Thursday, November 14, 2013

Acts of Man Responding to an Act of God (Part I)

An Act of God is an “inevitable, unpredictable, unreasonably severe event caused by natural forces without any human interference.  It is also known as Force Majeure (French for superior or irresistible power) - an event that is a result of the elements of nature, as opposed to one caused by human behavior.  In legal parlance, it is unforeseen, but even if foreseen, it is inevitable.

YOLANDA or Haiyan is considered an Act of God.  It was the fiercest typhoon in recorded history packing winds in excess of 200 mph.  It is stronger than Katrina and Sandy combined.  They are two devastating typhoons that smashed into U.S. territories previously.

Sandy and Katrina were bad for the United States.  YOLANDA is worse for the Philippines.  According to reports, the latter may have killed about 10,000 Filipinos, victimizing hundreds of thousands more, and flattened homes and buildings in several islands.  Severely affected are Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Malapascua, Panay, Boracay, Palawan, Negros islands and many other isolated areas.

Charles Watson of Kinetic Analysis Corp, a disaster-modeling firm, reported that losses to the Philippines from the Super typhoon would be $12 billion to $15 billion.  That’s about 5 percent of the country’s economic output.   Comparatively, Watson considers this catastrophic.

Expectedly, man-made institutions were called upon to respond to the effects of this cruel, merciless, inevitable, and unreasonably severe event.


The President of the Philippines, PNoy first appealed to all that this is the time to help each other.  After personally witnessing, observing, and listening to briefings, he signed Proclamation 628 declaring the state of national calamity. 

The declaration would accelerate the delivery of relief, rescue, and rehabilitation efforts with the approval and quick release of about P26 billion coming from the Calamity Fund, Philippine Social Fund, Savings, and other sources.  Implemented with the declaration are price controls; monitoring, prevention and control by Local Price Coordination Council of overpricing/profiteering and hoarding of prime commodities, medicines and petroleum products; programming/reprogramming of funds for repair of public infrastructures; and granting of no interest loans by government financing institutions.

Congress, on the other hand, decided to give up its pork barrel funds amounting to about P12 billion for YOLANDA victims.

There is no more reason for the Supreme Court to freeze the pork barrel funds since Congress is waiving its right over it in favor of the YOLANDA victims through the Calamity Fund.  Upon representation, the Supreme Court is expected to lift the TRO on the Congressional pork.

The United Nations / Foreign Governments/ NGOs

The United Nations on its part flashed an appeal for the international community to raise $301 million or nearly P13 billion in emergency funding to help YOLANDA victims.  Some 33 countries and international organizations, including the UN have donated P2.37 billion so far.  Among them are the following:

1.     Australia -          $9.3 million + medical personnel + non-food items
2.     Britain -                $16 million + military aid + temporary shelter + other household items
3.     Canada -              C$5 million
4.     Denmark -         KR 10 million
5.     Germany -          23 tons of relief goods
6.     Norway -              KR 20 million
7.     Saudi Arabia    $100,000
8.     Taiwan -              $200,000
9.     Sweden -             Emergency communications equipment
10.  United Kingdom - $9.6 million worth of emergency support package
11.  New Zealand-  $1.7 million
12.   Japan  -           $10 million + 25 strong emergency medical relief team
13.  South Korea -  $5 million + 40-member disaster relief team.  Korea Red Cross - $100,000; Fund campaign - $9.32 million
14.  Indonesia -        Aircraft and logistical aid including personnel, drinking water, food, generators, antibiotics and other medication
15.  UAE -                       $10 million
16.  United States   $20 million + 90 marines and sailors + aircraft carrier + 4 Navy ships
17.  USAID             Emergency shelter + hygiene materials + 55 tons of emergency food to feed 20,000 children and 15,000 adults for 5 days +  $100,000 for water and sanitation support
18.  The European Commission - $11 million
19.  China -              $100,000 + Chinese Red Cross - $100,000
20.  International Rescue Committee – Emergency team + $10 million appeal for aid
21.  MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES – 30-people team of medical personnel, logisticians and psychologists + 200 tons of medical and relief items
22.  UNICEF            $1.3 million worth of supplies + water purification tablets, soap,                                medical kits, tarpaulins, + micro nutrient supplements
23.  The World Food Programme – 44 tons of high-energy biscuits, enough to feed 132,000 people for a day + emergency supplies + communications equipment
24.  The U.N. Refugee Agency – emergency airlift to send aid and supplies
25.  The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement - $94.6 million to provide 100,000 families with food, water, shelter and other essential relief for 18 months.                                       

The Catholic Church

About 85% of the Philippine population is Catholic.  The Catholic Church is therefore expected to take some leadership in this hour of pain and suffering among its flock.

Materially, the Vatican pledged $4 million in addition to the contribution of the Pope and the Catholic Charities amounting to $150,000 and $134,000 respectively.  It also encouraged parishes in the Philippines to have a second collection for the YOLANDA victims for two Sunday masses. 

Spiritually, Pope Francis led 60,000 people in Sunday prayers for the Philippines.  The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) declared November 11 to 18 as days of mourning for the victims of YOLANDA.

At first, I thought that the message and prayer of CBCP’s new President Archbishop Soc Villegas appeared playing the blame game when he said, “How could you, dear Lord, have allowed this to happen to us who call on your holy name?  Have you abandoned us, Lord? Are you punishing us for our sins against you?”

He continued, “Tama na po! Hindi na po namin kaya!”  (Please stop! We can no longer make it!) This contrasts to what protestant former President Fidel Ramos preached a few years ago when he said, “Kaya natin ito!” (Yes, we can do this!)

I never expected a man of faith to even think that God would unleash the wrath of YOLANDA in order to punish so many innocent children and hard-working religious beings in some regions supposedly for their sins!

But to be fair, Archbishop Villegas also said, “The super typhoon was strong but our faith in YOU is stronger.”  This echoes the message of his predecessor as President of CBCP, Archbishop Jose Palma who said, “The Filipino Soul is Stronger Than YOLANDA!”

The Philippine Business Community

The corporate world in the Philippines also responded to the call for help.  The SM (ShoeMart) group set-up a P100 million Calamity Fund.  The Citi Foundation pledged $250,000 disaster relief grant.  The Jollibee Group Foundation is accepting donations through coin banks in its over 2,000 stores nationwide.  Harbor Star Shipping Services Inc. is helping the Coast Guard transport up to 8,000 metric tons of goods, or the equivalent weight of 150,000 sacks of rice.

The Alagang Kapatid Foundation raised P21 million in a telethon and is sending 12,000 units of one-liter bottles, 15,000 one-gallon jugs, and 10,000 pieces of bottled water.  Aboitiz Foundation raised P30 million.  Sharon Cuneta is giving a total of P10 million while Union Bank is giving P25 million through Alagang Kapatid Foundation.

There are many more donors like the San Miguel Foundation, Petron Corp, and the PLDT-Smart Foundation who represent the business community.


The individual donors in the Philippines and abroad are countless.  Some friends have actually emailed me on what is the best way to send help.  I responded that my wife and I sent our contribution via the Philippine Red Cross (  I thought that it has the best structure for delivery; the widest reach; and proven to be the most reliable.


Next Article:  Acts of Man Responding to an Act of God (Part II)

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