Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Response of Philipino Government on the isuue of Burma

H.E.Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005

Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80

Dear H.E.President Macapagal-Arroyo:

PVCHR welcomes your intervention for the people of Burma but is saddened by how meagre the assistance
the Government of the Philippines ought to provide.

As it has been widely reported, you have already ordered that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Health
(DOH) to create a medical team, which is actually composed of 15-persons, that would proceed to Burma for their medical mission.
The Government of Burma has also been involved in terms of medicines needed which the Philippines could also provide.

While we appreciate your intervention, we feel that there is a huge disparity between what is urgently and practically needed there and
the assistance you have ordered so far. In a place were number of reported deaths soars over 22,000, what this medical team can do is
obviously trivial. It may have been born out of concern but unless the Philippine government and its concerned agencies would do more,
this would have little meaning in addressing the extent of suffering that requires adequate relief. The people of Burma need more than a
medical team and medicines by now.

To give you an example of the extent of damages there; for instance,in the Irrawaddy Delta region, the towns of Bogalay, Laputta and
Pantanaw and its surroundings is amongst the hardest hit place. The extent of devastation was so severe that it has been reported to have been flattened. Based on the available information, the loss of lives and damage in the aftermath of cyclone is so horrible. The calamity in Burma is somehow an experience shared by the Philippines as well.

As a country that experiences calamities and disaster, particularly dozens of tropical typhoons, your country's government agencies may have had skills and knowledge that could be shared with the government of Burma in responding to disasters. Unlike your country
though, the disaster response under the Burmese junta is virtually nonexistent as what has been shown in the aftermath of cyclone. Due to lack of an existing systematic, effective and adequate service on disaster response, the affected people are themselves forced to do the cleanup operation.

As a result of terrible loss of lives, proper identification and burial can't also be expected from a country which actually does not
have adequate expertise on this. This, too, had been problematic as this already threatens the health of those who had survived the
calamity. Several days after the tragedy, there has not been adequate supply of water for drinking and bathing. In fact, there have been
reports of profiteering; for instance, fire brigades are selling water for a huge cost deepening the suffering of the people even

We therefore urge you to do more by sending a substantial number of rescue teams, more medical doctors with expertise on disaster
response and to produce the relief assistance needed. Your country's experience on how to deal with natural disasters would also be a
tremendous help should it be passed on to the Burmese government.These are amongst the much needed assistance the people there require.

You could also help by ensuring that the Burmese government would allow the assistance and relief to reach the needy. We are deeply
concerned over the delays in the delivery of assistance, as it has been reported, over the tightening of control in the process of
delivering the relief by the junta. The rescue of human lives must not be hampered by this.

The Philippine government must also consider accumulating necessary relief and goods required by seeking the assistance of its concerned agencies, particularly the member agencies of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC). The Philippines may have limited resources to offer for the Burmese people; however, it bears a moral obligation in helping people in Asian countries in need.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Lenin (Ashoka Fellow)
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My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can loose our battle.. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is battle for freedom. It is the battle of reclamation of human personality….
Dr. B.R.Ambedkar

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