Storm victims desperate

10,000 sign petition for immediate cash relief

MORE than 10,000 victims of super typhoon “Yolanda” and their supporters have signed a petition urging President Benigno Aquino III to provide P40,000 in immediate financial assistance to every affected family, citing the government’s “slow and unreliable program” to help them.

The victims urged Malacañang to release the money on or before Feb. 14, saying they needed help desperately.

Recognition. President Benigno
Aquino III, assisted by Social
Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman,
presents an Award of Recognition to
Noemi Mongaya, one of two survivors
of a helicopter crash in Leyte who
were involved in relief operations
there following the destruction
wreaked by super typhoon “Yolanda.”
Mongaya received her award during
the Department of Social Welfare’s
63rd anniversary.
Malacañang Photo Bureau
“It’s been two months since typhoon Yolanda struck the country and the victims are hardly coping. We are homeless, jobless, hungry and sick,” said Patrick Escalona, a typhoon victim in Tacloban City and one of the community leaders of the Alliance of Typhoon Yolanda’s Victims in Tacloban.

“Our children cannot go to school yet. We know there are funds for the victims but we don’t know where the government’s rehabilitation program is headed,” Escalona said.

He made the statement even as Aquino praised Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman for what he said was the hard work and dedication she had shown during the calamities that struck the country during the latter half of 2013.

Aquino praised Soliman during her department’s 63rd anniversary, saying the department had surpassed itself in attending to the needs of the survivors of those calamities.

“Even Secretary Soliman, there were times that she would already close her eyes, but she would nod her head and answer,” Aquino said.

“But sometimes I also have to pause and wait for her to open her eyes.”

Vice President Jejomar Binay said the National Housing Authority will provide some 60,000 permanent housing units to the survivors of Yolanda in six regions covering 14 provinces and 171 cities and municipalities from 2014 to 2016.

Binay, who heads the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, said the groundbreaking will be held in eight projects sites in Leyte and Eastern Samar this month.

“The houses to be constructed by the NHA will be permanent homes for the survivors aned will be build on permanent relocation sites,” Binay said.

“The bunkhouses being constructed by the Department of Public Works and Highways are temporary shelters.”

Yolanda devastated the Visayas on Nov. 8 last year, and to this day dead bodies are still being recovered by the dozen daily. Over 90 percent of the casualties in Leyte are unidentified.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has said at least 6,201 people have been reported dead and about 1,785 others are still missing, bringing the death toll to over 8,000. Another 28,628 people were injured.

Yolanda affected 16 million people in 591 towns and 57 cities in 44 provinces, and half of the total dead were from Leyte.

The 10,000 people who signed the petition for aid marked the first time that the victims have directly complained about the Aquino administration’s rehabilitation efforts, while local and international relief groups have criticized the slow distribution of relief goods or favoritism in their distribution.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development has been criticized for hoarding relief goods in Cebu while the Interior Department has been criticized for playing politics in the distribution of aid.

Even the teams of the United States military, the first foreign groups to to arrive in the country, have complained that they could not reach the disaster victims because the roads have not been cleared of debris.

Baroness Valerie Amos, a United Nations relief official, has also complained that UN relief teams could still not reach the victims a week after the typhoon hit the country because of “access and logistical challenges.”

The petitioning victims say the money they are requesting will only suffice for two months for a family of six.

And “given the lack of government control over prices, the prices of basic commodities have increased by as much as 50 to 100 percent in the typhoon-hit areas like Tacloban City,” Escalona said.

“It means that the P40,000 in immediate relief could hardly compensate for the basic food and non-food needs of a six-member family even for a month,” Escalona said in an emailed statement to the Manila Standard.

“We were told that the Aquino government’s rehabilitation program will benefit the typhoon victims, but we were not consulted even once. How will that really work for us? We doubt it would.”

Escalona also criticized the “snail-paced and unsystematic delivery of food packs and shelter relief kits considering the fact that two months have passed since the super typhoon struck the region.”

According to Escalona’s group, thousands of displaced families cannot return home because their houses have been partially or totally destroyed and they do not have the materials to rebuild them.

“Worse, the residents living along the coastal villages cannot go back because their communities have been declared off-limits by no less than the Aquino government,” Escalona said.

“If the government can easily allocate pork barrel funds for congressmen and the President, there is no reason why the same government cannot provide immediate monetary relief to us victims.” With Joyce Pangco Pañares



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