Youth group expresses support for barricade of 10,000 ‘Pablo’ victims

THE youth group Anakbayan hailed the more than 10,000 survivors of ‘Typhoon Pablo’ who barricaded a national highway for more than 10 hours last Tuesday in protest against the callous treatment they received from the Aquino government, as well as the lack of programs and policy changes needed to prevent what has been regarded as one of the worst calamities in Philippine history.

Coming from the Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental, the crowd, composed mostly of farmers and indigenous peoples, held the barricade for more than 10 hours at Montevista town, Compostela Valley. Among their demands were: relief aid, an end to large-scale legal mining and logging, and a halt to the deployment of Army and U.S troops in disaster-stricken areas.

“Why are tons of rice rotting in a local NFA warehouse while literally thousands of people are starving to death? Are they simply storing it so that Noynoy’s senatoriable candidates can use it in their campaign sorties? The insensitivity of the Aquino administration is beyond belief” said Vencer Crisostomo, national chairperson of Anakbayan.

He was reacting to initial reports from local community leaders who said that several months worth of rice was stored away at a National Food Authority warehouse in the province.

“While Noynoy and (Dept. of Social Welfare and Development) Secretary Dinky Soliman can spend billions on a clearly-ineffective program like the Conditional Cash Transfers, they can’t even send enough food for the millions of people in Mindanao who lost all their sources of livelihood during ‘Pablo'” said the youth leader.

‘Pablo’, ‘Sendong’ repeat in the offing

Crisostomo challenged President Aquino to ‘give real solutions, not just cheap gimmicks’, including the cancellation of permits for all large-scale mining and logging operations.

“Predictably, Noynoy will again blame small-time loggers and miners but ignore those who are responsible for most of the deforestation: the mining and logging operations of foreign and other big corporations. He will try to create the impression he is doing something while still protecting the interests of corrupt politicians profiting from destruction of forests” said the youth leader.

Military pull-out demanded

The youth group also called for the removal of troops from both the Armed Forces and the U.S military in the typhoon-affected areas, as well as the ‘de-militarization’ of relief operations.

“The typhoon victims are being held hostage because the military is making all government relief goods and services pass through them. The peasants and lumads of Mindanao view the AFP and ‘G.I Joe’ as the only things worse than ‘Pablo’. They know full well the atrocities these animals in uniform are capable of. Yet they are forced to allow them in their communities or else they will starve” said Crisostomo.

He warned that with the U.S military and the AFP spreading their operations in Mindanao, there would be a rise in the number of human rights violations, following the experiences in other heavily-militarized provinces such as Quezon.

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