“Many victims were disqualified simply because of their residence location and receipt of little aid from local officials.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA — Typhoon victims from the Visayas are demanding the “immediate and unconditional release” of an P18-billion (US$405 million) government shelter assistance fund, the release of which, they said, is being hampered by a government memorandum that discriminates against the poor.
The victims, who are mostly farmers and fisherfolk, travelled all the way from the islands of Panay, Samar and Guimaras to bring their protest to national government agencies. They arrived in Manila this week to bring their issues to Congress, the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD), and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Denr).
The groups said poor typhoon victims are being “doubly distressed” as they are disqualified from availing of the P18-billion ($405 million)Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) fund by the DSWD Memorandum Circular No. 24.
They said that this shows the Aquino government’s failure in rehabilitation and its “incompetence and criminal neglect of the victims.”
The groups also held a protest in Mendiola on May 14.
The victims belonged to farmers’ and fisherfolk groups, namely, Anakpawis Partylist, Paghugpong sang mga Mangunguma sa Panay kag Guimaras (Pamanggas-Panay, Alliance of Small Peasant Organizations in Panay and Guimaras), Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (Sagupa Eastern Visayas, Alliance of Small Peasants in Eastern Visayas).
DSWD Memo 24
On May 12, the groups submitted a petition to the DSWD, calling for the withdrawal of its Memorandum Circular No. 24, and the release of the ESA. The petition was signed by 22,000 individuals.
The ESA gives P30,000 ($675) to Yolanda victims whose houses were destroyed, and P10,000 ($225) to those with partially damaged houses.
The DSWD memo sets conditions for ESA beneficiaries, and automatically disqualifies farmer and fisherfolk families living along shorelines, farms and hillsides that were considered “hazard zones,” or “no build, no dwell zones.”
The memo sets only the following as qualified to receive ESA: families who are already renting, and had availed of the DSWD Disaster Family Access Card (Dafac); contractual government employees with no housing loans from government and private groups; regular workers from the public and private sectors earning lower than P15,000 ($338) a month, provided that they have not received the same aid from other agencies; lone survivors who are issued with Dafac; families who did self-repair and are with DAFAC.
“Many victims were disqualified simply because of their residence location and receipt of little aid from local officials. The provision about the salary level is also discriminatory as if those earning P16,000 ($360) do not need assistance,” said Chris Chavez, spokesperson of Pamanggas-Panay.
Anakpawis partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap had filed three resolutions in relation to the issues raised by typhoon victims: House Resolution (HR) 669, which called for investigation on the construction of alleged over-priced bunkhouses, HR 947 on the “no build, no dwell zone” policy, and HR 1950 on the damage assessment of the succeeding typhoons Ruby and Seniang in Yolanda-hit areas.
Hicap said the NDRRMC estimate of Yolanda’s damage was P40 billion, while the foreign donations reached P73.3 billion.
“What happened to the funds raised for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda? How about the funds released for Typhoon Ruby?” said Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France in a statement.
“We demand the liquidation of these funds. We’re afraid that only a ‘chosen few’ benefited from these. After all, election season’s coming up soon,” he said.
The National Disaster and Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that typhoon Yolanda left at least 6,293 dead, 1,061 missing, and affected 16 million individuals. Many of the Yolanda victims were also affected by the succeeding typhoons Ruby and Seniang last year.