‘Yolanda’ survivors hit slow rehab, lack of services

Tacloban City—A broad coalition of storm survivors has accused the administration of treading the path of his predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III, in the reconstruction of areas devastated by Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (“Haiyan”) in November 2013.

“Desperate to rebuild their lives, most survivors believed the promise of President Duterte and were expecting a fresh start in a reconstruction that they hoped will be participatory and people-centered…But reconstruction continued to be slow and, in some areas, anomalous,” said Joli Torella of Urban Poor Associates, a member group of the Community of Yolanda Survivors and Partners.

Torella added that many housing areas in the Yolanda corridors “generally lacked basic social services” five years after the typhoon.

“The added cost of transportation and lack of access to these social services made life more difficult in the relocation sites,” he said.

Lita Bagunas, leader of Uswag Este-Katarungan, said that in Eastern Samar, pending complaints about the poor quality of housing projects were allegedly ignored by the National Housing Authority.

She said that housing projects in their province that “continue to be of substandard quality comparable to the ones constructed under the Aquino administration.”

“We thought change is coming, but that wasn’t the case,” Bagunas said in a mix of Filipino and English.

Housing units in Lawaan and Balangiga towns were substandard, he said.

In Tacloban City, the group alleged that the transfer of 3,000 families of survivors to their housing units was sped up “even as the relocation sites still lacked basic services like water, electricity, schools, and difficult access to public transport.”

“In St. Francis Village, people are having a hard time because it floods every time it rains,” said Yolanda survivor Vincent Basiano of Barangay 68 in Anibong District, one of the hardest hit coastal villages in Tacloban. 

While the House and Senate conducted hearings on the complaints of survivors, the group said that no official report has come out yet.

“CYSP member-organization believed that the report of the Senate and House of Representatives will also reflect the sorry state of reconstruction, the need for some officials of the housing agencies to be replaced, and the prosecution of contractors who should be held accountable for serious anomalies,” the group said.

However, the survivors said they were “highly appreciative” of the initiatives of Duterte through Special Presidential Assistant Wendel Avisado, who initiated at least nine grassroots consultations in Eastern Visayas that allowed Yolanda survivors to air their complaints.

“The undersecretary directly witnessed the poor quality of housing being constructed in several areas. He was also able to hear directly from the voices of survivors who are resisting the drive of NHA to occupy even substandard housing units. He knows that the current approach is creating more problems than solutions,” said CYSP.

They urged Avisado to “fulfill [his] commitment to let the survivors evaluate with him the results of the grassroots consultations, and officially submit the report and recommendations to the President.”

“[We hope] the next steps of the government will be steps in the right direction, where reconstruction will be based on the peoples’ plan formulated by survivors,” CYSP said.

READ: Five years after: ‘Yolanda’ survivors back in harm’s way

Earlier, survivors criticized the Yolanda reconstruction under Aquino, saying it was “not only slow; it was top-down, non-consultative, inefficient, with many reported cases of anomalies.”

Leyte Rep. Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt-Romualdez on Tuesday thanked the Senate for passing on third and final reading the bill declaring Nov. 8 of every year as a special non-working holiday in Eastern Visayas in honor of the extraordinary courage of the unsung heroes of Super Typhoon “Yolanda.”

In December, Romualdez’s measure was approved on third and final reading at the House of Representatives.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who was appointed Presidential Assistant on Rehabilitation and Recovery under the Aquino administration, said coping with the effects of Yolanda was a chapter of his public service career that he would never forget.

Reacting to the fifth Yolanda anniversary, Lacson described his job then as “extremely difficult” and many times frustrating, yet satisfying because he worked with very competent staff and consultants who didn’t mind the limitations imposed by the government.

READ: Government vows full resettlement of ‘Yolanda’ victims

With the support of the national government, he said, they were able to put together an eight-volume, 8,000-page Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan with a P167-billion budgetary requirement.

He said the document was intended to accomplish a build-back-better vision for the 171 cities and municipalities devastated by Yolanda.

Unfortunately, while the CRRP was approved by then President Aquino, very little budget support was appropriated to help the typhoon victims in the affected areas. With Maricel V. Cruz and Macon Ramos-Araneta

Topics: Benigno Aquino III , Super Typhoon “Yolanda” , Joli Torella , Urban Poor Associates
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