On December 2, Waraynons, hailing from Eastern Visayas, trooped to the central office of the National Housing Authority (NHA) in Quezon City to bring the three-year old issue of lack of homes for Typhoon Yolanda victims. They brought along a Christmas tree made of paper, where they hang their aspirations for Christmas.
Dr. Efleda Bautista of People Surge, an alliance of Yolanda survivors, Nestor Lebico of Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma – Sinirangang Bisayas (SAGUPA – SB), a peasant organization in Eastern Visayas, and Cris Chaves of Bayan Panay, a network of peoples’ organizations in Panay province, was met by NHA Regional Manager Engr. Rizalde Mediavillo for a dialogue.
“Ang target [para sa permanent housing] po ng NHA sa buong Yolanda victims ay 205,128 sa kabuuan. Out of that, nasa 56,000 plus ang target for Eastern Visayas [NHA targets 205,128 permanent housing for all Yolanda victims. Out of that, we target 56,000 plus for Eastern Visayas],” Mediavillo informed the representatives of Lakbayan ng Visayas.
In a statement, People Surge lamented that, “aside from this overly conservative target of the housing agency, is [NHA’s] overly failed performance. NHA failed to deliver as they have posted a disgustingly low, 12.3% overall accomplishment.”
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) recorded around one million families survived the typhoon, a far cry from the 205,128 target for permanent housing units of typhoon victims.
Duterte ordered Yolanda aid speed up
“I must admit that government has fallen short, very short, of the expectations of the people. Yolanda [rehabilitation projects] should all have been completed one year after,” President Duterte said in his visit in Tacloban City to commemorate the third anniversary of the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda on November 8.
“I will be back,” he said which then followed by a marching order to national government agencies to finish the permanent housing for the survivors before Christmas.
Two weeks after the presidential directive, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Diño started leading the relocation of survivors to their permanent shelters. However, new problems arose from this swift resolve adding to the existing problems since the aftermath of Yolanda.
To this day, permanent water supply and access to electricity have yet to be installed in the resettlement area. Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) are now building temporary water sources such as water tanks and deep well. Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) gave a timetable of one and a half to two years before they finish constructing the permanent water supply.
“Ang problema natin ngayon sa paglilipat ay minamadali natin ang ibang ahensya – yung para sa tubig, ilaw. Kasi ang NHA, bahay lang po ang pondong binigay sa amin. So ‘yun lang po ang toka namin na gagawin [The problem with resettling is pressing other government agencies to hasten the installment of electricity and water facilities. Because NHA’s budget only covers the construction of houses],” explained Mediavillo.
After the President’s mandate to expedite the relocation process, 2,101 permanent houses were turned over to the survivors in Tacloban City. The NHA will be building 14,443 housing units for this hardest hit city in Leyte.
Residents in the Tacloban North Resettlement Project reported the poor state of their housing units to People Surge. Their testimonies include “observations of hollow walls, dilapidated roofing and damage septage among others.”
Engr. Mediavillo, however, explained that the walls are in such state as it is still undergoing the process of completion. The hollow walls, made of fiber cement boards, still need to be filled with pure cement. Mediavillo assured that the material is fit for heavy storms. He further explained that people needed proper orientation to understand why their houses have those kinds of materials. He also added that NHA is currently scheduling massive orientations for the beneficiaries in Eastern Visayas.
Survivors are then living in partially completed resettlement houses.
NHA has relocated around 2,000 families to permanent settlement from bunkhouses and transitional houses in all regions affected by the Typhoon Yolanda. By the end of December, they target to resettle 4,000 to 5,000 more.
They aim to complete the resettlement of all survivors by 2018, 1 and half to 2 years from now.
Amortization for resettlement houses
Typhoon survivors are also charged with amortization fees for the permanent houses they would occupy. Five years after the contract signing of house ownership, residents would be charged P 200 monthly by NHA, to reimburse the agency for the land ownership and land development, Mediavillo said.
“Bakit kailangang magbayad ng tao? [Why do the survivors have to pay?],” Bautista asked.
“Hindi naman po kasi iyon donasyon, pera po ito ng gobyerno. Yung mga donasyon [mula sa non-government agencies], binigay na sa Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), kaya sila may mga Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA). Tapos yung karamihan, dumadaan sa local government units (LGU) [This is not a donation; this is from government funding. Donations are turned over to DSWD that’s why they have ESA. The rest are coursed through the LGUs],” Mediavillo answered.
For which Bautista replied, “Siyempre [ESA] ay emergency or financial assistance kasi kung tutuusin alam naman natin hindi naman nila pinili na mabagyo sila o ma-wash out sila, diba? So kalamidad talaga ito. There should be calamity fund for the victims [Of course, ESA is for emergency or financial assistance because, really, people did not choose to be victimized or washed out by the typhoon. This is because of the calamity. There should be calamity fund for the victims.]”
NHA urges that survivor beneficiaries must have a ‘sense of ownership’ to the houses they will possess hence the need for them to pay the fee.
“Hindi naman pwede libre lahat [You cannot give all for free],” stated Mediavillo.
“Well, you know, [Yolanda] is not a normal situation,” Bautista remarked.
Yolanda fund unreleased under Aquino admin
On the day before the third anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda, Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, reported on the disbursement of Yolanda funds under the Aquino administration.
“Allow me first to put on record that we have allocated P 25.6 billion housing assistance for victims of Supertyphoon Yolanda under the 2016 budget of the National Housing Authority (NHA). Unreleased funds as of June 2016 is P 20.7 billion,” said Legarda.
She also reported that NDRRM fund had P 18.433 billion, of P 18.896 billion, that remained to be unreleased as of September 30, 2016.
On November 29, Yolanda survivors stormed the residence of former President Benigno Aguino III in Times Street, Quezon City to hold his administration, especially his then secretaries, Dinky Soliman (DSWD), Mar Roxas (DILG), Jericho Petilla (DOE) and former Presidential Adviser on Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Panfilo Lacson, for their criminal negligence over the victims of the supertyphoon. They tag the said officials the “Gang of 5.”
The delegates of the Lakbayan ng Visayas are now encamped at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta. Mesa, Manila. Eastern Visayas delegates commenced the Lakbayan ng Visayas, the first Visayas-wide peoples’ caravan to Manila to combat hunger, poverty and militarization on November 28. The Eastern Visayas contingent would be joined by delegates from Panay, Central Visayas and also Bicol region.
They would join the celebration of International Human Rights Day rally on December 10.