2 Yolanda survivors die in relocation site
TWO of survivors of Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda,’’ an old man and an eight-month-old baby, have died due to the inhumane condition at the government tent city and bunkhouses, where thousands of families remain two years after the onslaught flattened Eastern Visayas.
People Surge, an alliance of disaster survivors, and the peasant women group Amihan, or National Federation of Peasant Women, said only 16,000 of the 200,000 homes have been built by the national government so far.
“A number of bunkhouse residents have suffered from water-borne diseases and conditions brought about by extreme heat such as cough, cold, fever, and diarrhea, which resulted in the death of two residents of IPI bunkhouse in Tacloban City,” said Marissa Cabaljao, People’s Surge secretary general.
Cabaljao said an old man had died of heat stroke while the eight-month-old baby, the daughter of Gina Supang, succumbed to pneumonia on Sept. 22, 2015.
The Supang family lives in a small and cramped bunkhouse in Caibaan, Tacloban City, she said.
Zen Soriano, Amihan national chairperson, expressed outraged over the slow rehabilitation program for the Yolanda survivors.
Soriano said the bunkhouses were not livable as these were made of light materials such as very thin plywood as walls, and GI sheets as roof without a ceiling to protect the household members from heat during the day and cold weather at night.
“It has been almost two years after the Typhoon Yolanda hit the country but barely one-tenth [more than 16,000] out of the target of over 200,000 were built. At this rate, when will it be finished?” Soriano lamented.
Soriano questioned the explanation of housing officials that the problem in land acquisition caused the delay in the construction of the houses.
“It is clearly an issue of the government’s priority. They are taking such a long time identifying lands for the housing program. Yet, they have quickly identified areas for “development” projects serving the interests of big businesses at the expense of the displacement of farming and fishing communities,” Soriano stressed.
Amihan also condemned the DSWD-led program Emergency Shelter Assistance.
According to the group, the government’s “emergency” program is supposedly an immediate answer to the crisis brought about by the calamities.
“Two years is long enough and yet thousands of families are still living in bunkhouses, which were supposedly temporary shelters,” Soriano said.
Various complaints from Yolanda victims were recorded such as substandard shelters provided and families receiving partial amount or half of the supposed amount they should have received.
In Julita, Leyte alone, Soriano said some 391 families eligible for totally damaged category received P10,000 cash, instead of P30,000.
In Tunga, Leyte, she said a number of families that were non-residents in the municipality but relatives of the mayor were noted to have received P30,000.
“Worst is the exclusion of the victims from the list of beneficiaries due to the unjust and limiting guidelines issued by DSWD (Memorandum Circular No. 24) such as government employees with a monthly salary of P15,000 above, and families who are living in the “unsafe zone”,” Soriano said.
Amihan reiterated its demand to scrap the memorandum circular and unconditionally release the ESA to Yolanda victims. They also insisted a rehabilitation program in agriculture as most of the victims largely depend on farming and fishing as source of livelihood.
In the House, Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus demanded that Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman account for the unspent ESA funds that the lawmaker said did not go to the victims.
“It difficult to entrust the DSWD with any money for the rehabilitation victims because the agency is more interested in giving guidelines than distributing funds for the calamity victims,” De Jesus said.
De Jesus said several families have been interviewed and screened over and over again by different agency surveyors since ESA was announced as a fund facility six months after Yolanda.
DSWD crafted Memorandum Circular 24 that outlined unrealistic qualifications for entitlement, she said.
“On paper, the preambular rationale of MC 24 began with the need to fund house repairs regardless if families have received other aid from private groups and whether the destruction was partial or total, yet the conditions set were the opposite,” De Jesus told the plenary.
De Jesus asked Soliman why her memo was loaded against victims by virtue of their wrong location or having just received other aid from local officials.
“The guidelines set the assistance at P10,000 for owners of partially damaged houses and P30,000 for those with totally wrecked homes but only for those whose income was below P10,000, unilaterally without getting inputs through consultations from the victims rendered homeless by Yolanda,” De Jesus said.
According to De Jesus, government employees and public school teachers were excluded as their salaries were over P15,000 and were lamely told to acquire loans from the GSIS or Government Security Insurance Service.
“Fisherfolks were especially disallowed as they were deemed to be living in danger zones,” she added.
In May, De Jesus said, complainants marched to the Palace demanding the scrapping of MC 24 and the release of ESA to all Yolanda victims through other government instrumentalities as the DSWD proved a failure in disbursing the fund.
De Jesus supported the demand and proposed that the budget for shelter and its fund management should be removed from the DSWD as it is not within its technical expertise.