Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Filipino leaders voice suspicions about centre

Undistributed typhoon aid just one issue, they assert

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Jon Reyes

TREVOR HAGAN / FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Jon Reyes

PROBLEMS getting delayed disaster relief to the Philippines isn't the only issue some prominent Filipino leaders have with an organization that's the face of their community in Manitoba.

Word that the Philippine-Canadian Centre of Manitoba started boxing shipments of goods collected two months ago last weekend did little to mollify a Filipino community business council and a seniors group.

Officials with those organizations say a $70,000 deficit that surfaced in annual statements released at a recent annual general meeting is adding to their concerns about the centre's management.

There is nothing to suggest the deficit is connected to the $70,000 the group has been holding back from relief agencies.

Late last week, the centre confirmed that for the last two months, it had been sitting on more than $70,000 in relief money, plus goods to be shipped overseas.

'As an outside observer, that doesn't add up. That's all. I'm questioning it'

-- Jon Reyes

Lito Taruc, president of the centre on Keewatin Street, said this weekend the delay was due to a misunderstanding.

The committee in charge of relief efforts applied for matching federal funds by the January deadline and were waiting for word back and the funds from Ottawa, Taruc said. They didn't know they were supposed to send their money to the Philippines and not wait for the federal funds, he added.

Monday, Taruc said he was hospitalized during the holidays with heart problems and couldn't answer questions about the centre's finances. He referred the issue to the centre's treasurer. That person is currently in the Philippines, he said.

Aida Champagne, president of the Filipino Seniors Group, said she's not satisfied with the response.

The relief effort began soon after typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines Nov. 8.

"It is kind of surprising and very alarming that for the past two months they've been sitting on this money. And they said they were waiting for matching funds?" Champagne said.

"Not to know the process is a lame excuse, and I don't buy it. A lot of people have questions about the Philippine Canadian Centre, and it's not just about that."

Her concerns were echoed by Jon Reyes, president of the Manitoba Filipino Business Council.

"The Philippine Canadian Centre is supposed to be the face of our community, and a lot of non-Philippine people in the mainstream believe that's what they're supposed to be, but they're not representative of our community," the business leader said.

He noted that at the same annual general meeting where financial reports showed the centre had a $70,000 debt, the group had 120 members out of the 65,000 Winnipeggers who claim Filipino heritage and next to no revenue from membership fees.

Those are issues that, taken with the problems with relief money, indicate there are deeper problems with the management, yet the centre doesn't want to talk about it, Reyes said.

"As an outside observer, that doesn't add up, that's all. I'm questioning it," he said. "In our culture, we're very open, hospitable and welcoming. I don't see those good-natured values practised there."

The seniors group and the business group also raised thousands of dollars in Haiyan relief aid that was forwarded directly to the Red Cross.

 

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2014 A4

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