“Even before Yolanda, majority of the victims have been poor, with no regular income, no access to education and health and have been experiencing hunger. The attitude should be to resolve those problems, not to bring back the old situation which is miserable.” – Wilma Austria
By EMILY VITAL
MANILA – “The victims cannot rely on the government. Six months after Yolanda and the government has yet to finish its assessment,” said Wilma Austria.
As of February, several government agencies and local government units have not submitted their post-Yolanda reports, according to the National Economic Development Authority (Neda).
Benito Tiamzon said the government has no plan for the poor. “The reactionary government is neglecting the poor. It does not care if the victims live in subhuman conditions.”
“Even in non-disaster areas, the reactionary government does not provide decent housing for the poor,” Tiamzon added.
Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria, alleged top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) were arrested March 22 together with five others in Zaragosa village, Aluginsan, Cebu. The Armed Forces of the Philippines has been claiming that Tiamzon is the chairman while Wilma Austria is the secretary general of the CPP.
At the time of their arrest, Wilma Tiamzon and Benito Austria were overseeing rehabilitation efforts in areas in the Visayas hardly hit by supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan).
In a statement following the arrest of the Tiamzon couple on March 22 in Cebu, the Communist Party of the Philippines said, “Both were closely monitoring the efforts of the New People’s Army (NPA) in carrying out rehabilitation work in devastated regions. They were receiving reports from NPA commands about efforts to mobilize Red fighters to help build communal farms, till the land and mobilize and distribute seeds and other agricultural resources from the NDFP [National Democratic Front of the Philippines].”
A total of P1.5 million ($33 thousand) was confiscated by the military during the arrest of alleged CPP leaders and NDFP consultants. Austria said the amount is intended for the victims of Yolanda. “Those were donations from several donors coursed through the NDFP to ensure that aid would reach the victims,” Austria told Bulatlat.com. The military denied having possession of such amount.
‘Empty’ rehabilitation plan
Austria said that instead of providing services to the victims, “the government and big corporations are taking advantage of the situation. The government prevents fisherfolk from rebuilding their homes in coastal areas to pave the way for corporations to establish businesses in these areas.”
Austria criticized NEDA’s rehabilitation plan as ‘empty,’ referring to the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY).
“The NEDA only wants to reconstruct local government infrastructure, bring back electricity, water supply and transportation. The NEDA wants to bring back the situation before Yolanda,” Austria said.
Austria said, “Even before Yolanda, majority of the victims have been poor, with no regular income, no access to education and health and have been experiencing hunger. The attitude should be to resolve those problems, not to bring back the old situation which is miserable.”
She said land reform, employment and safe shelter should be the priority. Fisherfolk should have stable livelihood, she added. “These are what the people want, not just dole-outs.”
Tiamzon scored US troops for using Yolanda to reconstruct its former facilities in Guiuan, Eastern Samar. He said the humanitarian assistance is only for a show.
Austria said the President has not shown any sympathy toward the victims. “He could not offer even words of comfort. It seems he has a heart of stone.”
When a group of victims went to Malacañang to submit their petition, they were initially barred from entering. Aquino also shot down their demand for P40,000 ($888) immediate financial assistance for the victims.
“That amount is actually small for families who have lost everything,” Austria said.
“He cannot claim that there are no funds when there is the PDAF [Priority Development Assistance Fund] scam,” Tiamzon said.
Tiamzon said the victims must take the opportunity to organize themselves and make their voice heard.