TACLOBAN CITY—A group of Typhoon “Yolanda” survivors trooped to city hall here over the weekend to urge President Rodrigo Duterte to intervene in what they called the “hasty and haphazard relocation” of hundreds of families in substandard houses in “dead zone” resettlement sites.
The survivors, rallying under the Urban Poor Associates group based here, said that contrary to statements by the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Visayas, the houses they are being resettled in “are not yet ready for occupancy.”
The relocation started on November 28, when Presidential Adviser for the Visayas Michael Dino and the Tacloban city government transferred 280 families from the coastal barangays of San Jose and Magallanes to the North Hills Arbour housing site in Sto. Niño Village. This complied with Duterte’s directive resettle all Yolanda survivor families by December.
But Joli Torella, a member of UPA facilitating the transfer of “Yolanda” survivors in the resettlements, said: “Only a few houses were fully complete, although the standard of the housing structures remains questionable, since there are houses that are already with cracks with uneven walls, and the roofs have holes. The rest of the housing units do not even have doors and windows yet.”
“We are not against the plan of having our families resettled in the identified sites, but the housing site is a dead zone,” Torella added. “Our plea is for the government to address the severe inadequacies within the resettlement such as lack of access to the basic services such as access to potable water, power, livelihood and infrastructures before the families are moved.”
On the same day of the mass transfer, majority of the relocated families returned to their houses in the coastal areas, UPA reported.
Dino and city officials could not be reached for comment at presstime.
The group also pointed out that as early as December 2015, then-Mayor Alfredo Romualdez “was already aware of the situation,” prompting him to stop moving the families into the resettlements until its issues were addressed. His wife, Cristina Gonzales-Romualdez, succeeded him as mayor.
While deep wells are built in the vicinity, the water supply is not enough to service all families, Torella said. “The houses are still waterless and the promised potable water delivery three times a week by the LGU and Local Water Utilities are yet to be fulfilled,” he added.
The shortage of water and the expensive cost of transporting water from Tacloban City to North Tacloban, with an estimated distance at 39 kilometers, forces each relocated family to spending at least P100 a day to get water for drinking and cooking, UPA said.
“Beyond beating the deadline, our only plea is that the government allows us the opportunity to have the survivors’ concerns addressed. Otherwise, our hope for the families to finally transition to normal lives is futile,” Torella said.
“With their housing conditions and access to livelihoods pulled away from their grasp, instead of rebuilding their lives, we fear that the resettlement would only lead more and more victims to further sink into poverty,” he added.
Alicia Murphy, UPA executive director, said: “We have been insisting on the people’s plan where the poor decides where they want to stay and in what type of housing. In this sense, people of Tacloban are given the chance to fully restore their lives back according to their will.”
“Poor families are willing to work with the government to solve the housing problems, but the government must be sincere in addressing them too,” Murphy added. “We believe it is only in a collaborative way—with the government working together with all stakeholders—that we can achieve the full realization of Tacloban housing for all.”