Rehab Marawi, but don’t abandon Yolanda–IBON

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Research group IBON said that while rehabilitation efforts are very much needed in war-ravaged Marawi, the Duterte administration should not consider reconstruction work in Yolanda-stricken areas to be over. Counting down to four years since super-typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit southern Philippines, IBON noted how government’s response remained slow-paced and its policies even counter-productive in the calamity-damaged Visayas communities.

After declaring Marawi free of terrorists, the Philippine government has organized Task Force Bangon Marawi and declared that rehabilitation in the war-torn city will be better than in Yolanda areas. But IBON said that while claiming to apply Yolanda response lessons in Marawi, the Duterte administration still has to carry out rehabilitation efforts in Eastern Visayas especially in the livelihood, housing and resettlement clusters.

Nearly four years after typhoon Yolanda, only 16,846 housing units or only 30 percent have been completed out of 56,140 permanent houses targeted to be built in Yolanda-stricken areas in Eastern Visayas. Moreover, out of the completed units only 12,763 have been given to Yolanda-stricken families. Still in progress are 11,957 units or 21.29 percent, according to data from the Region VIII National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

“Major obstacles identified by the governmen were surmountable, if only government prioritized resettling the victims and rebuilding their lives and livelihoods”, IBON executive editor and research head Rosario Bella Guzman said. “Instead, infrastructure was prioritized to immediately restore business activities,” said Guzman.

Out of the 86 resettlement sites, only five water supply projects have been completed and only 59 out of the 86 resettlement sites have electricity.

NEDA Region VIII attributed the slow pace of construction to unavailable lots, land acquisition issues, and procurement problems. The delays in transfers according to NEDA Region VIII were primarily due to unavailable power and water supply in the sites.

IBON also criticized the Duterte administration’s realignment of Php5 billion in unused typhoon Yolanda funds for Marawi rehabilitation. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) reportedly allocated the amount to build temporary shelters and other priority projects in Marawi.

Guzman pointed out that notwithstanding the urgency of Marawi rehabilitation, the diversion of funds from unfinished reconstruction efforts in the Eastern Visayas indicates government neglect of rehabilitation work there. “It gives the impression that the job has been done while in fact thousands of survivors are still without livelihoods and languish in substandard shelters and living conditions,” Guzman said.

Considered to be one of the strongest typhoons in world history, Yolanda ravaged the country affecting 12,122 barangays, 591 municipalities, and 57 cities in 44 provinces across nine Philippine regions–including the poorest–in November 2013. IBON is set to disclose its findings from research done regarding build-back-better in Yolanda areas on November 8, the fourth-year anniversary of the super-typhoon.

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