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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

More ‘Yolanda’ homes ordered

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PBBM eyes faster rollout to Tacloban residents in 10th year since storm

TACLOBAN CITY—President Marcos on Wednesday ordered the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development and the National Housing Authority to hasten the distribution of land titles and housing units to residents of Tacloban City as the country marked the 10th anniversary of super typhoon Yolanda.

Mayor Alfred Romualdez said about 18,000 houses were built to relocate the homeless, but up to 5,000 units need to be repaired.

“Almost half of the houses that were built in 2013, 2014, up to 2016 – most of them, actually – were incomplete and substandard. When I say substandard, for example, the pipes were substandard. So, we cannot put utilities there, like water, because we’ll lose it because they’re full of holes,” the mayor said in television interview.

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He said they are still working to move the remaining residents to safer areas.

To date, Romualdez said, they have cleared about 70 percent of the residents from danger zones and moved about 40,000 families to the north of the city.

On Wednesday, Marcos and House Speaker Martin Romualdez distributed land titles to Pabahay housing beneficiaries rendered homeless by Yolanda 10 years ago.

“Ten years have gone by and yet the memory of this tragedy remains indelible in our hearts and our thoughts,” Marcos said in his speech at the Tacloban City Convention Center.

“To this day, we still do not know the true scope of our loss. Because we grieve and we mourn those of our dead. But we must always keep a special place in our hearts for those who we lost who are unaccounted [for], unrecorded… Up to now, we say 6,000 casualties, [but] we do not know that for sure,” he added.

For the housing grants, Speaker Romualdez said: “This is not merely a piece of paper. It represents our commitment to providing a stable and secure future for our people. It symbolizes hope, permanence, and the dream of every resident of Tacloban to have a place they can genuinely call home.”

“This is a gift to us from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Every title you hold is a symbol of our unity to ensure that our beloved Tacloban has an orderly, peaceful and prosperous community,” he added in Filipino.

“A decade has passed, but the memories of that fateful day remain etched in our hearts and minds,” Romualdez said.

Yolanda, one of the strongest storms ever recorded, whipped up tsunami-like waves that devastated the Visayas on Nov. 8, 2013. Ten years later, more than a thousand people are still missing.

Tacloban, the capital of Leyte province, bore the brunt of the storm’s fury and was almost destroyed by five-meter-high storm surges that crashed over poor coastal communities.

Mr. Marcos said it was important to make climate change a vital component of national policies, as he called on people to join the government in bolstering the country’s disaster preparedness, recovery and resiliency.

“We must make sure that we apply our knowledge on climate change to every plan, to every decision, and initiative so we can build stronger and more resilient communities,” Marcos said.

“To the survivors, who continue to move forward, we salute your spirit and character,” Marcos said as he thanked those who helped in Tacloban’s recovery.

Spirit of bayanihan

Mr. Marcos recognized the efforts of local and international non-government organizations (NGO’s) that helped in rebuilding Tacloban City, which was left devastated by Yolanda.

“I know that everyone here had a part to play in the recovery but we cannot overstate… the international NGOs, the local NGOs that came and your help with the rebuilding and the rehabilitation and the recovery,” the President said in his message.

Mr. Marcos recalled that NGO’s and private companies were among the first responders after the tragedy, along with government agencies that extended help to survivors.

“It is impossible to overstate how important it is to us what you did for us after Yolanda and in the years subsequent to Yolanda where you never left us,” the President said.

“The aid that came from all directions, the volunteerism, the heroism that overflowed in the affected areas, specifically in the rehabilitation of Tacloban,” Mr. Marcos said.

“Indeed, what we saw back then was the spirit of bayanihan in its truest form — moving without prompting, without hindrance, and without ceasing,” he added.

The President said it was crucial for the government to push measures to address climate change—including setting up disaster-resilient evacuation centers, early warning systems and incident command systems.

Marcos urged the Yolanda response cluster to work closely with the national government agencies to address lingering issues and provide the residents with necessary assistance so they can rebuild their lives.

Speaker Romualdez recalled that during that fateful day, he “witnessed firsthand the sorrow and loss that overwhelmed our community.”

“Yet, amid the rubble and tears, I also saw the indomitable spirit of our people. I witnessed neighbors helping neighbors, strangers becoming family, and a nation rallying together to rise again. Our guest of honor today, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., joined us in sympathizing with those who lost loved ones,” he said.

“He was with us in providing immediate aid to those affected by the typhoon. From then until now, we are with him in the recovery not only in Tacloban but also in other places destroyed by Yolanda,” he added.

Romualdez appealed to his constituents that as they remember Yolanda, “let us also celebrate the resilience, unity, and hope that have defined our recovery journey.”

“The road has been challenging, but with each passing year, our collective strength and determination grow even more evident,” he said.

The House leader also commemorated the thousands who died during the onslaught and in the aftermath of the super typhoon.

“Today, let us also pause to remember those we lost, honor the heroes who emerged in the aftermath, and express our gratitude for the countless blessings we have received. Our story is one of triumph over adversity, and as we continue on this journey, let’s carry the legacy of Yolanda as a testament to the unyielding spirit of our people,” he said.

Danger zone still home to many

Earlier, Mayor Romualdez said some Tacloban residents are still living near coastal communities marked as “danger zones” a decade after Yolanda hit.

During Yolanda’s devastation in 2013, coastal houses and buildings were swamped by storm surges up to five meters high.

About 6,300 people were killed, and a decade later more than a thousand are still missing. Over 4 million people were left homeless.

Vice President Sara Duterte also underscored the importance of mitigating climate change and preparing for disasters during the Yolanda anniversary.

Climate activists, too, commemorated Yolanda with a warning.

The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice said “the Philippines stands on the precipice, vulnerable to the relentless threat of natural disasters, while reparation efforts in Yolanda-stricken regions languish in a state of paralysis.”

The remnants of “Yolanda” still persist in the form of an inadequate climate emergency response, it added.

The government continues to fall short in addressing the far-reaching impact of the climate crisis and preparing for the imminent onslaught of extreme weather events, resulting in the continual cycle of destruction, loss of life, and heightened vulnerability among our communities, the group said.

Tales of survival

Survivors of Yolanda planned to hold prayers and light candles to mark the 10th anniversary of the storm.

Roselyn Salazar Torres said it was “harrowing” to recall Nov. 8, 2013 when the onslaught of water swept away her family’s shack, and left her and two small children struggling to stay afloat and avoid being struck by debris.

“I did not expect myself and my family to survive Yolanda,” Torres, 36, said.

“I was tossed around by the waves together with my two children at the time. I really thought my entire family would be wiped out in that tragedy.”

Torres and her husband, who was away working when Yolanda hit, now live with their four children in a 12-square-meter concrete house at one of several sprawling relocation sites built for survivors.

“As always we will be lighting candles tomorrow for our lost friends and relatives. Then we will prepare a small feast for ourselves,” Torres said on the eve of the anniversary.

“I’m very much thankful that we survived the super typhoon and remain alive 10 years later.”

Emmanuel Corbilla, 63, is among the lucky ones who did not lose any family members in the storm.

But, as the head of his village, Corbilla is encouraging his constituents to attend a mass in honor of the neighbors who died and light candles for them.

“We light candles to demonstrate our love for the victims, and also as a gesture of thanks to God for giving us a second life,” he said. With AFP

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