Love Thy Neighbor: Hold No Grudges, Aid the Philippines
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
November 14, 2013
Summary: Over the past two days, the ROC government has dispatched four transport aircraft loaded with 30 tons of supplies to the Philippines disaster areas. The Central Philippine Military Commander said that he and the victims will "always remember Taiwan." Compassion can win friendship and respect. This is how neighbors should treat each other. This kind of deep rooted friendship may even be the best guarantee of security for Taiwan fishermen at sea.
Full text below:
The Taiwan Region is located on the front lines of typhoon territory. Super Typhoon Haiyan ("Sea Swallow") transformed central Philippines into a living hell. If people on Taiwan could see what has happened, they would surely be moved. But news reports before and after the disaster have been sparse. Most people on Taiwan were unconcerned about this super typhoon. When the ROC government contributed 200,000 USD in humanitarian aid to the Philippines, some even expressed opposition and cynicism. This was truly regrettable.
According to Joint Typhoon Warning Center data, wind speeds for Haiyan measured high as 315 kph. It was the first time in 34 years that the highest average wind speed for a tropical storm exceeded 300 kph. This shows how powerful it was. Haiyan swept the central Philippines provinces, inflicting serious damage, Nine areas within Leyte Province were leveled to the ground. Victims' corpses littered the streets. Boats were washed ashore. Seaside villages were swallowed whole by the waves . The images were heart-breaking.
The Philippines government immediately declared a nationwide state of emergency. But the islands that make up the Philippines are spread out and isolated. Transportation to remote areas is extremely difficult. Many victims lack even basic subsistence, such as food and water. In some areas shops and supplies have been looted, and chaos prevails. A local student said "People were like zombies, walking about looking for food." This got people's attention. Survivors were forced to abandon hope of locating and burying their family members. They were forced to flee the disaster area to stay alive. The scenes were even more terrifying than those of Japan's tsunami two years ago, and presented an urgent humanitarian crisis.
The Philippines disaster left some people on Taiwan cold. The main reason was resentment from past wrangling between the ROC and the Philippines over the Kuang Ta Hsing fishing boat incident. Many still hold grudges. Their anger has yet to subside. But politics is politics, humanitarian aid is humanitarian aid. The Philippine government's irrational obstinacy was tough to swallow. But the people of the Philippines are suffering. Can we really sit on the sidelines? The elder sister of the Kuang Ta Hsing victim said, "The people are innocent, politics should not get dragged into disaster relief." This remark should be enough to silence those enagaged in cold-blooded Schadenfreude.
The ROC government contributied 200,000 USD. This was slightly more than Beijing, which contributed only 100,000 USD, and was accused of being "ungenerous." But does this really qualify as generosity? During the 2011 tsunami in Japan, the ROC government and the private sector on Taiwan contributed a total of 6.8 billion NTD, or 250 million USD. The amount was one thousand times greater. During the 2008 Mainland earthquake, the ROC government contributed 20 billion NTD, and the private sector on Taiwan contributed 5 billion NTD. During this year's earthquake in Ya'an, contributions from Taiwan approached 700 million NTD. During the Asian tsunami, contributions from Taiwan amounted to 400 million NTD. By contrast, a geographically close neighboring country was given a mere 200,000 USD. This is obviously rather shabby.
The issue is not the amount of money. The issue is whether our people still have empathy, whether they still feel others' hunger when they are starving, and whether they still feel others' panic when they are drowning. The issue is whether we still have compassion, and whether we are aware of our double standards. The distance from Taipei to Manila is 1100 km. The distance from Taipei to Tokyo is 2100 km. We had sympathy to spare for victims of the tsunami to our north. But we are apparently indifferent to victims of the typhoon to our south. Such differential treatment may have historical and cultural roots. But they also reflect our own shallowness and myopia.
Over the years many families on Taiwan have hired Filipinos to care for their elderly. Many elderly people on Taiwan who lack mobility have been provided with Filipino care givers, making their twilight years more bearable. Currently the public on Taiwan employs 40,000 Filpino care givers. We want to remind these households, to consider these Filipinos' feelings and the needs of their loved ones back home.
Over the past two days, the ROC government has dispatched four transport aircraft loaded with 30 tons of supplies to the Philippines disaster areas. Taipei is only three hours away from Cebu. Rescue operations from Taiwan can be conducted more rapidly than from other regions. That is why we must not harbor a cynical attitude toward rescue efforts. In recent years, Taiwan has endured a variety of earthquakes, floods, and storms. People understand the importance of the "golden hour," and of the need for adequate supplies, distribution, rescue organization, and knowledge and experience in caring for victims. These can all help in Philippines disaster relief. This includes the timely publication of disaster relief contribution information. Tzu Chi, Taiwan Root, and other private sector volunteers in the first line of medical care and post disaster reconstruction can all make the rescue effort more successful.
When the first batch of relief supplies arrived in Cebu, the Central Philippine Military Commander said that he and the victims will "always remember Taiwan." Compassion can win friendship and respect. This is how neighbors should treat each other. This kind of deep rooted friendship may even be the best guarantee of security for Taiwan fishermen at sea.
2013.11.14 02:06 am