Survivors hit with a double whammy

Survivors of   Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ (Haiyan) on Wednesday appealed to President Benigno Aquino III to provide decent shelters to 10,000 families who will be displaced  by  the P7.9-billion  plan to build a dike as protection against  storm surges.

In an open letter,  the Urban Poor Associates said it may not be against the Department of Public Works and Highways  project dubbed as “Storm Surge Protection: Road Heightening and Tide Embankment” project, but lamented that until now the 10,000 survivor-families have not been relocated into permanent housing units that the national government has promised them.

“The families currently  living in the project site are at risk of losing their homes again because until now, the promised permanent housing units are not completed yet and issues regarding living standards—such as shallow septic tanks, an open dumpsite nearby and poor drainage system—remain,”  the  survivors said.

Since Typhoon Yolanda hit the country in November 2013, families are still living in  temporary shelters made of light   materials    which render them vulnerable to  typhoons.

“Life is hard in these houses. They are overcrowded, poorly ventilated, and a lot of kids are getting sick,” the typhoon survivors said in the letter. 

The dike project of the  DPWH covers  the 27.3-kilometer stretch of shoreline from Tacloban City to Tanauan, Leyte.

So far, the National Housing Authority said there are only 534 permanent houses that have been   turned over to the families while  13,801 houses  are yet to be built.

“In some barangays, people have to travel far to fetch water. It is extra difficult for women, children, and the elderly, and consumed so much time that could have been spent doing productive work. In some barangays, families have to wait for the government’s water ration, and it’s usually not enough,” the letter said.

Tacloban fisherfolk leader  Losanto  Castillo Jr., who is  also one of the letter’s signatories, said that two years after Haiyan (Yolanda)  struck their province, poor communities are still struggling to survive. 

He said  that the dike project can threaten the only source of livelihood of his fellow fisherfolks.

“It is already difficult for us to make enough money to feed our families because Haiyan destroyed the fishing grounds thus reducing our daily catch,” he said. “This project limits our livelihood options because there are no guarantees that we will not  be moved  far from the sea, or that there are areas along the tide embankment structure where it will be safe for us to leave our boats.”

Algina Lacaba, United Northern IDP Resettlement Association said that the government should prioritize  first resolving the  lack  of water in the permanent sites before embarking on another project. 

“We laud the government for this infrastructure project, but we hope this will not be done in haste and at the expense of the welfare of the families displaced by Haiyan,” Lacaba said.

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