Now that search, rescue and relief operations in areas ravaged by monster storm Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) are finally getting organized after more than one week, the more demanding task of rebuilding homes and infrastructures should soon begin.
While many survivors who have lost their homes have left Tacloban and nearby areas to either stay with relatives or try their luck elsewhere, most of them have chosen to remain.
We have seen video footages showing families collecting pieces of wood and iron sheets from the typhoon debris to put up temporary shelters that they can call home.
As of 6 p.m. on Nov. 16, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) estimated damage to public infrastructure at P1.25 billion and to agriculture at P9.09 billion in Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Visayas and Caraga regions.
NDRRMC data showed the number of damaged houses at 494, 611, of which 248, 176 were completely destroyed while 246, 435 could still be repaired.
Given the government’s very conservative estimates, and considering that there are still many affected towns that have not reported damages, the number could still dramatically increase in the next few days.
Time is running fast. People are getting more impatient as days pass by and a good number of the victims remain unattended, especially in remote towns and villages in Samar and Leyte.
As of Saturday evening, the government’s official count of the dead was at 3,637 while 12,501 were injured and 1,186 missing. Again, the numbers are expected to still go up in the days ahead.
Clearing the debris that Yolanda left behind may take a few more weeks. Building new homes, schools, offices and business establishments will take months to complete.
But the government could no longer afford to squander time and resources in putting back the shattered cities and towns back on their feet.
President Aquino and Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson should take advantage of the overwhelming support from the international community and tap the services of experts on planning and zoning for the reconstruction of areas leveled by Yolanda’s monster winds and killer storm surges.
For sure survivors in Tacloban and other cities and towns of Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Negros, Iloilo, Capiz, Antique, Albay, Mindoro and other affected provinces can stand on their feet again in the same way that victims of other destructive typhoons and volcanic eruptions in previous years did.
Yes, the extent of Yolanda’s damage has been unparalleled in recent history. Given the Filipino’s courage and resilience, the survivors will soon be rebuilding their homes with renewed hope for a better life. Government can make their journey back home less difficult by making sure that the survivors get the support they need to be able to start anew. We need decisive leadership toward the road to recovery.
Yolanda has brought out the best, and also the worst, in us. Let’s trash the worst that was characterized by the so-called blame game, name-calling, cursing, heckling and bashing. Instead, let’s carry on the best, particularly the Bayanihan spirit and the overflowing acts of charity and volunteerism that we saw in the preparation and distribution of relief packages, and clearing the roadblocks.
Partisan politicking should not have a place in the tough task of reconstruction and rebuilding the lives of survivors. Instead, this phase offers an opportunity to the country’s leaders, regardless of their political colors, to show the world that we can be united in hurdling adversities brought about by the super storm.
Bangladesh has shown the world through its $1-million humanitarian aid for the typhoon victims that even a poorer country that is also frequently visited by calamities can also be one with the international community in helping the victims to renew their shattered dreams and pick up the pieces again to live normally.
The government and private organizations entrusted with millions and billions of pesos in humanitarian aid must be transparent and judicious in disbursing the monies for the victims. Prove to the donors that their help won’t end up in wasteful spending or, worse, in somebody else’s pockets.
Together, we can give the survivors a new ray of hope as they rebuild their life. Give them reason to appreciate sunrise and be inspired to pursue their dreams of living a decent life even if they lost one or more members of their family and friends to Yolanda’s fury.