Sat. Jan 29th, 2022

By Ado Paglinawan

The presidential election campaign is turning out to be a contest of track record cum performance, at a time the people are looking for hope for the nation’s quick past pandemic recovery.

The runoff to 2022, however, has become boring. Robredo, Domagoso, Lacson and Pacquiao cannot offer any substantial opposition to Ferdinand Marcos Jr. whose landslide lead in the surveys is building up to his becoming the first majority president since 1986, when his own father Ferdinand Sr. won over Corazon Aquino, with a 54% of the votes cast.

Dick Gordon has, albeit his uninspiring partisan showing at the Senate Bule Ribbon Committee investigating “in-aid of reelection” the emergency purchases of the Department of Health, that has been frowned upon by no less than President Duterte, could have been a more interesting leader whom the opposition could have united behind.

Gordon was a transformational mayor of Olongapo, a senior Senator but his remarkable record is outside the government.

It would still be an uphill battle for Gordon because Marcos has laid a well-conceived campaign strategy but at least when it comes to deliverables on the ground, the senator who is also the Chairman and CEO of the Philippine Red Cross, has his chevrons and battle scars to show.

The Red Cross record speaks for itself. “Our NGO efforts remain unparalleled in history,” says Gordon who outshone former President Noynoy Aquino in disaster management and sadly presidential candidate Panfilo Lacson, as his rehabilitation czar.

Of recent memory was that eight years ago, Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: “Haiyan”), one of the most powerful storms in the planet’s history and the most destructive in the nation’s history, made landfall in the Philippines, devastating nine provinces — Palawan, Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Cebu, Iloilo, Leyte, Eastern and Western Samar.

Yolanda took more than 6,000 Filipino lives; injured 30,000 individuals; and destroyed countless homes, bridges, schools, farms and businesses in its wake.

Before, during and after Yolanda, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) led the way to deliver aid to the vast multitude affected. Two years shy of a decade, PRC’s Yolanda operations remain unparalleled.

““We are recognized as one of the best Red Cross societies in world because the PRC has demonstrated that we could gather aid from almost all the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies worldwide and distribute them efficiently to the affected provinces,” says Dick Gordon.

“Our in-country operations reinforce the Red Cross as the go-to organization and the preferred partner of choice since we were able to get the job done,” he adds.

“The PRC was among the first responders on the ground. Ceaseless efforts were made in reaching inaccessible areas to not only provide relief items, but also clearing pathways and main road networks from debris. We are almost a decade after Yolanda. Yet, the Philippine Red Cross has not stopped helping its victims to stand up on their feet.

Initially, the PRC delivered much-needed relief in the form of food, water, medical care, emergency shelter materials and cash-as-aid projects. Psychosocial support was also provided to ensure the overall health and well-being of the affected communities. During the first three months, families were provided with essential items such as hygiene kits, jerry cans, and sleeping kits,” the PRC Chairman Richard Gordon continues.

Since November 8, 2013 until March 30, 2014, PRC distributed food items to 390,399 families or 1,951,995 individuals. Non-food items such as plastic mats, sleeping items, water containers tarpaulins and kitchens were also distributed to 258,972 families.

More than 80,207 houses were built by PRC together with the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners in Leyte including Ormoc City, Western and Eastern Samar, Cebu, Capiz, Aklan, Antique, Iloilo, and Palawan.

Of the 80,207 houses built through the efforts of Red Cross, Chairman Gordon is very proud of the fact that, “PRC was the only organization to be able to build houses which were accounted for, donors can see where their houses are, who lives in there. We can produce a list.”

Cash Livelihood Assistance was also granted to 62,676 households while livelihood trainings were provided to 15,985 individuals.

PRC is also the first to build schools and provide WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) facilities to 116 schools. Through the combined efforts of PRC and its network of partners, 1,168 Community-based WASH Facilities were constructed and a Vocational Training Center in Leyte was put up together with a Disaster Management Logistics Training Center in the Panay Island. As for the health sector, 94 health facilities underwent rehabilitation while 64,650 individuals underwent training for health promotions.

The PRC also provided cash assistance to more than 90,779 families in the early recovery program and a total of Php 281,529,400 was distributed from December 2013 to March 2014. PRC chapters and branches in Capiz and Passi City in Iloilo were reconstructed and rehabilitated as part of the capacity enhancement of PRC, while blood facilities in Tacloban, Ormoc and Passi City were erected to further respond to the increasing need for clean and safe blood within the region.

“We must learn from Yolanda. Dapat walang bahay sa shoreline, dapat lahat ng building nasa tamang lugar, wala sa fault line. Dapat alam ng mga tao kung anong gagawin kapag may kalamidad, ano dapat na aksyon upang hindi na maulit ang ganitong trahedya,” Gordon exclaimed.

Super Typhoon Odette

Philippine Red Cross (PRC) sends this payloader as part of its humanitarian caravan to the south. The caravan left PRC headquarters in Mandaluyong City on the day Odette struck Southern Philippines.

