By Norm Dixon
The Melbourne-based Philippines Resource Centre (PRC) has called on the Australian government to direct emergency aid for victims of the Mt Pinatubo volcano eruption through Community Aid Abroad to the non-government, volunteer-based Citizens Disaster Rehabilitation Centre (CDRC).
The PRC says that the most effective way to provide aid to those who need it most is through NGOs, because this reduces the chances of it being misappropriated or misused.
The poorest people will be hardest hit by the devastation of the eruption. The situation has been made worse by a cyclone and an earthquake.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated from areas in the provinces of Zambales, Pampanga and Tarlac. There is no electricity in Zambales and most of Pampanga and Bataan province. Central Luzon — the area affected by the volcano — is the major rice producing area in the Philippines, and it seems likely the rice crop will be damaged, causing shortages.
The CDRC has taken a major responsibility in helping the victims of this disaster. Soon after the eruption, three provincial operation centres were established to monitor the disaster, provide information, assist in or manage evacuation centres, and to gather, stockpile, transport and distribute goods and emergency relief.
The organisation believes it will need to maintain at least two evacuation centres in the long term, each serving 1000 families who have lost their homes and livelihoods. The CDRC is in urgent need of extra funds.
The PRC is urging Australians to write to Senator Neal Blewett, the minister responsible, requesting that emergency aid be channelled through Community Aid Abroad to the CDRC rather than through the Philippines government.
The PRC said that CAA's Lisa Evans, who was in the Philippines at the time of last year's earthquake, has pointed out that much of the government-to-government aid provided at that time was misappropriated. NGOs, she explained, organise at the grassroots and "aren't into corruption and vote buying". Government aid is often distributed by the military, and this frightens many Filipinos.
In March, six months after the earthquake, a sizeable proportion of government-to-government aid had still not been distributed, and many people in the affected areas had received nothing from the