“It is the national government’s responsibility to lead the reconstruction… many private companies involved are not in there for humanitarian reasons but for profit.” – People Surge
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – The People Surge alliance of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors boycotted the “Yolanda Transparency Forum” in Tacloban City, which was sponsored by the Aquino government and The Asia Foundation March 20. In Metro Manila, People Surge members and supporters marched to Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang to call for genuine reconstruction efforts.
Sr. Editha Eslopor, spokesperson of People Surge, said they have studied what would be discussed in the forum – the Aquino government’s Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) – and they reject it “as anti-people, pro-big business, debt-driven and prone to corruption.” She urged her fellow survivors of typhoon Yolanda to guard against those who will use them to legitimize what she calls as a flawed reconstruction plan. The typhoon survivors call it flawed because, they said, it is not a meaningful reconstruction program as it would not result in the upliftment of the lives of majority of the typhoon-affected residents.
“If the Aquino government cannot even do the basics of providing relief operations and other short-term needs of the survivors, how much more for long-term recovery?” Eslopor asked.
Aquino’s RAY anti-people
Eslopor explained why the Aquino government’s RAY is against the interests of the people.
Under RAY, the government would allot ?18 billion ($400 million) for the recovery of agriculture in all regions affected by Yolanda, but the agricultural damage in Eastern Visayas alone amounted to ?65 billion ($1.444 billion). “How would the majority of the people, who depend on agriculture, be able to recover with the scant attention paid to their main means of livelihood?” Sr. Eslopor asked.
The spokesperson of People Surge also pointed out that the Aquino government is bent on handing over most of the projects for post-Yolanda reconstruction to the private sector. Sr. Eslopor said this does not bode well for the direction of the reconstruction, because “it is the national government’s responsibility to lead the reconstruction; and in the final analysis, many private companies involved are not in there for humanitarian reasons but for profit.”
The People Surge likewise snubbed the Aquino government’s “pretences” at transparency. Eslopor said the government should be held accountable by the people’s movement. She cited the continuous complaints of the people that they are not receiving aid, despite the Aquino government’s “attempts to feign transparency.”
Eslopor reiterated the typhoon survivors’ basic demands for food, cash assistance, livelihood and social services. She said their long-term recovery efforts should be hinged on genuinely serving the peoples’ interests.
Leaders of People Surge have come to Metro Manila on the 100th day of Yolanda to submit a petition signed by 17,000 Yolanda survivors. They have also tried to engage the Aquino government in dialogues, but a few weeks into trying, and meeting either “insults” or the usual run-around from government agencies, Eslopor concluded that they can expect nothing from the Aquino government.