FOUR years after supertyphoon “Yolanda” slammed into Eastern Visayas, “a lot has still to be done” as government has “under-delivered” in its assistance to survivors, according to two non-government organizations (NGOs) on Wednesday.
“Region 8 or Eastern Visayas has an economy of contradictions,” said IBON Foundation executive editor and research head Rosario Bella Guzman in a media briefing.
She said that although Eastern Visayas achieved the highest growth rate in 2016, accounting for over 12.4 percent in terms of gross regional domestic product, the progress was “shallow” because the agriculture industry continued to sink, apart from an increase in informal work, stark landlessness and acute poverty in the region.
“Even the national statistics cannot hide that there are large losses of jobs for agriculture. This translated to huge increases in informal work. ‘Yung dating magsasaka nagiging informal worker na lang,” she added.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that there was a 38.7 percent poverty incidence among the Eastern Visayas population in 2015.
Meanwhile, the average unemployment rate of 5 percent in Eastern Visayas from 2013 to 2017 fell below the national average of 6.3 percent. Landless farmers also reached 53 percent of the region’s population, the group said.
Guzman also reiterated that the National Housing Authority (NHA), which had been in hot water for the past months, had also only completed 50,891 housing units out of the target 205,128, which is equivalent to a 27-percent occupancy rate in the region.
“Nakipagdialogue ang aming community leaders sa government units, ang realization is all about promises pero ‘yung actual na pagbibigay ng suporta, zero,” said Rosalinda Tablang of Samahang Operasyong Sagip (SOS), a group that caters to disaster victims through relief and medical missions.
(Our community leaders held a dialogue with government units. The realization is all about promises but the actual support is zero.)
“’Yung ilang areas sa region, para makalabas ka ng community you have to walk 1 to 2 hours dahil sira-sira pa rin ‘yung kalsada…maski ‘yung mga motor ay hindi makapasok. Ano ang ginagawa ng gobyerno sa mga taong mas nangangailangan?” she added.
(For some areas in the region, one will have to walk from 1 to 2 hours because of the damaged roads . . . even vehicles could not enter. What has the government been doing in times when it is needed the most?)
“Our government got used to a private sector kind of response. Introducing neo-liberalism will only increase our vulnerability to disasters,” Guzman said, reiterating that the administration focused on rehabilitating business activities rather than attending to the victim’s needs.
“Ayala Land is there already, SM holdings, the malls, hotels, telecommunication corporations have already set up their establishments in the region. The government put all the economic oligarchs in one center,” Climate Change Network for Community Initiatives member Kim Leduna added.
“Mauuna dapat ang pagtatapos ng residensiya ng mga tao at hindi ang mga malls, hotels, etc. Dahil ang rehabilitation naman talaga, kailangang mauna ang tao diyan. Hindi dapat maulit ‘yung pagkakamali at mismanagement ng resources ng gobyerno before,” she said.
(The construction of people’s homes should be the priority more than the malls and hotels. This is what rehabilitation should be – people first. The mistakes and mismanagement of resources of the previous administration should not be repeated.)
Meanwhile, Rey Canoy and Fr. Jose Elmer Cajilig, Kilusang Pagbabago (KP) Cebu provincial officer and KP Region 6 lead convenor, respectively said that even as the National Housing Authority (NHA) has been doing its job to address the housing shortage for Yolanda survivors, “a lot has still to be done.”
NHA Region 7 has, so far, turned over a total of 450 units that were now being occupied by survivors.
This is, however, only a fraction of the 22,423 units the NHA was planning to build. At least 15,348 units have been bidded out in 16 towns in Northern Cebu.
“It’s still a long way to go. A lot has still to be done,” Canoy said, as he appealed for fast tracking the implementation of the housing project.
Yolanda, one of the strongest typhoons to hit land, slammed into the country in 2013.
It destroyed homes and structures and killed thousands of residents in Tacloban, Leyte, Samar, Negros Occidental, Cebu and Iloilo. WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL