The Philippines does not learn from experience. Super Typhoon Odette struck northeastern Mindanao and the central Philippines in December leaving a trail of destruction and killing over 400 people. About a month since Odette tore through these areas, typhoon victims are virtually left alone to pick up the pieces.
The government’s response to the disaster leaves much to be desired. Those displaced were scouring for food, water and other basic necessities. Many were without temporary shelter, while others continue to suffer. Hundreds fell ill with diarrhea weeks after Odette wreaked havoc on southern Philippines.
The government in the aftermath of a disaster is bound to provide immediate assistance to the victims to improve their health and support their morale. Among other things, the state should build semi-permanent settlement in camps and other locations. Help may also include initial repairs to damaged infrastructure.
Disaster management must keep people safe and provide the basic needs of the people until the government or local government units find more permanent and sustainable solutions.
Rebuilding is another aspect of disaster management. Filipinos are by nature resilient. They can easily get back on their feet and rebuild homes damaged by typhoons. But they need all the support they can get.
Thousands of Filipinos were left homeless by Odette and they do not need another burden. The sudden spike in the costs of construction materials, however, is compounding their miseries.
About 600,000 Filipinos were displaced by the typhoon as over 28,000 homes were destroyed in Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands, Southern Leyte, Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental and Palawan.
Similar to what happened when Super Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines in 2013, the cost of construction materials, which are desperately needed by the thousands of people whose homes were destroyed by Odette last month, skyrocketed.
Residents of affected areas in Mindanao and Cebu have begun the process of rebuilding their homes. Unfortunately, the prices of some construction supplies have jumped due to high demand.
Bohol Gov. Arthur Yap has urged the national government to send construction supplies to the province, which has been severely hit by Typhoon Odette. The supply shortage in the province resulted in an increase in the prices of construction materials.
Complaints from netizens in the Visayas and Mindanao are now flooding social media as residents start to fix their houses damaged by the Category 5 winds when Odette made landfall nine times in the two islands.
Residents in Mindanao and Central Visayas who are desperately searching for construction materials to repair their home are also facing another hurdle—the implementation of Department of Trade and Industry’s Department Administrative Order (DAO) 20-10 series, which the DTI hurriedly issued in early 2020 without proper consultations with concerned industries.
The DAO mandates all raw materials used for roofing and general applications to submit product certification that their items are in compliance with the required thickness as specified in the directive. It generally covers all spectrum of the steel industry, including those that do not require specific thickness of steel coil materials in their operations and business areas.
Included in the DAO are foreign suppliers of galvanized flat sheet materials that are now required to submit PS License before their products can enter the local market.
The DTI issued a cease-and-desist order in 2020 preventing local steel makers from manufacturing galvanized iron sheets that did not meet the agency’s specific thickness of steel coil materials.
The DTI should be reminded that its mandate is to make certain the availability of basic necessities and prime commodities at reasonable prices at all times, without denying legitimate businesses a fair return of investment. Construction materials like cement, galvanized iron sheets, hollow blocks, construction nails, batteries, electrical wires, light bulbs, and steel wires are part of these necessities.
DTI’s DAO 20-10 series, though, is counter-productive and anti-poor, especially now when the country is trying to recover from Odette. It will only further contribute to the skyrocketing prices of construction materials. This is the last thing that typhoon victims need in their darkest hour.
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