Violet ribbons express typhoon victims’ anger
TACLOBAN CITY—Protesters festooned the streets with violet ribbons and carried placards to demonstrate their displeasure at the slow government response to the plight of typhoon Yolanda survivors as President Benigno Aquino III arrived to visit the storm victims in Eastern Visayas Tuesday.
Aquino visited Tanauan and Tacloban in Leyte to break ground on various rehabilitation projects initiated by public agencies and private organizations, and to celebrate the 28th anniversary of the EDSA People Power uprising.
Andrew Sudario, media liaison of the People Surge alliance of typhoon survivors, said that the violet ribbons “signified the neglect of President Benigno Aquino III” and the failure of his administration to respond to the demands of the typhoon victims.
“We do not think that visiting the Yolanda survivors as the President is doing will really serve their interests. We think that the President is just feigning concern for the victims and spending a few hours with them for photo ops and media interviews, which is nothing more than paying lip service to their urgent appeals for government assistance,” the alliance said in a statement.
More than 200 placard-bearing protesters led by People Surge lined the streets of Tanauan to show their disgust at Aquino’s refusal to grant them immediate cash assistance.
The leftist group Bayan also staged separate rallies along the streets where Aquino’s convoy passed enroute to Tacloban.
Jun Berino, secretary general of Bayan in the region, called on the President to heed the cry of typhoon survivors.
“The victims want to know what is the plan of the government for them and how rehabilitation program works for them. They wanted to be included in the consultation,” said Berino.
“Aquino will face our continued protest for his failure to address the plight of the victims and for the anti-poor policy of his rehabilitation program. Aquino should resign because he is no longer doing his job,” he added.
People Surge has called on the government to immediately release P40,000 in cash assistance to each survivor family and to scrap its no-build zone close to the coast.
The government has rejected both demands.
But Efleda Bautista, a storm survivor and executive vice chairperson of People Surge, said the cash assistance was crucial to the survivors, most of whom were peasants.
“We want to emphasize that this is a big issue for the peasants who were left penniless by Yolanda, to make it clearer to a hacendero president to grasp that it is a matter of life and death for millions in Eastern Visayas. If the President cannot address the crisis caused by Yolanda as well as other issues of real concern to the people, his capability to govern is already under question.” Bautista added.
On Tuesday, the president of Cebu Municipal Mayors League rejected the People Surge demand for P40,000 in cash assistance, saying the government should give them construction materials instead.
In a phone interview, Tuburan town Mayor Aljun Diamante, president of Cebu Municipal Mayors League, said this was more practical, because cash could be wasted.
On the occasion of the 28th EDSA People Power uprising, People Surge called on the public to unite again so as to “awaken the Aquino government “ to the real issues of the typhoon victims.
“It is just right that people unite and sustain their actions to awaken the deaf and blind president of the country. If Aquino will not act on this, time will come that we will be calling for his immediate ouster from office,” Sudario said.
In Cebu, Aquino dismissed the alliance demands.
“Let’s us not forget that there are 3 million plus families, about 16 million people affected by the typhoon,” he said.
“It is no joke [feeding so many people]. Some 280,000 families have to be taken care of every two days. That’s 140,000 food packs a day that must be transported from Mindanao or Luzon,” he added.
In Tanauan, Aquino inspected a permanent relocation site and a rehabilitated school, and led the groundbreaking of a public plaza with a private sector partner, Double Dragon Properties Corp.
Aquino also led the groundbreaking of the new Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center with another private sector partner, the International Container Terminal Services Inc.
Dr. Cirilo R. Galindez, chief of hospital at the center, said about P500 million was initially released for the construction of a 500-bed “state-of-the-art” hospital, which is expected to be finished by 2016.
The government’s equity is the land for the building.
The old site of medical center, about 10 kilometers from the new site, was wiped out by the storm sure during last year’s typhoon.
Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez expressed thanks to the proponents of the new hospital project particularly to Enrique Razon, chairman and chief executive of ICTSI.
Aquino arrived in Tanauan, about 21 kilometers from Tacloban City, at about 1:45 p.m. onboard a helicopter from Cebu and went directly to Barangay Pago to inspect the ongoing construction of 1,500 housing units built by the Gawad Kalinga charitable organization.
In his speech at the town plaza, Aquino said that the main reason of his visit to Leyte was to know first hand the current situation and to make sure that all the needs of the survivors were being addressed. He added that residents in the no-build-zone area should be evacuated to a safer place to make sure that fatalities are kept low in the next strong typhoon.
Aquino informed the crowd that more than 20,000 housing units will be built in Leyte for the victims of the super typhoon. The President was accompanied by 11 Cabinet secretaries, including Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, the Cabinet head for Task Force Rehabilitation for Eastern Visayas and Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas III.
The President said the government has done enough to bring immediate support to typhoon Yolanda survivors in Cebu contrary to accusations of People Surge.
The President reminded the public about the magnitude of the problem caused by typhoon Yolanda noting the government is dealing with more than 3 million affected families or 16 million people.
Forty-four of the country’s 81 provinces were affected, and the President said the government was able to respond to the needs of those areas.
This year in Bantayan Island, he said there were 3,476 affected families and the government was able to provide close to 7,000 food packs for them.
Bantayan island also needs 253 classrooms which will cost P133 million. It also needs three rural health units costing P17 million; 28 multi-purpose barangay halls-P37 million; and public market- P5 million, he said.
The government is also distributing today 100 boats so that fishermen in Bantayan island can start anew, the President added.
In Cebu, the President warned the heads of the agencies responsible for restoring power in Cateel, Davao Oriental, one of the areas hardest hit by typhoon Pablo in December 2012, that they must address the problem or they should resign.
“I have asked the concerned departments: how come over a year later (there is still no electricity in some parts of Cateel)? Perhaps it was due to the bureaucratic processes. They pointed fingers and passed the buck as to who should be held accountable,” the President said.
“I was not happy with them. That means next time that I follow it up with them, my question would be: when will there be electricity or when will you submit your resignation letters?”
“They only have two options. I am a very simple man and I talk plainly. We have work to do, and they must do their work or they will be sorry for not doing it,” the President added.
Aquino on Monday said there has already been a request from the National Electrification Administration for additional funds to bring back power in parts of Cateel, but when he checked it with the Department of Budget and Management, the request form was nowhere to be found.
This prompted Aquino to discuss the issue with Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, NEA administrator Edita Bueno and Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla.
Aquino also noted that only 110 permanent houses have so far been built in Cateel.
The President said the remaining 1,179 permanent houses in Cateel will be completed by August. With Marvin T. Modelo, Joyce Pangco Panares and Junex Doronio
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