THE government has shifted its focus from relief to reconstruction to help typhoon victims recover from the ravages of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that President Benigno Aquino 3rd ordered the construction of bunkhouses in the affected areas to begin the recovery phase.
“The transfer of affected families from tents and evacuation centers to temporary bunkhouses signals the transition from relief to early recovery and reconstruction. As directed by the President, the DPWH [Department of Public Works and Highways] began construction of bunkhouses in identified sites in Tacloban, Palo, and Ormoc in Leyte, and Basey and Marabut in Samar over the weekend. Starting yesterday, construction of bunkhouses began in Guiuan, Hernani and Borongan,” he said.
The shift shot down proposals to extend relief work until February next year. Coloma said typhoon victims can fend for themselves under several job-generating programs.
“As the people of Leyte and Samar begin to resettle and rebuild their homes, they are now being mobilized to participate in the reconstruction efforts under the cash-for-work or food-for-work programs,” Coloma said.
At least 2,400 families will be resettled in the first phase. In coordination with the local governments, DPWH has begun site preparation in identified resettlement areas to facilitate transfer to the bunkhouses.
“DPWH is also preparing sufficient stocks of construction materials such as coco lumber, wooden frames, and GI sheet roofing for distribution to thousands of affected families with partially damaged houses, so they may return to their homes as soon as possible,” Coloma added.
The construction of bunkhouses for Yolanda victims is distinct from a plan by the Philippine Red Cross to initially build 5,000 housing units.
PRC Chairman Richard Gordon told The Manila Times on Sunday that the housing units will be provided by the Chinese Red Cross Society.
According to Gordon, he had already asked the president and concerned local officials in the affected provinces to immediately provide a safe site where the houses would be built.
“They [Chinese] said they can construct as many as one million houses but I told them to go slow. The only requirement is that we should find a place where these houses would be built,” Gordon said.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda earlier described as “unprecedented in the country’s history” the relief operations in Central Visayas.
Lacierda said all mechanisms are working “to restore normalcy to affected communities and make sure that all survivors receive necessary relief.”
Given the amount of relief distributed, most municipalities have been provided with three to four rounds of relief. On November 23, Roxas reported that 112,071 food packs were distributed to Leyte, with Tacloban City receiving 20,382. For Eastern Samar, 33,460 food packs were distributed. To prepare 150,000 family packs a day, the government must purchase P1.2-million worth of canned goods, P1.2-million worth of noodles, P1.2-million worth of instant coffee, and 18,000 sacks of rice.
“Each family pack contains six kilos of rice, eight canned goods, eight packets of noodles, and eight sachets of instant coffee. The Secretary reports that two-million family packs were prepared for shipping and distribution on November 24,” Lacierda said.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has also launched its cash-for-work program. Local communities started clearing rubble and medical waste, earning much needed income to get back on their feet.
“The debris removal is an important part of the relief operation as streets without rubble are a precondition for aid distribution,” said Haoliang Xu, UN assistant secretary general and director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.
During the weekend, an initial 180 men and women started removing rubble and medical waste in two hospitals, two schools and streets in three severely damaged neighborhoods in Tacloban and in Palo. They received basic equipment and tools such as generators, shovels, and wheelbarrows to begin the early recovery process. With the assistance of the Australian aid agency, AusAID, 50 workers per day receive vaccinations against tetanus.
“We’re going to create 200,000 temporary jobs in debris removal in the most affected municipalities over the next six months,” Haoliang Xu said.
“While meeting the immediate needs of the families who lost everything is of utmost importance right now, we must also work with communities to recover their lives and livelihoods, and build in resilience to withstand future super storms,” added Xu. “It is not just a matter of building back better, it is also a matter of building back sustainably.”
The cash-for-work and recovery program builds on UNDP’s extensive experience in reconstruction and rebuilding.
To meet the urgent needs of the devastated communities, UNDP is seeking another $10 million for recovery through the Typhoon Haiyan Action Plan launched on November 13 in Manila.