• Impediments to Yolanda rehabilitation

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    The international NGO Oxfam’s Philippine office has released a study, “Beyond Safe Land: Why security of land tenure is crucial in the Philippines post-Haiyan Recovery.” The study is the result of fieldwork done in key areas affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

    These areas are Bantayan Island in Cebu, Tacloban City, Tanawan, and Palo in Leyte, and Guiuan and Quinapondan in Samar.

    The Oxfam report points out that about one-third of the people of Eastern Visayas (32 percent) is among the country’s landless and that very poor people and families make up almost half of the population (45.5 percent). This condition has existed prior to Yolanda and the destruction wreaked by the super typhoon only made the people poorer and more miserable.

    Serious problems have beset the efforts to provide housing fit for humans to the victims rendered homeless. Perhaps these problems, apart from the lack of money that he complained about some weeks ago, caused Rehabilitation Czar Panfilo Lacson’s performance to be unimpressive. Last week there were rumors that he wanted to quit.

    The Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC) is an environmental non-government organization. It serves communities through programs in research, advocacy, education and training. Its people also do direct community services.

    CEC’s Executive Director Frances Quimpo sent us a letter that we believe correctly assesses the rehabilitation efforts in Yolanda-affected areas.

    The letter is titled “Impediments to Yolanda rehabilitation.”

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    We are one of many NGOs currently involved in the recovery and rehabilitation assistance of Yolanda-affected areas. This is a rejoinder to the pre-SONA feedback of international aid organizations, dismayed at the slow process the government has been taking in addressing the crisis. This is after all, an emergency and humanitarian situation.

    It has indeed been more than nine months since the disaster. Local and international organizations, as well as the communities themselves, have been practically left to their own devices in carrying out what little they can do to address the situation of millions displaced by Yolanda.

    After months of enduring the heat of summer in tents or bunkhouses, now, heightened storms intermittently pound on their hapless situation. This is worsened by the No Build/No Dwelling Zone policy that has not been matched with a relocation site that would be safe for their families and accessible to their sources of livelihood.

    The current situation is that there is more than a handful of NGOs which are providing and still ready to provide shelter assistance if only government can front-load the land and land development. With its emergency fund, as well as the donations the government has been receiving, this is not impossible. This is “building better” than partnering with private developers which see the situation from the point of view of making a profit, that only aggravates the country’s debt issues and the victims’ economic woes.

    As our organization advocates for a healthful environment, we are integrating traditional housing with ecologically sound and resilient designs and practices. Designs are to be made consistent not only with building codes and taking guidance from Shelter Cluster Philippines (2014), but also incorporate victim-beneficiaries’ concerns.

    However, aside from the problem of lack of land, partnering with government is further constrained by design issues. It appears that until now, government housing designs are the typical concrete “hot boxes,” that are hardly adaptive to the climate and local settings.

    The people should be involved in the settlement design process and its management, needless to say, heedful of the beneficiaries’ apprehensions.

    We call on the national government, and the Office of the Presidential Assistant on Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) to loosen up; listen to the victims, which as they say, are their real “bosses;” adapt to the local situation; support NGO initiatives, where available; and to please act swiftly.

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    We agree completely.

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    1 Comment

    1. I have seen first hand the Yoalanda situstion in Tacloban City and Palo. Yes; the problem is land availability. The local and national govts can only offer public lands which are in the forest zone and is usually islated from community centers. We have seen 3 “permanent relocation sites” in Palo, Leyte, – one given to the Fed of Chinese Chamber of Commerce, another to San Miguel Corpt, and the 3rd to GMA-TV. Each designed to accommodate 500 families. Except for the GMA site, the other two are on environmentally-critical areas, with steep slopes, and not fit for mass (500 units ea.) housing. The national govt has cash to acquire land right in the community centers; why relocate these poor people to the mountains? As the CEC observes, they are far from normal sources of livelihood. And what to do with fishing communities in the No build zones at coastal areas?