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Filipinos urged: Be resilient, stand united

MALACAñANG on Wednesday urged Filipinos to “stand united and exhibit the strong and resilient Filipino spirit” as the nation remembered those who died from the onslaught of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” on Nov. 8, 2013. 

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the failure of the previous administration in handling the post-rehabilitation of typhoon-affected areas demanded greater “courage and compassion” from our leaders. 

“As we commemorate the deadliest typhoon that hit the Philippines on record and offer prayers to those who lost their lives, we also keep in mind the lessons learned brought by such great tragedy,” Roque said. 

“As we move forward, we must continue to stand united and exhibit the strong and resilient Filipino spirit as we build a better nation where there is comfortable life for all,” he added. 

In Congress, Leyte Rep. Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt-Romualdez urged Congress to appropriate funds to build adequate housing units, potable water, electricity and other basic needs for  “Yolanda” survivors.

Romualdez made her appeal during the fourth year  “Yolanda” commemoration following an order of President Rodrigo Duterte to prosecute those behind alleged inhumane and substandard housing projects in  “Yolanda”-stricken areas.

Romualdez lamented that many  “Yolanda” victims and even millions of Filipinos have continued to live in cramped, unsanitary structures in unsafe, and hazardous locations, adding now was the time for Congress to pour more resources to address the acute housing backlog in the country.

“In giving shelters to them [“Yolanda” victims and informal settlers], we should ensure that the area is livable and accessible. Meaning their jobs and livelihood are assured and protected. Relocating them to areas far from their workplaces is an exercise in futility and won’t address the housing woes,” Romualdez pointed out, adding road and water access and basic infrastructure were needed to realize a successful socialized-housing program.

“I believe that President Duterte can provide dignified shelters for calamity victims especially the survivors of Super Typhoon  “Yolanda”,” said Romualdez. 

“I appeal to the government to expedite the construction of decent housing for “Yolanda” survivors. Let us work together in the quickest and most direct route to achieve this goal.”

She also thanked the first responders, including Duterte, volunteers, local and international donors who have shown “malasakit” (compassion) to them immediately after the onslaught of  “Yolanda.”

“Thank you for the selflessness of all volunteers and organizations that took part and contributed in the recovery and rehabilitation efforts of the communities affected by the typhoon, “ said  Romualdez.

In related developments:

• Anti-poverty commission chief Liza Masa said “Government agencies must utilize every single cent of the rehabilitation funds for Eastern Visayas to hasten poverty alleviation in communities wrecked by  “Yolanda” in 2013.”

The Commission on Audit recently disclosed that the Philippine Coconut Authority had not properly accounted some P2.45 billion allotted for the Yolanda Rehabilitation and Recovery Program. 

Much of the P18.89-billion YRRP fund in the 2016 General Appropriations Act remain untouched, according to reports last March.

The NAPC called for the immediate utilization of all  “Yolanda” rehab funds to provide social services and address the housing needs of the typhoon survivors.

Lawmakers reported that only 33 percent of the planned 200,000 housing units for the  “Yolanda”-affected areas have been constructed.

Around 40 community leaders from six provinces of Eastern Visayas gathered in Palo, Leyte on Nov. 5 for a three-day regional disaster survivors’ conference, the first since the onslaught of the super-typhoon four years ago.

The NAPC and the Leyte Center for Development, a disaster response and development-oriented non-government organization, brought together farmers, fisherfolk, and workers to discuss the present conditions of their communities and the recovery efforts implemented by concerned government agencies.

Official records show that Eastern Visayas surpassed the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as the poorest region in the country in 2014 after “Yolanda.” 

It was also the second highest coconut producer in 2013 with almost 50-million trees.

LCDE executive director Minet Jerusalem said that 90 percent of the coconut trees in their region were destroyed during the storm surge based on ground reports.

• Yolanda survivors said they were not happy with the way the Office of the Ombudsman is treating the National Housing Authority and its contractors in the rehabilitation of Eastern

Visayas.

     At a news conference in Quezon City, Aaron Pedrosa, a lawyer activist of Sanlakas and the Community of Yolanda Survivors and Partners questioned the Ombudsman for its failure to conduct a motu propio investigation into the findings of a series of congressional

inquiry and ocular inspections that construction materials used to build homes for the typhoon-affected residents were substandard.

      “Why put the burden of filing of charges against those accountable on the shoulders of the typhoon victims?” he asked.

     “Moreover, the rehabilitation of the  “Yolanda”-devastated areas has already become a business. The government partners with a contractor tapping a subcontractor that would also get other subcontractors. There is layering [of project contracts].”

In a related development, Negros Occidental Rep. Albee Benitez, the chairman of the House committee on housing and urban development, vowed to bring to justice officials and private contractors for the delay and substandard quality of housing project for  “Yolanda”-affected families.

       Benitez shared Romualdez’s concern that four years had passed yet thousands still lived in temporary housing or in danger zones. 

“It appears that, for many families, the tragedy continues.”

       Benitez’s committee panel has led a series of public hearings in Eastern Samar, Tacloban and Congress since August to probe the snail-paced implementation of Yolanda housing projects.

The committee discovered that aside from delays in the construction, substandard materials were allegedly used in the Yolanda housing project in Balangiga, Eastern Samar.

Under the Duterte administration, the government has pursued rehabilitation and reconstruction of  “Yolanda”-affected communities, Roque said.  

“We have rehabilitated seaport and airport facilities and classrooms.  Our shelter assistance in Tacloban City is the most successful model in the Yolanda Permanent Housing Program with the most number of resettlement houses occupied at 10,703 units from a total housing target of 14,433 houses,” Duterte’s spokesman said.

Topics: Super Typhoon , Yolanda , Survivors
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