Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hair-raising Yolanda/Haiyan facts: Bahala pa rin sila sa buhay nila!

Post-Yolanda mess



As a native to the region of East Visayas and the province of Leyte, for me the tragedy of Yolanda/Haiyan remains an open wound that will not heal, a tragedy that has been compounded by one tragedy after another, a chapter that cannot be closed because many lives are still unaccounted for, many victims still have to be properly mourned, and the restoration of our lives and our communities still eludes realization.
The only words of consolation that I can share with families and friends who lost loved ones in the perfect storm are those of Aeschylus, which are perfect in their own way:
“In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
Hair-raising facts, dashed hopes
I am staring with disbelief, disgust and despair at a story yesterday in the Manila Standard by Christine Herrera, which reported matter-of-factly the following hair-raising facts about the post-Yolanda/Haiyan situation in East Visayas and Tacloban City.
First, eleven months after Yolanda flattened East Visayas, President Benigno BS Aquino 3rd still has not signed the master plan for the P170-billion rehabilitation and recovery program, leaving some 7,291 families in cramped tent cities, ill-equipped bunkhouses and makeshift shelters in danger zones in Tacloban City, and most rehabilitation work on hold.
Second, although the plan was submitted to Aquino by rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson in June, the national government has yet to move one inch toward implementing the plan, which was drafted at great cost and with so much fanfare.
Third, despite the massive outpouring of foreign donations (cash and in kind) for recovery and rehabilitation, and despite the approval by Congress of a P120-billion supplemental fund for the disaster recovery and rehabilitation effort, money from the massive funds has yet to trickle down to the victims and the stricken localities.
Where’s the plan? Where’s the money?
Fourth, although President Aquino boasted in his State of the Nation Address last July that the master plan and the funds for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Yolanda-devastated areas were under way, local governments in the region still cannot move forward in the rebuilding of their devastated communities.
Members of both houses of Congress, like partylist Congressman Jonathan de la Cruz, are asking pointedly, “Where is the master plan? Where’s the money?”
De la Cruz says that if Aquino does not like the plan prepared by Secretary Lacson, he should say so. “That way, the local governments can revise their plans and people housed in tent cities can be relocated.”
When asked about the money and the plan, neither Lacson nor his spokesman Karen Jimeno do not seem to know what is what or where is where.
Fifth, in Tacloban City, the hardest hit of all communities, Mayor Alfred Romualdez has reported that not a single permanent housing unit of the needed 7,600 units has been built by the national government and not a single centavo has been released to build 3,853 temporary housing units or bunkhouses.
City records show some 529 families are cramped in 241 tents in five barangays that host the tent cities.
Some 3,627 families are housed in makeshift houses in danger zones.
Other bunkhouses and permanent housing units are under construction, thanks to the generosity and initiative of local and foreign donors.
Some 15.6 hectares have been secured as relocation sites for some 1,524 families in New Kawayan.
Romualdez says that P3.35 billion is needed to construct the permanent and temporary houses.
Construction is not happening, not because money has not been budgeted, but because the national government refuses to move.
Independent legislators are demanding that the administration account for the P14.8 billion in supplemental budget approved by Congress for the calamity-stricken areas.
“Where did the supplemental budget go?” they ask. ”President Aquino is asking for billions in lump sums for his Calamity Fund for 2015 but he has yet to account for the P14.8 billion that had been earlier allocated by Congress.”
Sixth, the national government still has to download to the local government units (LGUS) the cash donations from international and local groups. Rehabilitation would move quicker if this happens
Says Mayor Romualdez: “If the national government downloaded the donated money from foreign donors to us, progress would be quicker. People need the shelter, people need safety.”
The fact is, it is the local governments, not the national government, that can speed up the reconstruction and rehabilitation because they have the structure, network and manpower to get things moving fast. They are the ones who stand closest to the problems. They are the ones who can feel the pain of victims and their families.
Seventh, the national government still has to report accurately on the international cash donations, and the supplemental budget.
The untrustworthy Budget Secretary Butch Abad has reported that as of May 15, the government had received a pledge of P11.076 billion in cash donations, but provides no specifics. He claimed that the government has already released P32.2 billion for infrastructure rehabilitation and reconstruction in devastated areas. Yet Tacloban City has yet to receive one centavo from these massive funds.
Eighth, in line with his recent trip to Europe and the US, some of us suggested that President Aquino should prepare a report and accounting of international assistance for the disaster, as a fitting gesture of thanks for their solicitude during our time of distress. But despite claims of transparency in monitoring donations, there is still no such report. With the first Yolanda anniversary just a month away, the administration still cannot get its act or count together. Mendacity still rules.
Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman remains cross-eyed from all the stuff allowed to rot and lack of proper accounting. - Read full article here
Yolanda survivors dramatize their plight
Haiyan survivors gear up for giant rally in Tacloban in time for first anniv next month

Tindog People's Network, October 9, 2014

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Exactly eleven months after Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) hit Eastern Visayas, Tindog, a network of families, friends and supporters of Yolanda victims remembers the tragedy in a photo exhibit and performance art in Plaza Miranda today to air their disappointment to the Aquino government’s poor rehabilitation efforts and slow delivery of justice to all survivors.
The group also urges the national government, particularly President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, Rehabilitation Czar Panfilo Lacson and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman to immediately release a detailed and audited report of the multi-billion worth of in-kind and cash foreign aids for Yolanda victims. Tindog People’s Network fears of possible misuse of Yolanda aids as there are still more survivors and their families claim of not getting any support from the national government.
On a Commission on Audit (COA) report, millions worth of relief goods rot, wasted and not distributed due to irresponsible storage. The same COA report noted that the DSWD failed to distribute some 128,000 cans of sardines, P69.2 million worth of bottled waters and P58 million worth of supplies (including 7,527 family food packs worth P2.7M) due to storage problems.
COA also disclosed that local and foreign cash donations are still concentrated in the DSWD account reaching P740,177,751.52. Of this figure, only P3.88M was disbursed leaving P737M undisbursed.
‘We wonder what really is the plan of the Aquino government to Yolanda victims. While there are lots of money and material aids, Aquino, Soliman and Lacson seem to be negligent and heedless to the clamor of Yolanda survivors for speedy distribution of relief goods and immediate rehabilitation measures for long-term solution,’ says Mark Louie Aquino, Tindog People’s Network spokesperson.
He added, ‘Every second that is wasted by Aquino, Soliman and Lacson is another Yolanda survivor being pushed to extreme poverty.’
The group also announced today that Yolanda survivors under the banner of People Surge are now gearing-up for a giant rally in Tacloban City in time of the first anniversary of Yolanda on November 8, 2014. A week-long series of activities are also set to be held in Eastern Visayas to demand accountability to the Aquino government.
‘We are victims here, not eyesores,’ says Yolanda survivors
The Tindog People’s Network also breaks silence over the plan of some local government officials in Leyte to relocate the survivors away from the route of the visit of Pope Francis in Eastern Visayas in January next year. Palo, Leyte Mayor Remedios Petilla and Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominic Petilla already announced their plan to transfer Yolanda survivors to another bunkhouse 5 kilometers away.
‘Our local and national governments seem to be missing the point of the Papal visit. We just want to remind them that the real objective of the Pope in visiting the country next year is for him to see first-hand the real and abject conditions of the victims of Yolanda. And they should be treated victims and not as eyesores,’ ended Aquino. - Reference: Mark Louie Aquino, Tindog People’s Network Spokesperson

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