As the country commemorates the fourth anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), Malacañang has reaffirmed the government’s commitment to rebuild communities affected by the disaster amid continued cries for shelter among victims.
In a news conference on Tuesday, Palace spokesman Harry Roque assured the public that President Rodrigo Duterte would not turn his back on Yolanda victims.
He said the Duterte administration had learned from past mistakes when it came to dealing with Yolanda’s devastation.
“We join the victims of Yolanda in the crying the very slow rebuilding of Yolanda. And to address this, the President has asked General del Rosario and Wendel Avisado to act as point persons in the rebuilding of the Yolanda-ravaged communities,” Roque said, referring to housing czar Eduardo del Rosario and Presidential Assistant Wendel Avisado, in-charge of Yolanda rehabilitation.
“We remain committed in this regard and we have learned from the lessons of Yolanda as far as the rebuilding of Marawi is concerned,” he added.
Duterte visited Yolanda victims in Tacloban City last year and openly expressed his frustration over the slow-paced housing projects for the supertyphoon survivors.
The Chief Executive returned to Tacloban in January but still lamented that not all his expectations were met.
This year, however, Duterte will not be in the country during the Yolanda anniversary on November 8, as he is scheduled to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Vietnam.
The President will also be preoccupied in the days ahead due to Manila’s hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.
In November 2013, Yolanda swept across the Philippines and left a path of destruction on several islands and locations such as Leyte Island, Samar Island, Biliran, Negros Occidental, Cebu, Capiz, Aklan, Antique, Iloilo, Masbate, Palawan and Dinagat Islands.
Yolanda, one of the strongest typhoons to ever make landfall, pounded Tacloban City, destroying homes and structures and killing thousands of local residents.
The rehabilitation of the affected communities has been slow and the past administration was widely criticized for its perceived inefficiency.
The House committee on housing and urban development reported on the lack of progress in housing in Yolanda-affected areas in September.
Citing data from the National Housing Authority (NHA), lawmakers said 205,128 houses were supposed to have been constructed for typhoon survivors. But of the figure, only 11.4 percent were occupied, according to the NHA itself.
Only 33 percent have been completed, although lawmakers believe the real figures are much lower.
Roque said the President backs moves to hold those who caused delays in housing projects accountable for their apparent negligence.
“On Yolanda, there are very good lessons learned. The delay in the reconstruction of Yolanda devastated areas is simply unacceptable as far as the President is concerned,” he said.
Thousands of families affected by “Yolanda” will hold protests in Tacloban City and Catarman, Northern Samar on Wednesday.
Peo ple Surge, a non-governmental organization based in Tacloban City, led a silent protest on Nov. 2 along the national highway in Tanuan, Leyte. Five body bags were laid on the ground, representing the five “false” promises made by the Duterte administration: the investigation of the “gang of five” referring to former President Benigno Aquino 3rd, former Interior secretary Mar Roxas 3rd, former Social Welfare secretary Dinky Soliman, former Energy secretary Carlos Petilla and former rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson who were accused of neglecting the typhoon victims, housing, aid to farmers, livelihood and the distribution of the Emergency Shelter Assistance.
“When Duterte paid a visit to Tacloban City in November 2016, he ordered the National Housing Authority to fast track the construction of permanent housing units and committed to return in December to check whether or not the NHA had met with quotas set by the administration. True enough, the NHA was able to fast track the construction of over 59,679 additional units on top of the 19,330 built by the previous administration in over two years. However, in Tacloban City alone, the Local Government Unit admits that approximately 6,000 people have yet to be relocated into permanent housing units as of August. The Department of Public Works and Highways have reported meanwhile that it has met its target of 181 water tank installations yet several relocation sites suffer from lack of clean water,’ the group said.
“There is a grave sense of urgency behind the protests we are launching. If it’s easy for elected officials to brush off the legitimate demands of marginalized sectors or disaster victims here in Eastern Visayas, what’s stopping this administration from doing the exact same thing in other parts of the country? We remember the dead but we don’t let them grow in number,” People Surge’s secretary general Marissa Cabaljao said.
Sargie Macallan, provincial chairman of Katungod-Northern Samar chapter, a human rights group based in Catarman, told The Manila Times that their protest will focus on the issues hounding Yolanda victims like lack of livelihood, decent housing and aid to farmers.
The Northern Samar Small Farmers Association decried the lack of government support in the rehabilitation of the agricultural sector.
“Seedlings and other government aid did not reach the true farmers,” Macallan said.
with ELADIO PERFECTO