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Philippines: Criticism of Government's Response to Major Flooding

As heavy rains and massive flooding continues to hit the Philippines’ national capital and nearby provinces, online media has been used to document the worsening situation on the ground and to coordinate relief operations.

Netizens are now also using online media to raise questions about President Noynoy Aquino‘s government's response to the disaster and the lack of preventive measures that might have mitigated the effects of the bad weather.

Viral memes

Here are some of the photo memes regarding the president now going viral on Facebook and other social networking sites:

Image by Pixel Offensive on Facebook.

Image by Pixel Offensive on Facebook.

From the Facebook of Jerry Ocampo.

From the Facebook of Jerry Ocampo.

2010: We just inherited this problem from the previous administration. We have been in office for less than a year only.2011: We just inherited this problem from the previous administration. We have been in office for one year only.

2012: We just inherited this problem from the previous administration. Ate Vi acts well in The Healing. Watch it!

Scrapped flood control projects

Get Real Philippines explains that the Philippine Peso (PHP) 1.9 billion for flood control projects that was scrapped by the Aquino administration could have saved Metro Manila from the destruction it has witnessed:

Add to that regrettable opportunity cost in 2011 the Php 12.5 billion damage caused by Typhoon Pedring on that year and now the still-to-be-ascertained cost of this year’s nameless flooding disaster — all because key infrastructure projects were summarily killed by President BS Aquino, perhaps simply because they were projects associated with his personal nemesis, the eeevvvvillll regime of GMA.

'In mainstream media, the masses are always accused of being "hard headed" if they don't evacuate. But if government scrimps on flood control projects, they just ignore it.' Image by Pixel Offensive on Facebook.

‘In mainstream media, the masses are always accused of being “hard headed” if they don't evacuate. But if government scrimps on flood control projects, they just ignore it.’ Image by Pixel Offensive on Facebook.

Placing the blame

In a Facebook status, Gerry Lanuza questions the prevailing discourse of blaming the poor for the disaster; the president recently criticized the public in a press conference organized at the height of the flooding for not taking flood warnings seriously and for “just adding risk to rescuers”:

Two major causes of flooding: (1) Metro Manila alone continues to generate some 8,600 tons of garbage daily (2) Informal settlers along esteros, creeks, and waterways. What is the common denominator? Most of them are poor and squatters! Solution? Demolition, penalizing the poor who dump garbage indiscriminately, and population control. Why not sustainable employment, better education, and mass housing? Because it is better to believe in common sense myths against the poor than confront the real problem. For it will expose the blatant discrimination and neglect of the urban squatters!

Meanwhile, a business process outsourcing company has also taken a beating for requiring its call center agents to go to work despite the floods. Its internal email message has been spread on various social network sites and subjected to criticism:

The Business Processing Association of the Philippines has requested the government to exempt call center companies from its work suspension order. The BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) company in question has released a damage control statement that offers a 30% holiday pay premium to employees who still go to work:

While we encourage our employees to come to work, we ask that they only do so if it is safe for them to travel.

Progressive youth group Anakbayan on its blog page condemned the Aquino government for allowing BPOs to get around the work suspension order.

In essence, the Aquino administration has abdicated its responsibility and primary role of ensuring the safety of Filipino workers. There are no guarantees that employers will actually ensure the safety of their employees, and there are no government measures to make sure that employers will actually do that. No amount of ‘premium pay’ will justify putting the lives of BPO employees and other workers in danger.

Ultimately, the Aquino administration reveals its true ‘bosses’: not the Filipino working class and the millions of other hard-working Filipinos, but the greedy corporations and capitalists.

A Radical's Nut meanwhile slammed the corporate greed of oil and power companies that hiked pump rices and electricity rates amidst the disaster and the government's inaction in stopping them:

Petron, owned by presidential uncle Danding Cojuangco, and other oil firms increased their pump prices despite the calamity because the Oil Deregulation Law, which President Aquino has staunchly defended amid criticisms and allegations of overpricing, gives them the right to automatically hike their prices without a public hearing.

Meralco, also owned by Danding and known presidential allies Manny Pangilinan and the Lopez family, increased its generation charge despite the calamity because the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), whose full implementation is being pushed by Aquino despite strong opposition from Mindanao and other sectors, allows it to automatically increase its generation rates without a public hearing.

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