Three years after Yolanda: Unmet Yolanda shelter needs, government neglect

Photo by People Surge

Resettlement in super-typhoon Yolanda-stricken areas continues to be characterized by substandard houses and lack of basic utilities. Shelter shortage is glaring despite the influx of funds. Slow government response in the three year aftermath of the super-typhoon has extended rehabilitation woes for the victims and survivors. 

Weak shelter

Rommel  Portugal, a 45-year-old mechanic-turned arbularyo at manghihilot (herb doctor) after Typhoon Yolanda, laments the state of their house in Ridgeview Park. The resettlement site of the National Housing Authority (NHA) is a Php15-ride away from Tacloban City.

Rommel and his family were transferred to Ridgeview after spending more than a year at the bunkhouses. For many families like his who still lack a steady source of income, the incomplete state of Ridgeview houses was another cause for worry. They were not given materials to complete the construction of their new homes. Only one piece of plywood was provided to use as a bed on the cold concrete floors which has caused illness especially among the children.

Ridgeview houses are not sturdy and would not withstand another big typhoon, Rommel observed. There is also no evacuation center nearby in case another calamity strikes. Moreover, there is still no electricity – only small solar panels made available for them to use at least for lighting.

There is also no water system. Aside from having to pay Php30 per container for potable water and Php2 per container for sanitation, Rommel feels that some designated leaders are overcharging residents for the water.

Sanitation is a problem. According to Rommel, the bathrooms are poorly constructed; the toilet bowl is not properly cemented and will tip over if they are not carefully seated. The septic tank is small and the floor drainage is poor, leading to flooding when they bathe. They can no longer use the sink because the hose for the drain has quickly worn down.

Rommel also remembers then Office of the Presidential Adviser on Reconstruction and Rehabilitation (OPARR) head Panfilo Lacson saying that Yolanda survivors transferred to Ridgeview would not have to pay for their units. They would however learn that after five years of occupying the Ridgeview unit for free, residents will have to start paying Php200 every month. The amount will increase every few years until the unit has been fully paid for in 30 years. Rommel said that with an unstable income and no livelihood opportunities in sight, his family cannot afford to pay their unit and they will eventually have to move out of Ridgewood.

Lack of will?

Super-typhoon Yolanda/ Haiyan entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) in November 2013, cut across Leyte and adjacent provinces and left from 6,293 to 19,000 dead or missing and 28,689 injured. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that 1,140,332 houses were damaged, of which 550,928 were destroyed totally while the rest, partially.

Government’s resettlement cluster targeted 205,128 housing units for construction under the leadership of the NHA. Despite being a rather low target considering the breadth of damage, the NHA received Php39.2 billion, one of the largest releases to government agencies.  Yet according to a June 2016 National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) report, only 23.2% or Php9.1 billion of the amount has been disbursed. The report also showed that the NHA’s projects only had an overall weighted accomplishment of 12.3%, with 45% ongoing and 42.6% not yet started.

A September 2016 Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) validation report cited complaints by Yolanda survivors that affirmed the snail pace of housing projects. In Guiuan, Eastern Samar, transition houses were demolished to make way for the construction of core shelters. But no temporary abode was provided to survivors while the core houses were being built. As of August 2016, 62% of 3,112 target core shelter units have not been started. Meanwhile, only 57% of the 1,410 target units of transition shelters have been built. The distribution of the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) has also been reported to be quite problematic.

As of August 2016, a huge portion of significant amounts of combined foreign and local donations have reportedly been spent on shelters categorized into ESA (Php543.3 million), transitional shelters (Php189 million) and Core Shelter Assistance Project (CSAP: Php27 million). Yet all of the above show how hundreds of thousands of Yolanda survivors remain unsheltered and homeless.

Relief underway?

Snail-paced response and poor construction of homes for survivors not only puts into question the government’s integrity in the utilization of billions of pesos in Yolanda funds.  It also puts into question whether it deems people’s welfare to be of prime importance.

Up to 890,895 families or over four million individuals were displaced by Yolanda. Total cost of damages in all affected regions reached approximately Php39.8 billion, of which agricultural damages accounted for Php20.3 billion and infrasructure damages for the rest.

Reports indicate that infrastructure and agriculture rehabilitation has also fared slowly, depriving the people of livelihood opportunities and severely-needed social services. The destruction illustrates how destroyed homes only mark the beginning of physical to economic displacement that can only get worse the longer rehabilitation and reconstruction takes to progress. [END]

 

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