“Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero” (Seize the day, put little trust in tomorrow (future).
-Odes Latin Poet Horace
CHICAGO, Illinois (FAXXNA/jGLi) – When President Barack Obama mentioned the U.S. disaster relief in the Philippines during his State of the Union address on January 28, it moved a gritty bunch of Filipino American leaders into action.
They dropped whatever they were doing and drove to Washington, D.C. despite unseasonably chilly weather. They trooped to the U.S. State Department to follow up a pending request to grant tens of thousands of undocumented Filipino U.S. immigrants Temporary Protective Status (TPS).
If undocumented Filipinos will not be granted TPS, they could be deported. Their mass deportation will run smack into a Philippine government, still mired neck-deep into rehabilitation of millions displaced by super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
I was on the phone with a community leader, Marlon L. Pecson, of the U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG) in Chicago Wednesday (Jan. 29) when USPGG’s national leader, Atty. Loida Nicolas Lewis, joined our teleconference.
Lewis mentioned in passing of her trip the following day to the office of Philippine Desk Officer David Arulanantham of the U.S. State Department to follow up the approval of the pending request for the issuance of department order for TPS for undocumented Filipinos.
I told her to let Atty. Arnedo Valera, Co-Director of Fairfax, Virginia-based Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC), tag along with them.
It was Valera, who was first to send me a press release, advocating for a grant of TPS to undocumented Filipinos three days after Yolanda swept the Philippines.
In a matter of seconds, Lewis was calling Valera, who joined us in a four-way teleconference. And as the cliché goes, the rest is history.
As if by design, Valera told us that he just returned from the Philippines two days before and even visited the wrath of Yolanda’s Ground Zero in Tacloban City and had a first-hand look of the devastations.
Perhaps, reminded by Latin poet Horace in Odes, “Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero,” which is translated into “Seize the day, put little trust in tomorrow (future),” Valera cancelled his appointment and joined an 11-person delegation as a substitute delegate when another dropped out.
MEMBERS OF DELEGATION
Aside from Lewis and Valera, the other members of the delegations were Atty. JT Mallonga of the of the New York city-based Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund (FALDEF); Jon Melegrito, communications officer of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA); Marie Aunio of FALDEF; Angie Cruz of NAFFAA; Apollo Inserto of US Medicare Philippines; Lorna Imperial Seidel of Philippine Nurses Association; Grace Valera-Jaramillo, Co-Executive Director, Migrant Heritage Commission; Edwin R. Josue and Jerry Sibal, both of Noli Me Tangere Opera.
The delegates also adopted the letter earlier sent by MHC to Arulanantham which made the case why the hundreds of thousands of undocumented Filipinos deserve to overstay in the U.S., be allowed to work and be allowed to leave and return to the U.S. if they are granted TPS.
The group told Arulanantham, a veteran Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. State Department, that the Nov. 8, 2013, Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan, a category 5 typhoon, swept the Philippines. Yolanda has become the history’s strongest typhoon that left 6,201 dead, 28,626 injured and 1,785 missing, affecting 3.2-M families or 16-M individuals.
These families and individuals affected came from 12,139 barangays (the smallest political units) in 44 provinces, 591 municipalities and 57 cities of the nine out of 17 regions: more than a half of 82 total provinces, more than a third of 135 municipalities and more than a third of 1,493 municipalities in the Philippines.
If tens of thousands of undocumented Filipino immigrants would be given a Temporary Protected Status, they can continue to work in the U.S. and remit money to their relatives reeling from devastations.
Valera said, for instance, many people, who were depending on coconuts for their livelihood, had no coconuts to harvest as all coconut trees were uprooted by Yolanda. There were 33 million trees damaged or destroyed and more than one million coconut farmers affected. Total estimated losses stand at $396 million. The damage created knock-on effects along the entire value chain.
DEPORTED, PINOYS WOULD JOIN LINE CUING FOR FOOD IN HOMELAND
If these undocumented Filipinos were returned to the Philippines, they will not earn anything and will only form part of a long line of hungry Filipinos waiting to be fed by donations from domestic and overseas sources.
Total damages are placed at PhP 39.8 B (US$880-M) with 19.5 B (US$431-M) for infrastructure and 20.2 B (US$446-M) for agriculture.
Out of the 4.1 million displaced, only 2 percent are living in evacuation sites while 98 percent are living elsewhere-mostly with host families.
The typhoon destroyed or disrupted the livelihoods of 5.9 million workers. Current Early Recovery and Livelihood (ERL) cluster activities target 400,000 of these people or only 7 percent. Unless additional and continued funding is secure, the ERL activities are expected to end by spring.
On average, incomes in all affected employment sectors have been halved. Damage to livelihoods has been significant, resulting not only in limited income sources becoming further diminished, but also in households losing one or more of their food sources.
To meet their critical needs, some families have resorted to a number of negative coping strategies such as the sale of remaining assets, reduced food consumption, family separation (sending family members elsewhere for work), child labor or begging.
Between January 1 and 18, there were 84 dengue cases reported in the city of Ormoc, Leyte one of the areas worst hit by the typhoon.
The number of dengue cases exceeded the alert threshold of the area. (Per WHO Report January 8 to 18, 2014). Heavy rains and stagnant water from floods are a cause for possible increase in dengue cases, said Julie Hall of the UN WHO. (Per IRIN news report) Global Climate Risk Index. Even before Typhoon Haiyan struck, the Philippines was already listed as among the countries most affected in 2012 along with Haiti and Pakistan. This placement was made because of Typhoon Bopha which claimed 1,400 victims. (Per Global Climate Risk Index 2014)
To compound matters, the typhoon struck on the heels of recent calamities, including the following:
Magnitude 7.2 Sagbayan, Bohol Earthquake. 171 individuals dead, 375 injured, 20 missing. 676,065 families/3,426,718 persons affected in 1,285 barangays in 45 municipalities and seven cities in 3 provinces of Region VII. 19,309 houses were damaged. A total of PhP563,660,000 (US$124-M)worth of damaged roads, bridges and flood control in Cebu. (Per October 18, 2013 NDRRMC Update on Effects of Magnitude 7.2 Sagbayan, Bohol Earthquake.) And
The Siege of Zamboanga City on the southern island of Mindanao by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels in September 9, 2013.The clashes displaced more than 120,000 people during the height of the conflict in the most affected barangays of Kasanyangan, Mariki, Rio Hondo, Santa Barbara, and Santa Catalina in Zamboanga. Over 63,000 people remain displaced in Zamboanga City: over 25,000 in 10 evacuation centers and 4 transitional sites, and over 38,000 in host communities.