Group renews call on filing of raps vs erring Yolanda housing contractors

A POLITICAL party-list group in Eastern Visayas reiterated on Friday, June 22, the call for the filing of cases and prosecution of any erring developers and contractors who are allegedly involved in the bungled housing projects for the 2013 Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) victims.

“It has been five years now since Yolanda happened. So many of our fellow Warays, our people in Eastern Visayas have yet to receive the decent housing they deserve. It’s unfortunate that some housing contractors and developers are not taking this seriously,” said Philip Jude Acidre, first nominee of Tingog Sinirangan.

“They should be investigated and penalized if they are guilty of negligence. The people cannot afford another disaster that becomes after the typhoon,” he added.

Acidre said it is important that the government should review its policy on shelter development and identify potential setbacks in the future, saying it should not be “reactive” in its response.

“May we able to continue to do this project with a strong sense of urgency. We cannot afford to see these families not living in a safe community. This is an affront to their rights. Housing is a human right,” said Acidre.

“The Yolanda survivors deserve much better,” added Acidre, who headed massive relief works for the storm victims as former country director of the humanitarian aid group International Emergency and Development Aid (Ieda).

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, chairman of the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing, and Resettlement, recently spearheaded an inquiry over the alleged substandard and delayed housing projects.

During his visit to the resettlement sites in Tacloban City, accompanied by Acidre and Leyte first district Representative Yedda Romualdez, Ejercito declared that they do not want a repeat of mistakes of the housing program in future disasters.

Earlier, the National Housing Authority central office announced that at least five housing officials could face suspension over the alleged bungled Yolanda projects in the Visayas and Mindanao, adding that at least 46 unfinished housing projects will be canceled due to various defects and negative slippage.

Meanwhile, the Community of Yolanda Survivors and Partners (CYSP), an alliance of 163 devastated communities and 10 non-governmental organizations, remained at the forefront in demanding the results of the series of provincial grassroots consultation and the promised post evaluation activity from the office of Undersecretary Wendel E. Avisado, the oversight official of Yolanda rehabilitation projects tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte.

From March to April 2018, Avisado led at least nine grassroots consultations in five Yolanda affected provinces in Eastern Visayas.

“The housing program, it appears, is not designed for the betterment of lives. It was, and remains to be, all for compliance and accomplishment,” said the group, as it also pushed for the adaption of small neighborhood association's People's Plan in Yolanda-hit areas, which according to them, has a similar concept to that of a community mortgage program (CMP) or that of a housing cooperative.

“They want a collective business, from a mini-grocery to a botika ng barangay to a patahian ng uniform. What marvel ideas come up, if only they had been given that chance prior to the oppressive NHA units,” said Katarungan-Eastern Visayas, a member organization of CYSP.

In Barangay 6 in Giporlos, Eastern Samar alone, the group said that Yolanda survivors are “making a go of their People's Plan.”

“When the concept of the onsite development was explored, their membership rose from 54 to 124, further evidence that it is the distance and accessibility to their sources of livelihood that is the determining factor in their choice of location for a relocation site. People's Plan, we said is a venue for their voices to finally be held,” the group said in a statement.

“In the first draft, we had 13 barangays in Lawaan, Balangiga, and Giporlos in Eastern Samar. We’re working on the second draft because we have already reached 15 barangays to include those in Gen. Mac Arthur, Eastern Samar. Once it is finished, we're targeting a July submission,” Rina Reyes, project coordinator of land rights group Rights Network and leader of CYSP.

“We’re hoping to submit the People’s Plan to Usec. Avisado, Rep. Alfredo Benitez, who heads the Committee on Housing of the House of Representatives, local government units, Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and Inter-Agency Task Force Yolanda,” Reyes told SunStar Philippines in an interview.

According to Reyes, the People's Plan is the communities' alternative to the government program.

“Moving to a distant location would post more burden on them. They said the price increase, exacerbated by the Train law, on gasoline and kerosene were between P12 and P15. This also affected price increases in other commodities, and they said rice is the highest today at P48 to P50 per kilo. These rising prices, additional costs, when relocated to the poorly built NHA housing units and difficulty in accessing their source of livelihood are too much of a social cost for these Yolanda Victims,” she added. (SunStar Philippines)


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