Why not soup kitchens instead of food packs?
Why not offer hot soup and carbohydrate-rich food for the nearly 800,000 families displaced by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in replication of the Americans’ “soup kitchens” for the unemployed during the Great Depression in the 1930s?
Sen. Francis Escudero observed that thousands of families huddled in crowded gyms and classrooms could hardly cook their own food, yet the government continues to give them bags of uncooked rice and noodles.
Escudero made the suggestion after learning that employees from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) were giving away the usual stuff—rice, canned goods and noodles—to the evacuees.
“They’ve lost their homes. How could they open the canned goods? How could they cook rice without any pot? They would just sit in a corner in the relocation center and stare at the plastic bag. Why not soup kitchen? It could even be cheaper,” he told DSWD officials in Thursday’s finance committee hearing on the P14.6-billion supplemental budget.
Soup and bread
Soup kitchens, with their main staples of soup and bread, could be set up in every barangay (village) and the evacuees could just line up for the food, the senator said.
“At the end of the day, we all feel good that we donated. We all see everyone repacking on TV, everyone donating. But from the point of view of the victim, how could he eat that?” he said.
During the hearing, DSWD Director Desiree Fajardo said they were giving away a bag of 6 kilos of rice, four cans of sardines, four cans of corned beef, eight noodle packs and eight packs of instant coffee to a family of five.
The bag of provisions is good for two days and worth P380, Fajardo said. She said this was based on the evacuees’ needs for now.
“In two days they could alternate the canned goods,” she said.
After taking note of the contents, Escudero said the relief goods were not “demand-driven.”
“This is essentially six meals for a family of five,” he said. “I would want to see a rational plan that says, ‘This is what we’re giving away because this is what they need, or this is what we’re giving away because this is what we have.’”
When it swept through central Philippines, the supertyphoon wiped out villages in Tacloban City, Samar and other areas, leaving more than 5,000 dead and more than 1,500 others missing.
The day after heavy rain, gusty winds and waves walloped their villages, some 780,000 families were displaced.
Given the huge number of evacuees, the government will be spending P4.5 billion monthly for relief alone.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the P380 is just the cost of each bag, and is on top of the sizeable logistics cost of shipping or trucking the relief goods from Manila to the provinces.
Abad admitted the supplies are bought here in Manila and are repacked in the provinces.
The finance committee, chaired by Escudero, approved the P14.6-billion supplemental budget as well as Joint Resolution No. 5 authorizing the executive department to utilize some P20.8 billion in unused calamity fund in the 2013 budget until Dec. 31, 2014.
Both will be tackled in plenary next week.
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