Taken all together, the measures chosen and the manner by which these are implemented by the government since Day 1 of the disaster show its utter insensitivity to the plight of the survivors and its incompetence in providing for the needs of the Filipino people — Agham
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – In the Aquino government’s press releases, such as in Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman’s report on the 100th day of Yolanda, things are upbeat and there are high hopes for Yolanda survivors. But from reports of the people on the ground, there are dire warnings that the Yolanda survivors might in fact die from hunger in the coming months because of the government’s slow and inappropriate responses.
This Friday February 21, the scientist group Agham (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People) revealed how wrong the DSWD conclusions are, using the DSWD data itself.
“A close look on the agency’s data reveals an embarrassing, if not outright appalling, response her agency and the BS Aquino regime took towards the disaster,” said Ms. Finesa Cosico, Secretary General of progressive scientist organization, AGHAM.
The group AGHAM, aided by Computer Professionals’ Union (CPU), conducted a data audit of the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub, NEDA’s Rehabilitation Assistance for Yolanda and DSWD’s 100th day report to see how the current administration responded to the disaster and if it had kept its promise of transparency in the use of foreign aid.
The following are their findings:
• An average of 4 food packs was given to survivors of Yolanda in Eastern Visayas. These had about 3 kilos, 6 kilos or 25 kilos of rice.
For a typical family though, this ration cannot provide 1-percent of the daily kilocalorie requirement set by the international humanitarian agencies. Ground reports even indicate that survivors actually received a measly 2-kilo pack of rice. As such, it is no wonder that survivors are still crying for additional relief.
• The government’s vaunted cash for work program only benefitted a negligible 1.6 percent of affected families. Those who were included in the program earned about P245-260 ($5.40 to $5.80) daily for 10 days. But this amount is not enough to support the requirements for a family’s decent living, and then after 10 days, what?
• There is almost no effort to provide houses, temporary or permanent. An almost nil or 0.17 percent of affected families were transferred to substandard bunkhouses. (In an interview aired over the AM radio this morning, Dr. Elfleda Bautista, executive vice-chairman of People Surge, an alliance of Yolanda survivors, said many of these bunkhouses or tents are currently unoccupied because the survivors would rather return to their old addresses and rebuild their communities. She reiterated their demand to be consulted in all rehabilitation plans.)
• Residents are being displaced from their former houses due to the ‘No build zone’ policy that targets families of fisherfolk living in coastal communities. The government is saying the removal of dwellings along coastal areas is part of the safety measures it is implementing in the event of typhoons and other related hazards such as storm surge. If that were the case, then the government must have an alternative plan for the displaced communities that would ensure their long-term alternative livelihood, safe relocation areas, free housing and access to social services.
Dr. Elfleda Bautista said that so far, there is none. All the plans they heard about are the plans of big businesses to build ecozones where the government is prohibiting the old residents to return.
According to Cosico, “The DSWD’s report is just one indication that points to the Aquino government’s criminal negligence.” Taken all together, the group concluded, the measures the government has taken and the manner by which these are implemented since Day 1 of the disaster up to now show its utter insensitivity to the plight of the survivors and its incompetence in providing for the needs of Filipino people.
The government was conspicuously absent in Eastern Visayas in the first few days to first few weeks immediately after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck. When it finally showed up, it first sent in truckloads of armed soldiers rather than rescue and relief distribution. Now that as announced, the government has started work for rehabilitation, it is reportedly edging out the long-time, rendered homeless residents, to give way to big business plans to build economic zones in former coastal communities.
People Surge volunteers also noted that the government seems to be belittling in their reports the real extent of agricultural damage in Eastern Visayas, as it is allocating less funds to rebuild agriculture. This would have helped the people to get back on their feet, they said.
Some residents are returning now to their former residences and trying to rebuild it themselves, despite the government ban. Dr. Elfleda Bautista of People Surge said the people refuse to be relocated to the mountains where they may not fall victim to a storm surge but may die instead from a landslide or erosion.
Bautista said the damages wreaked by Yolanda are not confined in Tacloban City alone, saying Eastern Visayas is composed of six provinces of which four were very badly hit. She expressed gratitude for the generosity of local and foreign non-government agencies that came to help. But she said the people are looking for the government’s action – as it is first and foremost the government’s responsibility.
“Without this foreign aid, many survivors would have been dead by now,” Dr Bautista said. But to continue surviving, her group has submitted a petition listing their urgent and long-term doable demands to the Aquino government last Tuesday, 100th day after Yolanda.
Unfortunately, President Aquino rejected their petition. Cosico of Agham said this only highlights “the offensive actions of the government toward the Yolanda victims.” Panfilo Lacson also resorted to red-baiting the survivors.
“The DSWD report, the government’s appalling response to Typhoon Yolanda disaster and Aquino’s downright dismissal of the demands of the survivors are enough proof that not much can be expected from the current administration,” Agham said in a statement. For the scientist group, Aquino’s response in the aftermath of Yolanda shows similarity to its responses in typhoons Sendong and Pablo. Cosico urges the public to demand for their rights and uphold the welfare of the survivors of these disasters.
Bautista of People Surge, meanwhile, appealed to local and foreign non-government donors to course their donations and various support directly to peoples organizations and the survivors, as they strive to rebuild their livelihood especially agriculture. “The people right now are still able to hold hunger at bay because of the presence of foreign agencies and NGOs,” Bautista said.
She noted that it was the Red Cross and some NGOs from China and from various international offices, as well as the United Nations and cause-oriented groups who have been helping the survivors through food or cash for work (such as in cleaning the region of the storm’s debris), direct cash assistance, roofing materials, repair of water facilities, temporary schools or learning centers, etc.
But the United Nations, through Dr. Luiza Carvalho, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, said in a press conference Friday in Quezon City that the distribution of relief will stop by April and shift to “targeted” recipients instead. They are also set to talk today with Aquino’s so-called rehabilitation czar, Panfilo Lacson.