Aquino snubs storm victims

Survivors troop to Palace; gripes fall on deaf ears

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III refused to meet with survivors of super typhoon Yolanda who trooped to Malacañang Monday to demand P40,000 in cash assistance per family and the revocation of the no-build zone policy along coastal areas.

“We thought the President would meet with us. Maybe he was afraid to face the survivors of Yolanda,” said Sister Edita Eslopor, chairperson of the 12,000-strong alliance of Yolanda survivors called People Surge.

Eslopor said three representatives of People Surge were allowed to enter the Palace gate, and a personnel from the records office came out to receive their petition.

Ignored. Survivors of Typhoon Yolanda march on
Malacañang Palace on Monday to dialogue with
President Aquino on their plight in the Eastern
Visayas region. The marchers, however, were
not received by the President. SONNY ESPIRITU
“They said in two hours we will know their response. But we haven’t heard from them yet,” the Benedictine nun said.

“We were like criminals entering the Palace, with police escorts,” she added.

Eslopor also tore into Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman for bragging about $6 million in aid from the UN Children’s Fund or UNICEF and including it in the government’s dole program.

“The problem with the DSWD is that it is claiming credit where it is not due,” she said.

“With or without the Aquino government, and perhaps even better without the government, UNICEF would still have rendered humanitarian assistance. Dinky Soliman is merely riding on the UN aid to cover up the government’s criminal negligence. What’s more, such aid may not reach the victims; the government’s conditional cash transfer scheme has for years been plagued with allegations of corruption.”

Eslopor expressed outrage that the DSWD should be relying on the goodness of others for doing what was the government’s responsibility.

“We thank the UNICEF for the humanitarian assistance. But the Aquino government should have rendered emergency cash assistance and other kinds of relief three months ago, not today. That is sheer criminal negligence. Does Dinky Soliman realize how many of the so-called most vulnerable – including pregnant women and malnourished children -- have suffered for the past months, and may have died, because the government balked at releasing funds for the people while it was at the same time embroiled in the pork barrel scandal? For the past three months, the DSWD has not been carrying out any significant social amelioration program but has merely acted as the facilitator for foreign and local donors.

“Does Dinky Soliman realize how little the $100 or P4,370 really is, even if good for six months, when a family of five in Eastern Visayas needs at least P610 every day to live decently, and that was in 2008?”

The People Surge spokesperson asserted that the Aquino government must render all possible emergency assistance, while planning for long-term solutions for the people’s losses and grinding poverty.

“The conditional cash transfer scheme or 4Ps to which Dinky Soliman and the DSWD are so devoted is nothing but a dole program. The people cannot survive for long on mendicancy. The Yolanda survivors in People Surge have been petitioning for P40,000 immediate cash aid to all families affected by the typhoon in in Eastern Visayas. Moreover, People Surge presents the long-term and very basic solutions to the survivors’ plight: food, livelihood, housing and social services. If the Aquino government cannot give even these very basic demands, it will surely face the people’s wrath.”

Jessica Darantinao, 24, a typhoon survivor from Carigara, Leyte, said thousands of women and children have lost their lives as a result of the criminal negligence of the Aquino government.

A member of the People Surge alliance, Darantinao said the government’s continued disregard of the victims’ plight buried the victims deeper in poverty, hunger and debt.

“Long before the storm, underage females from our barrio have been trying their luck in Manila to find work. When they return home, they usually end up pregnant and without husbands. This situation will surely worsen after the typhoon because there are no decent jobs in Samar and Leyte.”

She added that women and chilren were vulnerable to human trafficking.

Eastern Visayas ranked as the third poorest region before super typhoon Yolanda struck. In the storm’s aftermath, it is likely to become the country’s poorest region, People Surge said.

The independent minority bloc in the House of Representatives onMonday said the government needs to intensify its effort to rebuild calamity-stricken areas and set asid politics for the good of the survivors.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, at a news conference, said a huge task remains because of the unimaginable destruction caused by Yolanda.

“Let us join together and set aside political differences to champion the interests of the survivors. We cannot minimize politics 100 percent but we should minimize it. We need to be united,” he said.

Romualdez reiterated his call for the government to decentralize the rebuilding efforts by giving local government units an active role to speed up the reconstruction.

Romualdez also lamented that cadavers were still being found in Leyte, but the government has virtually stopped its official counting of the dead.

Also on Monday, National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon said the government is working with the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank to set up a Yolanda multi-donor trust fund to tap overseas private sector and philanthropic foundations and organizations.

De Leon said the trust fund would faciliatate the transparent and efficient use of resources for the reconstruction of areas devastated by Yolanda.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) earlier said reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in Yolanda-devastated areas would need about P361 billion in investments.

NEDA said of the total amount, P183.3 billion would be allotted for shelter and resettlement projects; P70.6 billion for industry and services; P37.4 billion for education and health services; P28.4 billion for public infrastructure; P18.7 billion for agriculture; P18.4 billion for social protection, and P4 billion for local governments.

NEDA director-general and Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the amount would be disbursed within four years, in conformity with the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda plan.

NEDA said the total damage and losses from super typhoon Yolanda reached P571.1 billion. Damage to infrastructure was estimated at P33.98 billion; agriculture, P62.11 billion; industry and services, P116 billion; education, P23.9 billion; health, P5.57 billion; housing, P325.24 billion; and local government, P4.3 billion.

Rehabilitation czar and former Senator Panfilo Lacson said the reconstruction efforts would be spearheaded by the private sector with the government serving as enabler or facilitator.

People Surge said these efforts were not moving fast enough, however, and said those responsible could be held “criminally liable” for the slow response. With Maricel V. Cruz and Julito G. Rada


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