JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
Typhoon Haiyan has been dubbed the most powerful storm in history, hitting the Philippines over the weekend and killing at least 10,000 people.
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With us to discuss this devastating storm and the relief effort is Jose Maria Sison. He is the chairperson of the International League of People’s Struggle, and he joins us now from the Netherlands.
Thanks for being with us, Jose.
JOSE MARIA SISON, CHAIRPERSON, INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE OF PEOPLES’ STRUGGLE: Good afternoon, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: So, Jose, we are hearing of horrific scenes of corpses hanging from trees and bodies just on the sidewalks. You’ve been in touch with many people there on the ground. Can you just please describe for us the degree of devastation that has just taken place in the Philippines?
SISON: Fifteen million people at the least have been subjected to death and destruction of property and so on. And these are all—these are mainly in the central part of the Philippines.
The overview by planes and satellites show the wide swath of destruction in 35 provinces, that the storm, super typhoon, hit hard in the provinces of Leyte, Samar, Isabela, the two Negros provinces, Iloilo, Capiz, and Aklan, also Mindoro, the bigger provinces. So you have a lot of provinces hit hard. And I think more than 10,000 lives were lost in the super typhoon, and probably several scores of billions of property in pesos have been destroyed.
But the government, the corrupt government has been able to shell out only $1 billion, a little over $1 billion, and it’s trying hard to raise, supposedly, $20 billion. And that’s a small—that’s a small part of what is needed.
And the problem is corruption has hit hard. The calamity fund that should be used, that should be accumulated to save people during these disasters—but the money has been used up. And so there is really a big demand for aid from various international sources.
Anyway, the rescue and relief operations are quite late and too little and too late in coming to the millions of people who are afflicted by the super typhoon.
DESVARIEUX: You mentioned the government and the level of corruption there. Can you just point us to some specific examples of how this government is corrupt, in your words?
SISON: In stealing public funds, they make a lot of lump sum appropriations. And it’s only the president who has the discretion to spend the money. The Congressman, the members of Congress and the Senate, would beg the president to release the funds to them. And they have the system of taking cuts from contractors of projects.
And they have developed a new technique for stealing. They use paper NGOs or fake NGOs. They’re ghost projects. And the money is given to the fake NGOs. And then it’s a split between people in the executive and in the legislative branches. They have this neat trick, with the members of Congress supposedly in charge of the purse being able to dictate how the money is spent in specific ways. And the executive plays ball, agrees with the legislators in stealing the money and using various types of mechanisms for thievery.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. What about the relief effort right now? Can you just describe for us what’s going on? And do you feel like it’s being handled appropriately by the government?
SISON: There should be warehouses for relief in times of disaster in every province in every region. But warehouses are empty and the relief goods are not coming. The relief goods should include canned goods, water, medicine, clothing, and materials for shelter, like tents and so on. But these things are not going to the people.
And there should be a mechanism for the government to buy the things useful to the people that are in private stores and the supermarkets. But the government is not doing anything to buy these things for the people. Instead, they accuse the people of looting instead of the government immediately paying for things that the people can use in their period of disaster and extreme need.
DESVARIEUX: And it seems like this storm has really hit the most vulnerable populations there in the Philippines. We’ll certainly keep on tracking this story. Thank you so much for joining us, Jose.
And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.