iloilo polluted by the massive oil spills that occurred when typhoon Yolanda badly hit the oil tankers in Estancia town, Iloilo. The attendance from Mindanao came from the upland communities of Davao and other parts of Southern Mindanao displaced by big mining firms and the intensified militarization in the area.

“Disaster survivors continue to suffer from the Aquino government’s criminal neglect and are now rising together to demand justice,” Bautista said.

Photo by Max Santiago
Photo by Max Santiago

The Mindanao caravan is composed of members of Barug Katawhan, survivors of 2012’s Typhon Pablo (International name: Bopha) in Davao that mounted people’s barricades to confront top government officials and held an organized confiscation of “hoarded” relief goods in a government warehouse. Department of Social Work and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman was present in Davao when the group held the barricade and confiscated the goods.

Indug Katawhan, Pablo survivors from Compostella Valley, barricaded the gates of Apex Mining Corporation, which they blame for its role in intensifying disaster impacts to their communities. Survivor collectives of 2011’s Typhoon Sendong (International name: Washi) who organized themselves to protest the lack of government response, together with the survivors of the 2013 Zamboanga seige between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the secessionist group Moro National Liberation Front, also joined the conference.

Carlos Trangia of Barug Katawhan from Mindanao sees the conference as a venue to solidify their demand for justice and expose corruption and incompetence of government to respond to disasters.

“We travel to Tacloban bearing hard-fought lessons from our experiences under various typhoon disasters over the past three years. We have established a bayanihan movement on sustainable agriculture in our survivor’s communities amidst intensified militarization and the filing of trumped-up charges against our leaders and supporters,” said Trangia.

Bautista noted that the national convergence of disaster survivors aims to “spark a powerful surge forward in the struggle for resilient, self-reliance, social justice, and transformative change.” She also said that the event itself is an ultimatum to the Aquino presidency to start listening and concretely respond to the demands and aspirations of disaster survivors.

The conference will be graced by Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, himself a Yolanda survivor.

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