“The Aquino government had enough time in the past three months to attend to the peoples’ basic needs. The fact that the people of Eastern Visayas are still demanding for food, livelihood, housing and social services is a testament to the Aquino government’s criminal negligence.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – With the reported massive pouring of aid and donations for Yolanda victims and the declarations of the Aquino government that even the most remote areas had been reached and it is now moving from relief operations to reconstruction and rehabilitation, people might expect that a lot has changed after 100 days since Yolanda struck Eastern Visasyas. But the victims related that this is not so.
“There has been no change especially in remote areas. You might see some change in the city but not in the villages.” This is how Benedictine nun Edita Eslopor, chairperson of region-wide umbrella organization called People Surge, described the current situation of the people in the region.
She said majority in the region have not been reached by aid nor rehabilitation efforts coming from the government, despite President Aquino’s appointment of a so-called rehab czar. Only 10-percent of the population of Eastern Visayas population reside in cities, while about 90-percent live in villages and far-flung areas, Sr. Eslopor told Bulatlat.com.
With other survivors of supertyphoon Yolanda, Sr. Eslopor came to Metro Manila this weekend to mark the 100th day since the landfall of Yolanda with a rally to be held on Monday, Feb 17, near Malacañang. Speaking at a press conference in Quezon City this Saturday February 15, she asked for the support of the people in MetroManila in their quest to bring to President Benigno Aquino III their demands and suggestions regarding the appropriate direction of rehabilitation in Eastern Visayas. They are set to return to Eastern Visayas on Feb 18.
Sr. Eslopor said that whatever rehabilitation efforts there are right now in the region are focused on cities, while relief distribution seems to have stopped altogether. She and the other survivors of typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) fear that with no more distribution of relief goods, and without rehabilitation efforts to assist them in rebuilding their sources of livelihood, typhoon survivors might suffer worse hunger soon.
“We need the rehabilitation of agricultural production. Farmers need help to rebuild the estimated P64-billion ($1.426 b) damaged agriculture in the region,” Eslopor said, repeating that farmers and farmworkers who comprise the majority are not residing or making a living in the cities but are in the villages and far-flung areas of the region.
The religious head of People Surge said that while it is true that in the cities such as Tacloban, you can see where some of the relief went and bunkhouses were built, albeit tainted with news of overpricing, she said people need houses that are safe to live in.
Eslopor noted many “ugly trends” in the Aquino government’s rehabilitation program. This include the absence of consultation with the people, the absence of rehabilitation work on agriculture and in rural areas, the seeming bias of the components of rehabilitation toward the profit-oriented private sector, and the “color-coded politicking” of relief distribution. The latter is People Surge’s nickname for what they have observed as the tendency of relief and aid to pour only in areas where President Aquino’s allies are in power.
In response to a question about some local government units’ complaint that they have not felt the reported aid that are supposedly for all the victims and devastated areas, Eslopor said, “All the more that the masses do not feel those aid, if the LGUs themselves don’t.”
Developments not to govt credit but to various orgs
Because aid is not flowing at all toward Typhoon Haiyan’s survivors, they will make Malacañang hear the people’s anger about the worsening hunger, Eslopor said. She credits whatever developments and aid coming in and being showcased now on the efforts of various non-governmental and people’s organizations, and not the government.
The Aquino government’s ‘Food for Work’ is not working especially for people in rural areas, the People Surge said. It is not because they do not want to work, but because they are not consulted at all and the setup may not be what is needed or appropriate, Eslopor told Bulatlat.com. (see: After Typhoon Haiyan, survivors decry Aquino’s ‘profit driven’ reconstruction program)
As a result, typhoon survivors are in dire straits. “The people survived the supertyphoon but they will die from hunger,” Eslopor said of Typhoon Haiyan’s survivors who are now struggling to rebuild their means of livelihood, especially agriculture. The problem is, as some farmers who came to Manila with Sr. Eslopor shared with Bulatlat.com, without their farms or crops, they are finding it extremely difficult to buy the materials for their shelter, the seeds to plant and grow, the farms to till, the money for their high land rent, and the funds to sustain their family’s daily needs.
Because of these, People Surge demanded, two months after Yolanda, that every family of a survivor be given at least P40,000 (4891) cash relief and provision of food aid, until necessary, to assist in their full recovery while their sources of livelihood have not yet stabilized.
Sr. Eslopor said the government’s failure to effectively address the peoples’ needs led to the founding of People Surge last January 24th in Tacloban City, during the biggest mass demonstration in recent years (an estimated 12,000 came). She said “The Aquino government had enough time in the past three months to attend to the peoples’ basic needs. The fact that the people of Eastern Visayas are still demanding for food, livelihood, housing and social services is a testament to the Aquino government’s criminal negligence.”