Super Typhoon Rai (known as “Odette” in the Philippines) is the 15th storm to hit the country this year and is the strongest storm of 2021.

The typhoon made landfall on Thursday, Dec. 16 at 1:30 p.m. local time on Siargao Island in southeastern Philippines. Shortly after landfall with winds at 160 mph, it underwent an eyewall replacement cycle and decreased in strength to a Category 4, but winds remained at 150 mph.

It wiped out Southern Philippines from east to west. At 3:10 p.m. local time on Friday, Dec. 17, the typhoon made its ninth landfall in Roxas, Palawan, before moving into the West Philippine Sea.

The best performers responding to Odette has been the government, whose disaster preparedness has registered no complaints since President Rodrigo Roa Duterte took over on July 1, 2016. It would be remembered that even as yet a mayor of Davao City, Duterte and his men were the first responders to arrive at Tacloban only two days after the Yolanda struck the city.

The President on the job, inspecting Odette-stricken provinces. 

More than 300,000 people evacuated ahead of landfall and millions were affected. According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, more than 10,000 villages were in the path of the typhoon.

The local governments were ready for rescue operations so much that deaths have only been reported at below 300 and less than 500 injured. Reliefs distribution started immediately as the supertyphoon left areas, and the Philippine Navy launched a flotilla of ships bringing DSWD relief goods to the provinces most affected.

President Duterte himself, accompanied by his cabinet, has already made on-site assessments of the devastated areas starting with Siargao and Dinagat Islands. In addition to those that are being distributed through the inter-agency NDRRMC components, he earmarked Php2 billion more for relief, recover and rehabilitation.

In terms of relief assistance to the Philippine government, the Peoples Republic of China would be the next best performer. At once, the Chinese Embassy had 22,000 packs of goods worth P8 million, ready for distribution and US$1 million in financial assistance. The local Chinoy community added P12 million more worth of food packs. But what was remarkable were a donation of 4.725 million kilos of rice worth almost Php200 million that arrived at the ports of Manila on December 22.

China Ambassador Huang Xilian turns over the 4.725 million kilos of rice to the Department of Social Welfare and Development last December 22, five days after Odette struck Southern Philippines.

But the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) would rank third in best performance. It immediately sent a humanitarian caravan to two provinces Surigao del Norte and Bohol from its headquarters in Mandaluyong City.

Included in the caravan were 17 Red Cross personnel, two Hot Meals on Wheels food trucks, a payloader, an ambulance, a tractor head with a low bed trailer, a wheeler cargo truck with shelter tool kit and generator, and a 6×6 truck.

The payloader will be used to clear impassable roads due to fallen trees and debris in the affected areas.

According to its chairman Sen. Richard Gordon, the Philippine Red Cross will continue to innovate and plan ahead so that it can serve its mission of helping the most vulnerable. It has fast-tracked the distribution of face masks blankets, mosquito nets, hygiene kits and jerry cans for water.

It has also urged the public to donate to the affected communities in Visayas and Mindanao as it prepares to send relief items, more food packs and sleeping kits to the affected areas.

“Siargao is in pretty bad shape… the airport was blown to smithereens and there is no security there, so ‘pag dumating ‘yung small airplane there, nagkakagulo ang tao (so when any airplane arrives, the people make a dash for it). So, we have to put in 10 people there to put order,” Gordon said in an interview on CNN Philippines on Wednesday.

He added many domestic and foreign tourists were stranded on the island, but he was glad that the Philippine Air Force’s C130 plane and Cebu Pacific airlines were able to land their planes in the damaged airport.

Gordon said the Red Cross was bringing in doctors from the Makati Medical Center, as well as water bladders, a payloader and a very small aperture terminal (VSAT) internet satellite dish to enable on-ground communications in the island.

Gordon said around 28 water tankers with 10,000 liters capacity have been deployed in areas badly hit by the typhoon, including Surigao del Norte, Bohol, Panay Island and Cebu. The tankers are equipped with portable filtration systems to filter out the water from rivers to make it safe for drinking and cooking.

The Red Cross will also deploy diesel tankers for generator sets.

He assured that the humanitarian agency will see to the needs of the residents as they rebuild from the devastation.

Gordon made history when he led the rehabilitation of Subic Base when the Americans abandoned it because of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. It was he, not Leni Robredo, who introduced volunteerism in public governance.

There is no saying Gordon would be able to match the landslide showing of Marcos Jr. in the polls, but at least this election would not be as boring as Robredo’s resorting to dragon ball, Yorme’s motherhood statements, Lacson’s nowhere promises or Pacquiao’s distribution of five-hundred and one-thousand peso bills as his leaflets.

As former Ambassador Bobi Tiglao said in his column, appearing here at three days ago, the 2022 Elections is virtually “game over”, as yellow ideologues have thrown in the towel on the lackluster candidacies of the opposition bets.

READ: 2022 Elections Virtually Game over

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