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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Shelter up, slowly

CEBU. Workers build houses on a resettlement site in Barangay Agujo in Daanbantayan town. Cebu Province’s rehabilitation plan states that Yolanda displaced 152,746 families. Out of this number, 16,290 households have to be moved away from no-build zones near the shores. (Arnil Aclao)

A YEAR after super typhoon Yolanda, the path to recovery in most of the 16 affected areas in northern Cebu is still a long, bumpy road ahead.

Thousands of families remain compromised; they live in tents and within the 40-meter no-dwell zones, exposing them to risks brought about by severe weather.



The Cebu Provincial Rehabilitation, Recovery and Development Plan listed 152,746 families displaced when Yolanda struck on Nov. 8, 2013. Of this number, 16,290 households have to be relocated because their homes sit within the 40-meter danger zone.

In Bogo City, and Daanbantayan and Medellin towns alone, only 134 of the estimated 10,000 households have been relocated to permanent shelters.

Issues

Several issues continue to delay the transfer of these households to safer ground: lack of funds, lack of relocation sites, legal concerns, and refusal to leave their old homes.

In the meantime, private sector and humanitarian organizations have brought in volunteers, provided materials or donated lots where the survivors’ houses may be built. These organizations include Gawad Kalinga, Habitat for Humanity, Islamic Relief, March for Christ, Oxfam, and Red Cross.

One year since Yolanda’s onslaught, the National Housing Authority (NHA) has yet to start building houses.

The agency is set to build 22,423 houses in the 16 affected areas: Bogo City and the towns of Bantayan, Borbon, Daanbantayan, Madridejos, Medellin, Pilar, Poro, San Francisco, San Remigio, Sogod, Sta. Fe, Tabogon, Tabuelan, Tuburan and Tudela.

The project is estimated to cost P7 billion but NHA 7 Manager Gavino Figuracion said only P2.2 billion is available yet, or an equivalent of 7,000 houses. Figuracion, however, said only 500 may be completed this year.

Because of this, Figuracion said the project will have to be implemented on a first-come, first-served basis for municipalities based on their submission of the project plans and detailed engineering. The local government unit must also have a title, not just a tax declaration, for the land where the houses will be built.

At least 10 local government units (LGUs) have identified lots that may be used as relocation sites. Construction work and site development have started in some areas.

Shelter kits pledged in Northern Cebu
Infographic by Rigil Kent Ynot of Sun.Star Cebu

Special case

The situation is a lot more complicated for six municipalities comprising the islands of Bantayan (Bantayan, Madridejos and Santa Fe) and Camotes (Pilar, Poro and San Francisco).

Bantayan and Camotes have been declared wilderness and mangrove forest reserve areas, respectively, by then president Ferdinand Marcos in the early 1980s. As a result, lots in these areas can neither be privately owned or titled.

Santa Fe Mayor Jose Esgana said the Municipality has found a seven-hectare titled property near an existing relocation site.

Their problem, however, is its acquisition, saying that the NHA wants to buy the property at a lower price.

In Madridejos, Mayor Salvador dela Fuente is involving the constituents in the search for titled lots. That way, he said, they will have no reason not to relocate because they were the ones who suggested the new location.

Sun.Star Cebu chanced upon dela Fuente in late October having a dialogue with constituents, appealing to them to help the Municipality look for lots that are both titled and not far from their means of livelihood.

San Remigio and Medellin are also confronted with lot problems.

Mayor Mariano Martinez said an estimated 1,500 families were not able to get help because they do not own the land where their houses were built.

A donor would’ve been willing to build the houses but the lot owner refused to authorize the construction.

Medellin, on the other hand, does not have a suitable land. The Municipality has given their titled lots to be used by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and Land Transportation Office.

Own initiative

With thousands of residents needing decent shelter, the affected LGUs took the initiative to address the resettlement problem either on their own or by partnering with local and foreign non-government organizations.

“Our goal is to make it attractive for the prospective beneficiaries so they won’t have a reason to decline the offer. The site must be accessible and already equipped with electricity and water,” Daanbantayan Mayor Augusto Corro told Sun.Star Cebu.

In Camotes Island, San Francisco Mayor Aly Arquillano said his constituents are rebuilding their houses through their own initiatives.

“Most of the families are still building their houses in the same area,” Arquillano said, adding that he stressed that only light materials must be used as they will eventually be relocated.

Under the Capitol’s “Build Back Better” rehabilitation plan, proposed relocation sites must be within two to three kilometers from the beneficiaries’ original dwelling.

Bantayan Mayor Ian Christopher Escario, however, admits he is worried about letting the affected families move from where they are now to the proposed relocation sites.

“How can I ask them to relocate and take their livelihood away and not be able to offer them anything in exchange?” he said.

Resiliency

But Medellin Mayor Ricardo Ramirez III, who says he has lost interest because of the National Government’s slow intervention, is confident his constituents will pick themselves up in due time.

“Many meetings were conducted. We already submitted everything we need but until now, nothing. But no matter how poor we are, we will always find ways to fix ourselves,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

For Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer Baltazar Tribunalo, though, it’s just a matter of working together, saying there are already plenty of survivors who have built their houses back.

He, however, admitted he hasn’t received any feedback yet on when the P12 billion that they asked from the National Government for the rehabilitation of the northern towns could be downloaded.

“I would like to reiterate that Cebu was among those that quickly recovered, from the fallen experience to recovery. We were able to recover. No one died because of hunger. No one was brought to the hospital because they do not have a house to protect them from the heat and rain,” Tribunalo said.
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