Philippine corruption magnifies effects of typhoon
But corruption probably has already made this typhoon worse. Money for roads was diverted, giving people less ability to evacuate. Hospitals didn’t get the resources they should have. Some houses might not have been flattened if they had been built to code.
"Petty corruption in urban areas means that building inspections don’t happen and building codes are not enforced," said Steven Rood, the Manila-based representative of The Asia Foundation, a nonprofit development organization. "Even middle-class homes are not built to withstand a typhoon, much less poor homes."
Filipinos working abroad and sending money home to their families are an important source of cash in the country under any circumstances, but Fernandez, the New Zealand editorial adviser, expects that they will be skeptical about giving money to the government. He said he thinks they will simply donate to nongovernmental agencies providing aid to typhoon victims, but Rood wasn’t certain even of that.
"There’s a lot of cynicism, particularly in the expat community," Rood said. "People are put off. You see it in the social networks. People are saying there’s no point — if they give money, it will just get stolen."
The typhoon has come at a time when some feel the Philippines might finally be cracking down on corruption. In its latest global corruption report, Transparency International found the Philippines was just one of 11 countries in which people said they were noticing an improvement in corruption levels.
Rood said he believes Philippine government agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development are less corrupt than they once were and can be relied on to take the lead after disasters like the typhoon.
Doracie Zoleta-Nantes, a Filipino and research fellow at the Australian National University, said the recent debate in the Philippines on corruption has been intense and people are demanding improvements. She said media scrutiny on places like Tacloban, a city devastated by the typhoon, will help ensure aid gets distributed.
"But some victims will be marginalized because they are not aligned politically," she added.
Tecson John Lim, the city administrator in Tacloban, said the city is recognized for its good governance and its accounts are transparent. He added that corruption concerns tend to center around people like cement suppliers, and "right now, you can’t even buy anything."
Valerie Amos, the U.N. humanitarian chief, said in Manila that the U.N. is not expecting to find widespread corruption as it responds to the disaster. "Everyone’s concern is focused on getting the maximum aid to the people who need it," she said.
Aid agencies are taking their own precautions to avoid corruption.
Chris Clarke, the chief executive of World Vision New Zealand, has visited areas affected by the typhoon. He said World Vision has its own supply chains, collects donations directly, and even issues microchips to victims to record the amount of aid delivered to them.
"It’s always an issue we’re asked about," he said. "Does the money get there, and does it get to the right people?"
Perry reported from Wellington, New Zealand. AP writers Teresa Cerajano in Tacloban and Jim Gomez in Manila contributed to this report.
Foreign Aid Transparency Hub: http://www.gov.ph/faith/