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Rough Cuts | Disasters: Many suffer, others make big bucks

Indeed calamities are strange incidents. While they result in deaths and sufferings by hundreds of thousands of people, they also bring opportunities to the greedy among us to make big and fast money. Even government agencies find disasters as “blessings” because suddenly they find augmentation funds for their use.

During the last ten years one classic example of the rise of opportunities for the greedy to take advantage of, was the response, relief and rehabilitation programs implemented by the government after super typhoon Yolanda devastated many areas of the Visayas with Leyte and Samar provinces as the worst affected.

Imagine, until now, the housing projects intended for the displaced residents are still unfinished. Of course there are some that were finished but the quality of the workmanship of the contractors is highly questionable.

And who will not raise eyebrows on the quality when the finished housing units are far from what are expected to be delivered.

There are also sites where houses are not yet turned over to the government and to the beneficiaries yet already fully paid. And it is in hundreds of millions of pesos!

The latest that we heard of the Yolanda victims’ housing projects is that after the alleged anomalies were investigated by

Congress there were recommendations that cases be filed against accused perpetrators both in government and their private sector collaborators.

Then the series of typhoons that came after Yolanda. Stories of fast money-making ventures also abound.

Late in 2019 a series of strong temblors hit areas within the Davao and Cotabato Regions. And before the year closed there was that very strong eruption of Taal volcano in Batangas. In all those disasters, many good Samaritans came and did their best to help the victims.

But even before the agonies of the victims reached its peak there were already shrewd businessmen doing their thing. One example is the hardly thought-of acceptance of a proposal presumably from some scheming manufacturers, for students to wear hard hats while attending their classes.

While it was not clear whether the wearing of the hard hat was mandatory for students and teachers, there was no doubt that the instruction was kind of “forceful” because the demand for the purchase of such protective equipment was pushed quite hard to parents.

In Davao City and Davao Provinces alone, how many students are there? It therefore is not hard to quantify the demand for the hard hats. And it is not difficult as well to estimate how much money the shrewd businessmen could have generated from that ingenuity.

When the Taal volcano erupted, the first few days were characterized with massive ash fall in a very wide swath of area surrounding the volcano island. Even Metro Manila did not escape the fine ash blown by the wind.

What came next were reports of highly overpriced face masks. And there were hoardings as indicated by the sudden disappearance of stocks in the usual wholesalers and retailers. But lo and behold, when there was none available in drugstores and other retail outlets, there were many being peddled on the streets. In fact some ambulant vendors sold the face masks by piece, by cartons, or even in large boxes, again at exorbitant cost.

Then the most disastrous among the many disasters to hit the country and the entire world – the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (CoViD 19) came right at the onset of the current year.

When it was clear that the CoViD 19 was evolving into a world pandemic with hundreds of thousands death possible and millions to be infected, one of the preventive measures instituted by the government is the wearing – again – of face mask to prevent the spread of the virus through droplets from coughing or sneezing.

Another measure to identify potential CoViD infected individuals through symptoms is the taking of body heat using a portable temperature monitor scanner.

Again, the greedy traders hoarded the masks available from known sources. There were even reports of a medical practitioner with some cohorts selling the temperature scanner when this is not supposed to be the business of a doctor of medicine especially in this time of health emergency.

All these mentioned protective items were later known sold at thrice to quadruple the normal cost.

Last week, the senators called the country’s Health Department officials as well as the men on top of the CoViD 19 Response Task Force. This was in the light of claims by some sectors and certain politicians that the testing kits being purchased by the government to discover potential infected patients are highly overpriced.

Of course, these are still allegations with one of the accusers also facing the same accusation of buying anti-dengue vaccines from a French company on an overly overpriced cost.

On a positive note, the “stay at home” order for everybody has led many to discover their skills in finding alternative livelihood.

Some are making face masks, others do on-line selling of whatever items they can create and sell while on quarantine in their respective residences.

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