Saturday, October 17, 2009

Philippine government shows how not to manage relief efforts

By Siesta-friendly

When it rains, it pours. No, this is not about the 2 typhoons that really overstayed their welcome these past 2 weeks. It’s about the never-ending incompetence of our government officials. While typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng flooded our streets (and homes) with rain, the government has flooded us with ineptitude.

There’s enough incriminating evidence out there on government corruption that allowed the setting up of residential areas where there shouldn’t be thus making residences and human lives very vulnerable to floods. And there’s more material on the government’s lack of rescue efforts (boats, manpower, intention).

But now the government has gone on messing relief work as well. So there’s been no relief from government ineptitude as well.

Prohibiting importation of used clothing for typhoon victims

ABS-CBNNEWS online reported this week that donations to typhoon victims of used clothing set to leave Saipan were disallowed by a Philippine Consul General citing Republic Act No. 4653 (An Act To Safeguard The Health Of The People And Maintain The Dignity Of The Nation By Declaring It A National Policy To Prohibit The Commercial Importation Of Textile Articles Commonly Known As Used Clothing And Rags).

True, said RA 4653 prohibits the importation of used clothing BUT the law has exceptions and it specifically cites one exception as Subsection "v" of Section 105 of Republic Act 1937 (Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines) which reads:

“v. Food, clothing, house-building and sanitary-construction materials, and medical, surgical and other supplies for use in emergency relief work, when imported by or directly for the account of any victim, sufferer, refugee, survivor or any other person affected thereby, or by or for the account of any relief organization, not operated for profit, for distribution among the distressed individuals, whenever the President shall, by proclamation, declare an emergency to exist by reason of a state of war, pestilence, cholera, plague, famine, drought, typhoon, earthquake, fire, flood and similar conditions: Provided, That the importation free of duty of articles described in this herein subsection shall continue only during the existence of such emergency, or within such limits and subject to such conditions as the President may, by his proclamation, deem necessary to meet the emergency. [emphasis supplied]

There’s more.

Coursing all donations to the DSWD

In her Presidential Directive dated September 29, 2009, Gloria Arroyo stated that foreign donations coursed through the DSWD will not be taxed nor confiscated by the Bureau of Customs. Meaning foreign donations that go straight to the beneficiaries or relief organizations will be taxed or confiscated.

This new directive is contrary to Subsection “u” of the same Section 105 of RA 1937, which states:

“Section 105. Conditionally Free Importations. The following articles shall be exempt from the payment of import duties upon compliance with the formalities prescribed in, or with the regulations which shall be promulgated by the Commissioner of Customs with the approval of the department head:


u. Articles donated to public or private institutions established solely for educational, scientific, cultural, charitable, health, relief, philanthropic or religious purposes, for free distribution among, or exclusive use of, the needy.” [emphasis supplied]

There are just too many ugly possibilities with this scenario: 1) the Arroyo Government’s possible exploitation of the chance to make it appear the donations come from the government (or worse, any one of the Arroyos’ foundations); 2) the government’s control in determining the beneficiaries (contrary to the donors’ intentions); 3) the possibility of taxing or confiscating relief goods contrary to law; and 4) the delay, if not the holding back, of donations by donors already wary of government corruption.

Given these developments, the best alternative would be is to donate in cash. Foreign donors could also choose to just pay the tax to have control over their goods.

Foreign donors may also send donations directly by balikbayan box c/o OFWs to relatives or friends in the Philippines then have the latter deliver the goods to relief organizations or relief centers themselves. But the boxes could take about 2 months to arrive and would only be on a piece-meal basis at a time when volumes of relief goods are needed.

There’s a lot more to complain about the acts of government authorities nowadays (we’re still waiting for heads to roll for their contributory fault and negligence to 2 recent acts of God), let’s give them as less control of our acts as much as possible in helping one another.


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