When we have thought that the onslaught of the megastorm Yolanda in November last year was all about the massive devastation and enormous death toll it has caused, there are a lot more of very deep concerns that the people have to veer their mind into than what one could ever imagine. The supertyphoon’s impact was so crushing that we should heed every lesson it gave to humanity, especially to those who survived the storm surge. All these basically funnel into the core of our senses that is paying attention and getting ready for eventualities. These were the points underscored by government officials in their guesting at Express It At The Park last Saturday at Leyte Park Hotel’s Park Café.
For Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Regional Director Leonardo Sibbaluca and Regional Technical Director Danilo Javier of the Protective Areas, Wild Life and Coastal Zone Management, being pro-active proves to be the best stance. Sibbaluca cited for instance the planting of mangrove propagules along the country’s identified coastline and riverbanks, and moving dwelling places to about a kilometer inwards from the shoreline as most ideal among coastal towns and cities nowadays in the face of the new normal that the people should expect. Supertyphoons bringing storm surges and heavier rainfalls are considered the new calamities due to climate change, according to international weather authorities. The growth of mangrove mini-forest along the banks of big rivers in Agusan provinces was noted to have effectively served as buffer against floods and storm surge during occurrences of typhoons and torrential rains in Mindanao. This is the same design that the national government would like to implement across the archipelago as measure to minimize damage and death toll during typhoons.
He encouraged residents to keep planting trees in their respective areas, if viable as protection. If the purpose is to avoid soil erosion, trees should be planted proximate to one another. These trees should, however, allow other plants and grass to grow below them. The DENR is most willing to supply the propagules and seedlings needed for any tree-planting or reforestation activities, provided however that prior consultation should be made with authorities. He stressed that the planting of trees depend on the purpose for which they are done. For backyard gardening, malunggay trees are very advisable, their leaves, seeds and fruits being very useful to human health.
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Tacloban City Prosecutor Ruperto Golong, who is also the chairman of the Regional Task Force of Human Trafficking, talked on a different aspect of sty Yolanda’s impact on the lives of the survivors of this strange natural disaster. Some recruiters took advantage of the vulnerability of the victims of the typhoon and made them victims twice through trafficking. Per data reported by law enforcers as filed in the cities of Tacloban, Ormoc, Borongan, Catbalogan and Calbayog there was an increase in the number of incidents of trafficking in persons after the Yolanda occurrence. In Tacloban, there are now over 20 reported cases filed in court, in Ormoc City about 7, in Catbalogan about 9, in Calbayog 3 and in Borongan 5 cases to include cases already filed even before the sty Yolanda attack, according to Golong.
Some of the suspects were intercepted before the victims, some of whom were minors and women, were finally transported somewhere else for prostitution or other sexual exploitation. Under RA 10364 which took effect last year (the act expanding the law on human trafficking which is RA 9208 made effective in year 2003), “even attempted trafficking” is already a criminal offense. “Even if the act is not consummated, if it could be proved that there was an attempt to traffic a person then there is a criminal liability,” according to the chief state prosecutor in the city.
He added that in trafficking, if the victim is a minor there is no need to prove the means, but instead focus on the act and the exploitative purpose, regardless of whether there existed fraud, deceit other related incidents. A minor, in Philippine legal jurisdiction is considered as one natural person who has not reached the age of majority or 18 years of age, or if he or she is 18 years old but has mental defects or thinks and acts like a child.
Golong clarified that the increase in the number of reported cases of trafficking could be attributed to the awareness of the public on the existence of the law against human trafficking and the active participation of social welfare officers and the law enforcers, especially those in the women and children protection desks in the campaign against trafficking in persons.
On July 30 and 31 and August 4 and 6, the Task Force conducted a seminar for social workers and WCPD officers to revisit the law on human trafficking and to rekindle the commitment of stakeholders in the campaign for human trafficking. “The interest of the government is very high on human trafficking because (it) is not only a domestic crime but a global crime involving transnational organized crime (groups),” Golong said, adding that the victims are at times being brought to other countries in Asia passing through Zamboanga.
Winning the fight against either nature or fellow humans is everyone’s concern. How we could win it is a matter of style and personal disposition.