SURVIVORS of super typhoon Yolanda in the central Philippines continue to assail the government over its failure to provide them “decent” housing four years after the storm.

“We are not satisfied with the government’s response. We are complaining because what we have are substandard houses,” Laarni Cabatingan, a survivor in Tacloban city, said.

“As much as we like to transfer to our relocation site, we can’t because the site is not livable. The drainage system is not yet clear while water is still being rationed. More, we lack livelihood, electricity there. We rather go back to the danger zone than return to our relocation site which is a ‘death zone’ for us,” Vincent Basiano, a survivor from the coastal area of Anibong, said.

“Sayang ang resources ng gobyerno bakit dumating sa pontong ito. Pero nagpapasalamat kami kay President Duterte at Tacloban mayor Cristina Romualdez dahil nakita namin ang efforts nila. Naghihinayang lang kami sa resources and oras na hindi na maximize,” he added.

On Sept. 15, Cabatingan and Batano, along with other survivors, wrote a letter to Pres. Duterte to complain about the issues and specifically blamed Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino, who was directed by the president to oversee the housing problem of the typhoon victims.

“I’d like to ask the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas to— Mike Dino, I’ll put him in charge…I want this thing completed. I’ll be back, December,” this was the statement of Duterte to the survivors during the 3rd year commemoration in Tacloban on Nov. 8 last year.

Duterte had expressed dissatisfaction over the rehabilitation program of then President Benigno Aquino III.

Complaints, appeals to Duterte

In their complaint letter which was received by the Office of the President on Sept. 29, the Yolanda survivors said that the “dismal condition we are now in demonstrates the failure of Mr. Dino and the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV).”

“We suffered three long years under the Yellow administration. But our continued suffering under your administration could only because your point man in the Visayas is all about PR and not actual performance,” the survivors said in their letter, a copy of which was obtained by Manila Channel.

The survivors asked the president to “call the attention and discipline Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino for not doing his job you specifically assigned to him regarding the state of the victims of super typhoon Yolanda.”

They urged Duterte “name another Yolanda Housing czar who will take care of Visayans outside Cebu City especially the Yolanda victims in the City of Tacloban.”

They also asked the House Committee on Housing to look into the “omission” of Yolanda housing “czar” in addressing the corruption that plagued the Yolanda housing projects while appealing to the president to provide them with decent housing before the year ends.

Duterte watchdog

Meanwhile, a group supportive to Duterte said they are “deeply concerned” about the “corruption and neglect” suffered by the Yolanda survivors with the fourth year commemoration of the tragedy this November 8.

“We will investigate the corruption and cause of neglect of the Yolanda victims. We will work closely with the appropriate government agencies and will not stop until the root causes are uncovered and prosecuted,” said Fr. Jose Elmer Cajilig, co-convenor of Kilusang Pagbabago in the Visayas.

Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. has outlined that KP shall serve as a watchdog as we pursue the administration’s change agenda, Cajilig added.

“It is highly possible that the situation of Yolanda survivors has contributed much to the decline of the net satisfaction rating of President Duterte in the recent SWS survey,” he said in a statement.

The Duterte watchdog group said that they have been receiving complaints about the housing situation in Tacloban City, Panay, and northern Cebu, and these were also noted in the recent investigation spearheaded by House Committee on Housing Rep. Albee Benitez of Negros Occidental and Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar.

Housing mess

During the investigation by House Committee on Housing, they found out that of the NHA’s 71,629 completed units, 24,000 were occupied, as of the agency’s August 2017 accomplishments.
Main reasons for the delay include the lack of titled lands, issues with the permit, and mode of development.

The committee also raised issues on subcontracting and substandard quality of housing projects.

In Balangiga, Eastern Samar alone, at least seven beneficiaries had withdrawn their filed applications for their housing, citing fear for their safety over the alleged substandard housing units.

“Ang isangbumawi ng application form ay marami na.Ibig sabihin, alam nilang hindi ligtas ang pabahay ng NHA sa Cansumangkay (Balangiga). Kaya dapat ipatigil na iyang pagkuha ng applicants at magkaroon muna ng audit ng istruktura at magkaroon ng konsultasyon sa aming mga apektado,” said 56-year-old storm survivor Tessie Elacion, president of Balangiga Municipal Unsafe Zone Federation.

Elacion asked why there seems to be no action against the alleged erring contractors or individuals involved in the substandard units.

This is tantamount to condoning anomalies in housing projects, placing Yolanda survivors in more danger, she added.

OVAP’s denial

The Presidential Assistant for the Visayas was never appointed by the President to be the “Yolanda Housing Czar”, Anthony Gerard Y. Gonzales, assistant secretary of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, said on Monday.

“PA Dino received verbal instructions from President Rodrigo Duterte on November 8 last year when both visited Tacloban City, to relocate immediately the Tacloban Yolanda Housing beneficiaries from the danger zone to the housing units on different relocation sites in Tacloban,” the statement said.

“PA Dino was not tasked by the President in the construction of houses for Yolanda Housing Project. Construction of the Yolanda Housing units is undertaken by the National Housing Authority.”

The statement came in reaction to a published report by Manila Standard headlined “Yolanda Housing Czar hit” on Oct. 30 which according to OVAP, “was erroneously attributed to PA Michael Lloyd Dino.”

Dino’s rescue

Tacloban mayor Cristina Romualdez, who also chairs the Regional Development Council for Eastern Visayas, came into Dino’s defense, thanking Duterte for assigning Dino “for setting the tone and the pace of the rehabilitation efforts” in the city.

“We work with them (NHA), we always check, our city engineers check. Of course, may mga kunting, may mga ilang bahay talaga na kailang ayusin, pero in general naman happy naman sila,” Romualdez told reporters in the city.

“Hopefully, by next year, lipat na iyan lahat. I know NHA is doing their best. The president is really pushing the different agencies na kailangan talagang matapos. Alam naman natin na hindi yan kasalan ng present administation eh, so may nangyari siguro in the past na medyo mabagal,” the mayor added as she continues to push for more measures to have permanent water and power supply in the resettlement areas along with its livelihood program.

Romualdez disclosed that the city is planning to construct a bigger market and more commercial establishments in the northern part of the city so that they will have their own economic activities in the future.

On Oct. 25, the mayor led in another round of distribution of Livelihood Starter Kits at the City Hall Extension Office in the north for 802 beneficiaries in the resettlement areas.

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