A WEEK into the May 13 elections, a group of storm survivors reminded the candidates to include in their agenda the still unfinished rehabilitation program for the 2013 Super Typhoon Yolanda and the 2017 Marawi siege.
“The discourses in the election agenda did not seem to involve the Yolanda and Marawi survivors. Are they no longer an important issue today?” asked Lita Bagunas, storm survivor and president of Uswag Este-Katarungan in Eastern Samar.
Bagunas, also a member-leader of the Community of Yolanda Survivors and Partners (CYSP), said "this may be a sign that things are slowing down on the rehabilitation front."
While the Senatorial Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement will recommend filing of charges against the National Housing Authority (NHA) and developers, CYSP leaders said they are “cautious that this may yet be another unfulfilled promise.”
“We appreciate the announcement that the investigation has been concluded and that the committee has established that substandard houses were built, and that charges will be filed,” said Vincent Basiano of G-Watch Tacloban.
Basiano was referring to the separate inquiries conducted by Congress that started in 2017, where a whistleblower divulged the alleged practices of using materials other than those specified in the program of works, among others.
“As a result, construction of housing units in Eastern Samar towns were stopped due to the termination of contracts. Recently, residents noticed that work has again started in these sites,” said Basiano in a statement.
“What worries us even more is that the questions on the units’ structural integrity had been buried under paint. The structures need to be visited and evaluated before the government can claim these units to be ready for occupancy, more so now that Eastern Visayas region had been rocked by magnitudes 4 to 6 earthquakes over the past month,” added Fara Diva Cortez of Freedom from Debt Coalition.
“These earthquakes sent people in panic. We’ve seen cracks developed after the earthquake, should we expect less in the relocation sites?” said Cortez.
As this developed, Basiano said they are now waiting for the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Development “to make good of its pronouncements, hoping that this would result in policy reforms and eventual termination of projects.”
In March, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles reported that of the 56,140 housing units required for Yolanda survivors in Eastern Visayas, 29,531 are fully completed, and only 18,183 units are occupied as of February 2019.
“CYSP is wary that construction will be rushed, in order to accommodate the government’s plan of finishing all units by Year 2020,” added Basiano.
Meanwhile, the group said the National Government should adopt the “people’s plan” of the survivors and include them in their election agenda.
“May People’s Plan kami, ang alternatibang ibinibigay namin sa gubyerno para hindi masayang ang pera. Mag-aanim na taon na ang Yolanda, pareho pa rin ang pagpipilit sa aming tumira sa mga substandard na pabahay. People’s Plan ang dapat kasama sa agenda ng mga gustong umupo sa puwesto. Sa nalalabing panahon ng kampanya, hinahamon namin ang mga kandidato na maglahad ng kanilang mga plano para sa rehabilitasyon ng mga nasalanta ng kalamidad, tulad ng Yolanda at Marawi,” Bagunas said. (SunStar Philippines)