By Joyce Pangco Panares, Francisco Tuyay and Macon Ramos-Araneta | Manila Standard
THE government’s master plan for rebuilding disaster-hit areas in Eastern Visayas is “woefully out of date” and its needs assessment report has not even been released nine months after super typhoon ravaged the country, a consortium of international aid groups said Tuesday.
Worse, more than 7,000 survivors of Yolanda were again hit by typhoon Glenda two weeks ago the consortium, called Scaling Up Resilience and Governance or Surge, said.
“These communities are being exposed to tremendous risk and uncertainty. They urgently need to know when permanent relocation will move forward, what other settlement options they have, and what the implications will be for their livelihoods,” the group said in a statement.
The Surge consortium consists of the European aid agencies Oxfam, Christian Aid, Handicap International and Plan International, which have been directly involved in Yolanda rebuilding efforts.
Oxfam, one of the consortium members, said Aquino failed to report on the state of his administration’s risk reduction efforts, both in terms of rehabilitation and recovery of Yolanda-stricken areas, during his State of the Nation Address.
Nine months after typhoon Yolanda struck, thousands were still living in tents in coastal areas with more than 7,000 people in Yolanda-affected areas seeking cover again when typhoon Glenda struck, Oxfam added.
The International Organization for Migration said only 53 out of 643 or 8 percent of evacuation centers can be used in Eastern Samar.
In a phone interview, rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson said the aid groups got their facts wrong.
“We never claimed that the survivors of Yolanda have fully recovered. The President gave a truthful report in his SONA [State of the Nation Address]. He mentioned that even Banda Aceh [in Indonesia] took eight years to fully recover,” Lacson said.
“Besides, RAY [Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda] is not the master plan. The master plan will still be submitted to the President on Aug. 1. They are basing their statements on false assumptions, and that is dangerous,” he added.
But the consortium said the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council’s post-disaster needs assessment report, “which is key to strengthening and accountability,” had yet to be released.
“These documents are critical to better understand the substance of a few LGU rehabilitation and recovery plans, which the President said he recently approved,” the aid groups said.
The aid groups also said typhoon Yolanda exposed weaknesses in existing prevention, preparedness and mitigation efforts.
“We urge the President to lay down his commitment to an integrated community based disaster risk reduction program, including the strategies and mechanisms that will ensure the meaningful participation, protection, and much-needed livelihoods of vulnerable individuals and families,” the group said.
Following the President’s SONA, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he had hoped Aquino would have focused more on the Yolanda victims.
“We would like for the government to have done more, I hoped the President would have done more. We will soon have the first anniversary of Yolanda. Whatever the government could give should already have been given,” Marcos said.
In his address, Aquino said the rehabilitation plan for Yolanda survivors was already in place and that water and fuel were made available days after the typhoon.
In his Facebook page, Antonio La Vina, dean of Ateneo College of Government, said that while listening to the SONA, he wondered how peole in Tacloban City and other areas in Leyte and Samar reacted to the President’s claims.
“Actually, someone I know posted that people in Tacloban laughed at hearing those claims of the President,” said La Vina.
He said it just seemed surreal, recalling those days, or maybe the President was talking about a different country.
“Or are we expected to have collective amnesia?” he said.
“To me, this is not nitpicking. If this was a book or journal being rigorously reviewed before publication, this part of the speech will probably not pass fact checking. Without insight, we will not learn. If we do not learn, it will not happen again,” he further said.
In a forum before students last March, the President apologized for the government’s slow pace in helping victims of Yolanda.