THOUSANDS of survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) on Tuesday called on President Benigno Aquino 3rd to step down as they deplored what they saw as his “insensitivity” to their plight.
The call for the President’s resignation came almost a year after Yolanda, the most powerful typhoon to hit the country, devastated entire communities in Central Visayas.
“Enough is enough—President Aquino must go,” Marissa Calbajao, spokesperson for the People Surge Alliance for Yolanda Survivors, said. The group, which claims to have about 20,000 members, said the President committed “grave injustice” to the typhoon victims because of the government’s imposition of a “no build zone” policy in coastal communities.
Almost 7,000 people were killed and about 16 million people were affected when Yolanda hit land on November 8, 2013 in Visayas. Most of the people who died were swept by a storm surge that engulfed buildings and swept houses into the sea.
People Surge said the government’s response to help the typhoon victims was not enough.
“A full year of witnessing Aquino’s betrayal not only of Yolanda survivors, but of the Filipino people as a whole, through his anti-poor, anti-environment, pro-big business, and pro-foreign policies, tells us that there is no future for us and for the generations to come under the Aquino government,” Calbajao said.
She lamented that the government’s negligence especially in the conduct of relief and rescue operations left thousands of typhoon victims suffering because of the break down in social services.
“We have exhausted all means to demand for justice to Yolanda victims: we have sent letters and engaged in dialogues, reached out through media and even lobbied in Congress—to no avail. We have been ignored, deceived, mocked, maligned and repressed by President Aquino and his ilk,” Dr. Efleda Bautista, chairperson of People Surge, said.
The group also lambasted the president for the government’s “anti-people, investment-led and debt-driven rehabilitation” that, it said, focused heavily on infrastructure “distributed among Aquino’s big business allies.”
In a statement, the group claimed that the P20 billion rehabilitation supplemental budget this year and the P23.8 billion Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) allocations on disaster management were “plundered.”
It also criticized the “deceptive ‘divide and conquer’ relief operations marked by empty promises of relief, conditional cash transfers, and other forms of aid being subjected to preconditions to prevent the people from participating in legitimate mass actions to redress grievances, as well as the perpetration of demolition tactics as part of the government’s beautification frenzy in time for Pope Francis’ visit.”
Back to work
But the Philippine Red Cross said thousands of families whose livelihood were devastated when the typhoon hit have returned to work.
In a forum in Manila, Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon said almost 30,000 households have so far received cash grants of up to $220 as part of the Philippine Red Cross’s three-year $360-million recovery plan that aims to support 500,000 people across Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Panay and Palawan islands.
Gordon said families have set up sari-sari stores, selling basic food needs, including live pigs, goats and chicken.
“One year after Haiyan [Yolanda] robbed so many families of their income, we are seeing people return to work, including setting up new businesses,” he said. He noted that farming, rearing livestock and sari-sari stores are the top three livelihood that people enter into.
Gordon said Red Cross built 6,081 houses, while 13,506 households received cash or materials for shelter repair assistance. Seven health facilities were either repaired or built and equipped, and 1,493 water systems were repaired or constructed.
However, Gordon admitted that much more have yet to be accomplished because the devastation was so huge that it will take two more years to uplift the condition of 16 million people who were affected by the disaster.
Red Cross Secretary-General Gwendolyn Pang said there are still humanitarian needs on the ground. She said they have yet to reach 400 barangays to help families there rebuild their lives.
Red Cross, in a press conference attended also by International Federation of the Red Cross delegation in the Philippines head Marcel Fortier and International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in the Philippines head Pascal Mauchle, said aside from livelihood, victims need housing, medical services, water and toilets.
Gordon admitted that people living in small islands have yet to receive the needed support because Red Cross volunteers have difficulty reaching them. He said they could not even ask help from the military since the areas are insurgency infested.
He said some 500,000 people have yet to receive humanitarian assistance while 40,000 households who have yet to be relocated to safer homes.
With Jaime R. Pilapil