Editorial & Opinion

PH should inventory donations from 1992 or face donation fatigue!

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CHICAGO (jGLi/FAXX) -- The Philippines has been buffeted by typhoons, earthquakes, volcano eruptions and other calamities over the last hundreds of years. But it was only in 1992 when the government of President Fidel V. Ramos institutionalized the acceptance of international donations.

 

Unfortunately, after every disaster and after every outpouring of international donations, there has never been an honest-to-goodness report of inventory of donors, the amount of donations and a report of who were the recipients of these donations. Thanks to the fickle-mindedness of the Filipino people when  the spotlight of every disaster had waned, everything is forgotten.

The outpouring of international donations following the tragic devastation wrought upon by super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) is so extraordinary that it calls for an extraordinary investigation of the paper trails of the monetary and in-kind donations not only of this mega-disaster but also of the past disasters from at least 1992.

 If the Philippine government will only focus their investigation on the inventory of international donations for this Yolanda disaster, it cannot validly claim that it had succeeded in coming up with the investigation of the beneficiaries and the donors of past and present international donations. If it cannot come up with some closure with its past donations, it cannot guarantee that it is going to succeed in this massive undertaking of inventory of donations of “Yolanda.”

 An honest-to-goodness accounting of donations posted online will be a harbinger for the future when the Philippines will again tug at the heart of international donors, God forbid, if another mega-disaster strikes.

 

TRANSPARENT INVESTIGATION 

If the Philippines cannot come up with a transparent investigative report, it will become the boy who cried wolf. It will become an international pariah as the world would be feeling donation fatigue for being helpless and hopeless to find out if their help ever made a difference on the lives of the victims.

The Philippines should make a financial report to the United Nations, which is responsible for encouraging the world to come forward and donate to the typhoon victims. It must also make a report to major international donors and identify where their donations were channeled with specific recipients.

It cannot just deliberately delay in making a report so that the people will forget all about it and charge it to experience.

The Philippines should learn the lessons from the mistakes of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, which was tasked to locate the missing millions of dollars believed stashed abroad by President Marcos after the People Power Revolution. After all those years, most of the monies recovered by the PCGG were mostly spent on the salaries and travels, allowances of the officials and staff of PCGG. It has yet to put behind bars any of the Marcos family members, who emerged even more powerful and richer after they were overthrown from power. The PCGG was like venom that turned the Marcoses into entertaining snake charmers.

If there is something illuminating that came up after Yolanda, the little-known  Memorandum Order No. 36, s. 1992 issued by President Ramos was its deafening silence on monetary donations.

The order merely limited the tax-free “importation of donation of food, clothing, medicine and equipment for use in the government relief and rehabilitation programs for calamity-affected areas under Section 105 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.”

 

RAMOS MEMORANDUM NEEDS STREAMLINING 

Because no other Philippine president since Ramos appeared to have dusted it up, it was never amended to be attuned to the times.

The Memorandum Order forwarded to me by Chicago Filipino American community leader Marlon L. Pecson, who requested its copy from Secretary Mely Nicolas of the Commission on Overseas Filipinos at the height of the fund-raising effort by some Filipino Americans led by digital journalist Rose Tibayan in Chicago, merely regulated “in-kind donations.” For this reason, the Philippine government will have a hard time investigating and reconciling the paper trail of past international financial donations.

According to this order, “[t]here is hereby established a special facility to process importations … . Upon favorable endorsement by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) with respect to relief clothing and food, the Department of Health (DOH) with respect to medicine, and the Department of National Defense (DND) with respect to rehabilitation equipment, the Office of the President (OP) (thru the Presidential Management Staff) shall issue the necessary clearances to cover the aforesaid importations which shall serve as basis for the Bureau of Customs to process the papers relative thereto and effect the release of the importations.

“Relief importations and donations which have arrived in the country prior to the issuance of the Memorandum Order, which are pending at their ports of entry, may also be processed under this Memorandum Order … .”

In other words, the Office of the President thru PMS, the DSWD, DOH and DND need to come up with inventories of imported donations from 1992 up to the present.

Perhaps, President Aquino may amend this Memorandum Order to identify the government agency/agencies, which will monitor the flow of local and international monetary donations and compel the non-government organizations, like the Philippine National Red Cross, Gawad Kalinga, local non-profit overseas entities, collecting on behalf of the Philippine victims, etc. to report to the Bureau of Internal Revenue the amount of money they received from donors and where they channeled their donations or risk being stripped of registration as non-profit organizations in the Philippines.

This means the Philippine government will have to link up with the U.S. Agency for International Development and other foreign international development agencies to coordinate in extending help to disaster victims to avoid duplications.

Before imported donations spoil or rot in the warehouses, for instance, the Philippine government should give priority to perishable items for distribution. It should first use up the donations before it allows Trade Industry Secretary Gregory L. Domingo to sell at discount “basic commodities to the people of Tacloban” although there are relief goods rotting away.

And one other thing, imported medical equipment and medicine left behind in the Philippines by foreign medical missions should also be tax-free even in times when there is no calamity. ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

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