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Japan gives P58m to storm victims

THE Japan International Cooperation Agency turned over to Yolanda-stricken fishermen in Eastern Samar ¥150 million (P58 million) worth of equipment as part of a ¥4.6-billion aid program for areas devastated by the typhoon in 2013.

JICA Philippines Chief Representative Noriaki Niwa in a statement on Saturday said they hope to contribute to the restoration of “economic opportunities in typhoon Yolanda-affected areas” as the Philippines’ development partner.

JICA turned over a total of 86 types of equipment for production of fish seedlings and algae to the Guiuan Marine Fisheries Development Center and also helped farmers reestablish grouper farms and rehabilitate the public fish market.

JICA also gave milkfish and oyster racks to fishermen in Tanauan, Leyte as well as submersible typhoon-resistant fish cages in Basey, Western Samar.

The Japanese aid agency announced the donations after a civil society group urged a congressional probe into the “pathetic and slow progress” in rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in areas battered by Yolanda, and the lack of transparency in how funds were being spent by the government.

“We are now seeking Congress’ decisive action to address this alarming inefficiency and absence of clear plans to bridge the gaps in the recovery and reconstruction for Yolanda areas,” said the head of Social Watch Philippines and former national treasurer Leonor Magtolis Briones.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the House independent minority bloc, also lamented the delay in the releases of funds and urged the government to accord some urgency in the construction of “resilient and build-back-better compliant housing for Yolanda-affected families.”

Some 132,000 families who belong to the poorest of the poor remain homeless and are still living in tent cities and bunkhouses in Tacloban and other areas devastated by Super Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ as President Benigno Aquino III has yet to approve the release of P54 billion for housing resettlement, Briones said.

UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons Chaloka Beyani recently expressed surprise that despite huge resources spent or earmarked for infrastructure projects, basic services including water, sanitation and electricity are lacking almost two years after Yolanda, Briones said.

“He found that some families remain in substandard ‘bunkhouse’ accommodations or have fallen entirely through the protection net,” Briones said.

“When Yolanda struck in 2013, we saw an unprecedented demonstration of heroism and basic humanity in humanitarian response. Government efforts were ably supported backed by complementary efforts from non-government organizations and the private sector,” said Isagani Serrano, SWP co-convenor.

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