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‘Not enough’

U.N. chides govt for neglecting Yolanda victims

THE  Aquino administration has not done enough to rebuild after Super Typhoon “Yolanda,” as thousands remain in shanties without power or water for nearly two years, a United Nations representative said Saturday.

“While the government is to be commended in terms of its immediate responses, its attention to ensuring sustainable durable solutions for IDPs (internally displaced persons) remains inadequate to date,” UN special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons Chaloka Beyani said in a statement posted on the UN website.

But the Palace glossed over the criticism and thanked  Beyani for commending the Philippines for “its effective response to the devastation brought about by Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013.”

Inadequate. File photo shows some of Tacloban City residents still  living  in temporary tent houses  and shanties at Bgy. San Jose a year after the onslaught of  super typhoon Yolanda.  EY ACASIO
According to a Palace statement posted on its website, Beyani “praised the Philippine government for its efforts in extending assistance to internally displaced persons.”

“We agree with the observations and we thank him for recognizing the efforts of government when it comes to caring for internally displaced persons,” said Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte.

But Beyani actually underlined that many storm survivors have had to endure relocating to evacuation camps up to three times since Yolanda struck in 2013, and the sub-standard housing leaves them vulnerable to future typhoons.

Beyani was in the Philippines in late July to check on the government’s handling of people displaced by Haiyan and by fighting between the military and Muslim rebels in the south.

Aside from falling short of safety standards, the wood-and-tin “bunkhouses” also leave women and girls vulnerable to sexual abuse and early pregnancy, Beyani said.

The box-like shanties also rob the storm survivors of their “privacy and dignity” as they struggle to rebuild their lives, he said.

Beyani urged the Philippine government to follow-through with its commitments and devote much needed attention and resources to IPDs  “until durable solutions are attained and their futures are secured.”

Beyani visited Tacloban where he assessed the impact of all forms of internal displacement, including those caused by disasters, armed conflict, and development projects on the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples.

He expressed concern that “attention and resources appear to be waning before durable solutions are achieved and some IDPs remain in dire situations.”

Beyani expressed surprise that despite huge resources spent or earmarked for infrastructure projects, for many displaced communities basic service provision, including water, sanitation and electricity are lacking almost two years after Yolanda.

Some families “seem to have become stuck in substandard ‘bunkhouse’ accommodation or fallen entirely through the protection net,” he commented.

Beyani urged the government to rapidly take concrete steps to resolve problems affecting IDPs, and adopt what would be a landmark law on the rights of IPDs following more than a decade of deliberation.

“An ‘almost law’ is as good as no law at all,” the UN expert said.

“For a country prone to disasters and the displacement effects of long-standing conflicts it is essential to enshrine the rights and protection of IDPs into law. Not to do so after a decade of debate sends a wrong signal about the Government’s commitment to ensuring respect for their rights and withholds essential legal protection from IDPs,” he said.

Beyani likewise urged an intensified effort to achieve inclusive and lasting peace  means of ending the conflicts which have displaced millions over the last four decades.

“Conflict, militarization and displacement have become the common pattern in some localities and responses to conflict driven displacement crisis need to be more effective in some areas where they have gone from poor to almost non-existent,”  Beyani said.

“Armed conflict or intrusive development projects not only displace indigenous peoples and subject them to conditions that may bring about their destruction as peoples, they also destroy their homes and livelihoods,”  he said.

Yolanda [international name: Haiyan], the most powerful storm ever recorded to hit land, wiped out entire communities and left 7,350 dead or missing when it struck the impoverished central islands in November 2013.

Roughly 2,000 families remain in the bunkhouses as well as in palm-thatch temporary homes, said Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman.

The government aims to move 70 percent of the 2,000 into permanent concrete homes by year-end, she said.

“We are aware of the need to fast-track the permanent shelters, but there are constraints,” Soliman told AFP.

Soliman said the lack of power and running water in some areas was due to local governments’ unpaid utility bills.

An increase in land prices also delayed the construction of permanent homes as land owners cashed in on government demand, she said.

President Benigno Aquino has budgeted P160 billion ($3.6 billion) to rebuild after Haiyan, considered as one of the major tests of his six-year term that will end in June next year.

Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez
But Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, whose district was the hardest-hit by Yolanda, said the Aquino administration has not even provided clear funding sources in the national budget for its Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan and has caused dismal and snail-paced implementation of rebuilding efforts.

Romualdez said the government is just looking for savings to support programs under CRRP, resulting to the downloading of only P47 billion out of the P167.9 billion committed funds for CRRP as of June 2015.

“I noticed that (the Aquino administration) has not even identified the sources of funds for the master plan that was laid out for the P170 billion requirement,” the lawmaker said.

“There is no definite sourcing of funds so the (Department of Budget and Management) will have to rely on savings and the whims of officials on whatever they can carve out of savings or justify as savings,” said Romualdez, president of the Philippine Constitution Association.

“Everything that has been done by the Aquino administration is a Band Aid solution to the problem,” Romualdez said.

Topics: Martin Romualdez , Congressman Martin Romualdez , Cong Martin Romualdez , Representative Martin Romualdez , Ferdinand Martin Romualdez , Tacloban , Leyte
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