FOUR years after Typhoon Yolanda devastated the Visayas region, thousands of survivors in the province of Antique continue to suffer from flooding in an unfinished rehabilitation site.
Fr. Jose Elmer Cajilig, Region 6 lead convenor and Visayas co-convenor of the pro-Duterte group Kilusang Pagbabago (KP), on Sunday disclosed that the flooding has also destroyed hectares of ricefields in Barangay Puho, Hatay-Hatay, Calog Lacayon and Cubay in South Bugasong town in Antique.
He, at the same time, appealed to make Yolanda survivors a priority.
Some 1,781 houses in the site are being built for victims of the super typhoon, which ripped through the region, particularly Tacloban City (Leyte), in November 2013.
“The flooding was caused by a covered creek in the relocation site. Water seeks its own level and everytime it rains, sand and debris are carried by flood waters into the ricefields of the hapless farmers,” Cajilig said in a telephone interview with The Manila Times.
According to Cajilig, the affected farmers have brought the matter to the attention of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) Michael Lloyd Diño.
He alleged that Diño has taken no action to address the problem and even branded it as fake news.
“We are sad that situations like this affecting our poor farmers are brushed aside as fake news. I have personally visited the site and we have pictures and videos to prove that they are for real,” the priest added.
He said the farmers have pleaded to him for help and asked him to bring the matter to the attention of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Kilusang Pagbabago, which has chapters all over the country and abroad, is aligned with the Office for Participatory Governance (OPG) under the Office of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr.
The KP, Cajilig said, will also bring the problem to the attention of appropriate government agencies and will not stop until it is addressed.
In a statement, OPAV Assistant Secretary Anthony Gerald Gonzales said Diño received verbal instruction from President Duterte to immediately relocate the Yolanda victims from the danger zone to housing units in different relocation sites in Tacloban City, when both of them visited the city on November 8 last year.
“On 14 January 2017, PA [Presidential Assistant] Diño formally handed over the work he did in Tacloban City to government line agencies during a meeting presided by Cabinet Secretary [Leoncio] Evasco in Davao City,” Gonzales added.
He said the construction of the housing units is undertaken by the National Housing Authority.
But Cajilig said, “If Diño turned over responsibility to [Evasco]… in December 2016, then why did he still inspect the Yolanda housing sites in northern Cebu using two Philippine Air Force helicopters in late January 2017, bringing along some reporters?”
He added that a Malacañang order in August 2017 also named Diño as co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Yolanda, being the “man on the ground” in the Visayas.