CHICAGO (JGL) – A cause-oriented group in New York and New Jersey denounced “the inaction and lack of support coming from the Philippine President Aquino and his administration” during a Community Forum at the San Damiano Hall of the St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York city last Nov. 8 to commemorate the response to the disaster caused by one of the strongest typhoons that ever hit land, Super Typhoon Haiyan also known as Yolanda.
The participants ended the event with a silent march from 31st St. to the Red steps of Times Square for a solemn prayer vigil.
The Community Forum started with a reflection of the devastation and narrated the various actions done to send relief to the victims and survivors. Super typhoon Haiyan displaced over 4 million people and damaged about 1.2 million homes and livelihood of over 1.5 million families.
In a statement, the group said, “Today we reaffirm our commitment to the ongoing rebuilding efforts because we acknowledge the inaction and lack of support coming from the Philippine President Aquino and his administration. It is unacceptable because the Philippines as per the United Nations has been named as third most vulnerable country due to climate change. We suffer the consequences of both natural and man-made disasters,” Melanie Dulfo, Northeast Regional Coordinator of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) stated.”
Candice Sering, Chairperson of GABRIELA New York, a Filipino women’s organization linked with GABRIELA Philippines shared her testimony on a recovery mission with Lingap GABRIELA on December 2013. Sering recalls “In Tacloban, without seeing the bodies, the smell of the air is a clear indicator of the devastation in the area. When Tacloban finally received goods from the government, the items were expired, moldy, and were not something we were able to distribute to the victims.”
COMMUNITY CONVERSES REAFFIRMATION
Participants had a round-table discussion and created a concrete plan on how to move forward together. “We have discussed how various organizations respond to disasters in the Philippines; how we further coordinate our efforts; and how we sustain and maintain transparency, accountability and ongoing support to communities in need. We want to ensure that our community here in New York and New Jersey area continue to be connected with the Philippines as Haiyan will unfortunately not be the last calamity to hit the Philippines. We also want to continue to deepen our understanding of these disasters as much of it is man-made,” according to Zarah Vinola, Secretary of Community Affairs of NAFCON USA.
Cristina Godinez, an attorney for Immigration law also reminded us of the granting of temporary protective status to the Philippines, “I believe the Filipino American community is frustrated by the refusal of the State Department and the DHS to grant TPS to Filipinos who are unable to return to the Philippines as a consequence of Haiyan. TPS is a humanitarian relief that would provide Filipino non-immigrants as well as those who fell out of status protection from deportation and work authorization. There is no reason to withhold TPS to those who need it badly.”
Jenabi Pareja of New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) puts emphasis on Aquino’s resignation for failing to serve the victims of typhoon Haiyan. “The Aquino regime continues to fail to support the affected families. Instead of focusing on rehabilitation process, Aquino rather focus on continuous militarization in the Philippines that causes much human rights violations in many areas. Aquino needs to be ousted!”
Melanie Dulfo added, “We also acknowledge that as long as the Philippine government, continues its corruption and anti-people policies, Filipinos will continue to suffer landlessness, joblessness, poverty in addition to all other man-made and natural calamities, Filipinos will seek to migrate to other nations. We call on President Obama to also pass an executive order to legalize all immigrants, we demand an end to deportation and family reunification before his term ends. We also call on the Philippine and United States to cease policies that perpetuates export of human labor and massive exodus of Filipinos rather than focusing on establishing a domestic economy that is for and by the Filipino nation.”
The forum concluded with a vibrant cultural performance from Kinding Sindaw that reaffirms our respect and reminds us our interconnectedness to the environment and to the Philippines despite being abroad.
A SYMBOL OF UNITY
Participants of the forum silently marched from 31st street along Broadway Avenue to the Red steps at Times Square. Members of the Interparish Filipino American Catholic Community (IFCC) gave solidarity statement and prayers remembering the Haiyan victims.
With candles and printed calls were held while participants walked up the Red Steps and singing “Bayan Ko” and stationed there for a moment of silence. Fr. Julian Jagudilla of the St. Francis of Assissi Church led a prayer, “We remember the victims and the survivors of typhoon Haiyan tonight and we come together to show the world that we need to stay united to rebuild. We pray for all the victims of Haiyan and for the future of the Philippines.”
This event is sponsored by: The Migrant Center at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UniPro), Kapit Bisig Kabataan Network (KBKN), Immigrant Development Caucus, Interparish Filipino American Catholic Community (IFCC), Philippine Forum, Samar Republic, Anakbayan New Jersey, Anakbayan New York, GABRIELA-NY, Kinding Sindaw, and Filipino American Museum.