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The People Need Relief and Rehabilitation, Not Bullets and Militarization!

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Mr. President, let’s set the record straight: Starving people can’t eat bullets or drink excuses. Machine guns can’t heal broken bones. Finger-pointing can’t repair homes or hospitals. Only the people working together and fully mobilized to implement the largest nationwide relief effort in the history of the Philippines will be able to meet the victims’ immediate needs and rebuild the lives and communities wrecked by Typhoon Haiyan. And don’t forget that it is the responsibility of the Philippine government to fulfill its obligation to provide relief and rehabilitation for the entire nation.

BAYAN USA joins the international criticism of the Aquino administration’s utterly inept handling of the relief efforts as the crisis worsens with each day that passes. With over 600,000 people displaced, at least 150,000 homes destroyed, a mounting death toll that is estimated at over 10,000 people to date, and at least 15 million people throughout the country impacted by Haiyan, the Filipino people are relying on unprecedented acts of care and sacrifice for each other and aid given in the spirit of genuine and respectful solidarity by people around the world. The lack of action by the government to prioritize the people and their extreme needs right now over the political interests of the elite is painfully obvious.

President Aquino has failed to be accountable for the lack of funds available to respond to the disaster, due to the large-scale misappropriation and thievery of billions of dollars that were diverted to the pockets of corrupt politicians and middle-men. The President also should have acted immediately to disburse all funds possible to finance the relief effort—including the billions of pesos that are sitting in his pork barrel fund and those earmarked for paying international debt obligations. Instead, PNoy did the one sure-fire thing that could make an already catastrophic situation worse: he brought in military forces to police devastated communities, and he requested additional military support from the U.S. government.

At this moment, the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, with 5,000 people on board and accompanied by an entourage of missile cruisers, has reached the Philippines. The US Defense Department also reports that its military helicopters are conducting reconnaissance of ravaged communities, monopolizing vital airspace that could be used to bring in relief teams. News coverage of camouflage-clad U.S. and Philippine troops distributing water and other relief goods is dominating our TV screens. US Secretary of State John Kerry stated “Since the start of this calamity, the United States has been working closely with our partners in the Philippines to provide rapid and effective relief. Our embassies in the Philippines and Palau are in close and constant contact with their partners in local governments to direct aid to the right places.” However, in the words of Philippine Army Major Ruben Guinolbay, “Basically, the only branch of government that is working here is the military.”

The world needs to question why.

Why is it that only the US and Philippine armed forces are able to deploy troops to conduct operations throughout the affected areas? This speaks to the lopsided priority given to funding the military instead of the critical infrastructure that could have prevented such severe devastation in the first place. The priority of the Philippine and US militaries has never been to provide humanitarian aid. It is to secure the interests of multi-national agribusiness, mining, energy and other corporations; the family dynasties that hold political power; wealthy landowners who profit off the exploitation of the natural resources and labor of the Filipino people; and US imperialism’s agenda of securing its foothold in Asia. The Philippine military’s own counterinsurgency guide specifically states that the armed forces will conduct such projects as humanitarian relief in order to build closer relations with communities and thereby ensure the success of their military operations.

This is not genuine aid. This is not what the people need.

The people must continue their efforts to raise funds and materials for the immediate relief efforts needed on the ground.

BAYAN USA calls upon the Filipino people to hold President Aquino accountable for compromising the immediate needs of the victims and survivors of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda by allowing U.S. troops and the AFP to militarize communities already in despair and hoarding pork barrel funds that should be used for relief. We must advance our opposition to U.S. and other imperialist countries dominating and pillaging Philippine land, so much so that large scale mining and logging have caused devastating landslides wiping out entire communities. We must uphold our national sovereignty in the face of U.S. imperialism expanding in the Asia Pacific both militarily and economically through the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP/TPPA) negotiations.