IT has been almost six months since Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated entire communities in Central Visayas but thousands of families still languish in evacuation centers or schools.
Things are far from normal in Tacloban City, Leyte. Less than 50 percent of business establishments have reopened. And because of the huge amount needed to construct houses for families left homeless by the typhoon, local officials are appealing for help.
Mariya Lagman, shelter coordinator of the city government of Tacloban, said the local government does not have the money to build houses for thousands of Yolanda survivors.
She added that P500 million is needed to house at least 10,000 families who are temporarily residing at the seashores and evacuation centers.
Lagman said 770 families opted to build temporary houses along the seashores, 500 families are in evacuation centers or schools and 3,000 families are living in makeshift shelters.
The city government has started to construct more than 500 temporary shelters in identified relocation sites, as well as more than 300 transitional shelters in Barangay New Kawayan.
Also, some Christian organizations committed to provide 1,000 shelters to typhoon survivors.
But Lagman said these are not enough.
“We still need at least P500 million for our shelter program,” she stressed.
Lagman noted that the city government will need 45 hectares of land as relocation site for families living in danger zones.
She explained that the city government is presenting the data because they feel like they have been forgotten by the national government.
The Philippine Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross said thousands of families need help.
“Up to this day, we can still hear the echoes of the suffering, the cries for help,” said Gwendolyn Pang, secretary-general of the Philippine Red Cross.
Yolanda, the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall, hit central Philippines on November 8 last year, leaving 6,293 dead, 1,061 missing and about 4.1 million people displaced, Philippine Red Cross figures showed.
An international humanitarian effort, however, ensured that the supply of food, water and medical services was stabilizing in affected areas but Pang said more than 8,000 families whose homes were destroyed were still huddling in evacuation centers.
“We know the recovery will be a long road. It could take several years,” said Marcel Fortier, the head of delegation in the Philippines for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez said it has been difficult to rise from the disaster.
“In terms of recovery in the city, we are still at 20 percent. We just finished the rainy season,” he told reporters.
The mayor also explained that inconsistent weather conditions in Tacloban and the failure of most businesses to reopen hinder development in the city.
He, however, remained optimistic that Tacloban will be back to normal within a year.
“We are trying to target a year, I know that this is difficult,” Romualdez said.
He was thankful that some of the biggest companies in the city had already reopened like San Miguel Corp., Coca-Cola and Robinson’s Place.
The mayor said recovery of the private sector “might take a little longer” since insurance companies are yet to pay local establishments that suffered huge losses. Lack of manpower and shortage of construction materials are also huge obstacles to the city’s return to normal.
Romualdez said the city received assistance from some international organizations but the money is not enough to meet needs of typhoon-affected families.
On Monday, the Philippine government received additional donation from Japan for municipalities badly hit by Yolanda.
Kenji Kosaka, president of Japan-Philippines Parliamentary Friendship League and secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, announced turnover of 20 emergency vehicles to Senate President Franklin Drilon.
The donation included used fire trucks and ambulances.
Kosaka said the vehicles can be used during emergencies.
The Japanese official extended his deepest sympathies to those affected by the typhoon.
Drilon, President of the Philippines-Japan Parliamentarians Association, thanked the Japanese government for its assistance to the typhoon victims.
WITH REPORTS FROM JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA AND AFP