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100 days of nightmare

Survivors: Plight made worse by criminal neglect

ONE hundred days after super typhoon Yolanda flattened Leyte and Eastern Samar, some 12,000  survivors from remote areas in these two provinces slammed the Aquino administration for its “criminal neglect” of their plight.

Sister Edita Eslopor, a Benedictine
nun and head of the “People Surge,” 
an alliance of Yolanda victims, takes
up the plight of the super typhoon
survivors during a news forum at
Anabel’s  in Quezon City on Saturday.
MANNY PALMERO
This developed as opposition lawmakers  renewed their appeal to the national government to come up with a comprehensive plan that will address the needs of the typhoon survivors.          

In a weekly forum at Annabel’s in Quezon City, Sister Edita Eslopor, a Benedictine nun and leader of People Surge, expressed disappointment over the government’s negligence to look after the welfare of the other typhoon victims.

“After 100 days, we at the remote parts of the Eastern Visayas have not felt any hope of recovery. Rehabilitation and relief assistance are just focused on the cities of Leyte and Eastern Samar, and not on far-flung towns also heavily damaged by Yolanda,” said Eslopor.

She added that  her group will press President Benigno Aquino III to meet their demands with a People Surge march on Feb. 17, 10 a.m., which will start at the Morayta area towards Malacanang where they would submit a petition  to him and ask him to provide the victims with  immediate financial assistance.

In Congress, Representatives Luz Ilagan of Gabriela and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna of the Makabayan Bloc;  and Jonathan dela Cruz of Abakada party-list of the House Independent Minority Bloc, lamented the continuing government inaction towards the typhoon victims, even as reports of looting persisted.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon also filed House Resolution 815 to call for an in-depth review and assessment of the government’s rehabilitation plan as today (February 16) marks the 100th day since Super Typhoon Yolanda struck.

Ridon noted that while Congress passed a P14.6 billion as supplemental budget for the typhoon survivors and international pledges have reached over P24.9 billion, the government has done little to improve the situation in the typhoon-ravaged provinces.

“Despite the release of billions in public funds and the outpour of international support, rehabilitation and reconstruction in affected areas have remained at a very slow pace. A hundred days since the disaster and almost two months after the release of RAY, no pertinent plan of action has been implemented to address the needs of the areas struck by Typhoon Yolanda, leaving our countrymen helpless and dependent on humanitarian aid,” Ridon said.

Released last December 16, RAY (Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda), is a 30-page rehabilitation plan that sets the Aquino administration’s coordinated relief, rehabilitation, and rebuilding efforts for areas affected by Yolanda.

Ilagan, meanwhile, lamented the rising number of deaths in evacuation centers in Zamboanga City, with many families displaced after the bloody terror attack by members of the Moro National Liberation Front on September last year.

Some of the Yolanda survivors and victims’ families display
placards demanding  action from the Aquino administration
and seeking an end to government’s “criminal neglect” during
a protest in Quezon City to mark the  100th day of the
calamity. MANNY PALMERO
“It is more than Noynoying.  Noynoying simply means dillydallying, or being slow in taking action.  What is happening in the Yolanda areas (three months ago, even in the Zamboanga siege (five months ago) and in Pablo areas two years ago) that are all waiting for proper rehabilitation and rebuilding, indicate incompetence, inefficiency and insensitivity. Add to this inglorious list-corruption,” Ilagan said.

Ilagan criticized the national government for failure to cooperate with the local government officials to fast-track the delivery of basic social services for the victims of calamity-stricken areas.

“The money is there (billions!), the LGUs are more than capable and willing to work but the national offices are still as distant as the moon,” Ilagan added.

Zarate agreed with Ilagan.  “The Noynoyingly slow and inadequate response to fast-track the rehabilitation of Leyte, Samar and other devastated areas is so telling in the rising number of casualties one hundred days after Yolanda’s wrath (last November 8),” Zarate said.

“Worse, it appears that the push for privatization of the Aquino administration is not only limited to our public utilities and hospitals but also included disaster areas as it also plan to hand the rehabilitation to its favored private partners,” he added.

Dela Cruz, on the other hand, urged the national government to work hand in hand with the LGUs so that the day to day basic necessities of the Yolanda survivors and victims are well-taken care of.

He also blasted the Aquino administration’s ‘ever slowing response’ to the problem.

He warned that “too much centralization and control will breed red tape, lethargy and corruption.”

Espolor, meanwhile, said there is now mounting anger over the government’s neglect to lift the victims from misery, she said.

“We, some 12,000 victims, gathered in one place, raised our complaints and expressed our anger. We expected the government would focus on rehabilitation and continued relief assistance, to no avail,” she added.

“People are too angry with the government. There is too much poverty and hunger in remote areas of the typhoon-affected areas,” she said.

Eslopor said People Surge was organizers after a group of survivors in remote areas in Eastern Visayas felt neglected by the national government.

The nun added that victims need safer relocation sites, agricultural support, cash relief of P40,000 each family, food and relief assistance, and not bunkhouses and infrastructure rehabilitation.

Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman also earned the wrath of the typhoon survivors over the conversion of a $6-million aid from the United Nations Children’s Fund into the government’s dole-out scheme under the conditional cash transfer.

“The problem with the DSWD is that it is claiming credit where it is not due,” Eslopor’s statement read.

The nun said Soliman was merely riding on the UN aid to cover up for the government’s “criminal” negligence. With Maricel V. Cruz

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