Thousands cry out in 4th Yolanda anniversary: End Hungry, poverty and fascism!

Tacloban City- Yolanda survivors from around Eastern Visayas joined forces by the thousands to demand an end to prevailing hunger, widespread poverty and rising fascism in the region as it persists even four years after the world’s most powerful typhoon made landfall last November 8, 2013.

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Over three thousand delegates from the different provinces were divided into three contingencies: The first assembled at the mouth of the San Juanico bridge from its Samar side, the second contingency gathered in the Sto. Nino Shrine and a final bolt gathered in front of the Department of Labor and Employment in solidarity with striking workers who were also building up towards the Yolanda anniversary. All three groups converged at the center of the Rizal avenue and conducted their main program there after they marched on the streets of Tacloban city.

Protesters carried with them visual materials in the form of waves to outline their main calls for this year’s anniversary-protest. The first wave called for an end to poverty, the second incited resistance against hunger, a third wave challenged fascism in the region and the final wave called all that saw it to ‘take justice’. Other large banners animated the streets of Tacloban with their provoking content.

People Surge led the massive protest after reports came in revealing grave cases of corruption in Yolanda housing, displacement of coastal communities due to privatized infrastructure, abject poverty in the country sides due to poor aid for the agriculture sector and increased military presence in peasant community’s region wide.

“Friends and fellow survivors, here we are once more. Demanding justice for the abuses of our government, here we meet again in the center of calamity with nothing but our memory of criminal negligence and our experience of fascism.  How long do we have to wait for agricultural aid like resolving irrigation and crop infestation, when half of our farmers are all dead from starvation? How long do we have to wait for quality and pro-people housing? When our people die in extreme poverty from lack of livelihood? No, we will not stand for this. We will fight and resist, and so even if a decade passes by so long as our rights are not served we will not stop marching!” exclaimed People Surge secretary general Marissa Cabaljao, who spoke on the lasting relevance of the Yolanda anniversary stretching on its 4th year.

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The crowd jeered on and held Duterte accountable for unfulfilled campaign promises for the region amid his approval of the 13-point Disaster Survivors agenda last 2016. Because of this, participants held up banners calling out the present administration for subserviently implementing pro-US and pro-business policies that take advantage of the calamity wrought on by natural calamities using the front of humanitarian assistance. Neri Colmenares, the chairperson of the National Union of People’s Lawyers stood before the multitudes to decry their foul experience with the Duterte government in terms of resolving human rights issues that are similar to the many abuses committed by the military here in the region under his first year in office.

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Meanwhile, coordinated mass actions in Catbalogan City and Catarman, Northern Samar were also held by People surge chapters in those places. The Catarman leg to the Yolanda anniversary mob met fierce opposition from military forces after elements of the Armed Forces stationed along the Freedom Park to deny entry to the protesters. Unfazed, the protesters pushed on with their program and called out the AFP for violating the people of Northern Samar’s civil and political rights.

The protest organized in Catbalogan City saw 3,000 participants that jolted towards the Samar Provincial Hall. The massive group called for an end to the National Greening Program and the construction of the Samar Sky City as examples of anti-people rehabilitation programs post-Yolanda.

All three programs capped off with  a community singing led by local cultural groups as the message of the song reverberated across the whole region.

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NHA painted red after Housing skirmish

Tacloban City-  In response to the substandard housing crisis in permanent housing sites across the region, People Surge staged a rally in front of the National Housing Authority’s office last November 7 with other supporters.

Mounting their calls for the filing of corruption wraps on officials of the NHA who were allegedly involved in rampant undocumented subcontracting in thousands of permanent shelters, the disaster survivors demanded swift government action to hold accountable those responsible for squandering public funds like JC Tayag Builders who was proven to have 800 million pesos’ worth of contracts awarded to him for the construction of 2000 housing units which all turned out to be substandard.

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In a fit of rage, People Surge and KADAMAY members threw red paint on the walls of NHA representing the blood on their hands for squandering public funds and constructing what the rallyists called an “early grave”, what with the lack of electricity, water and social services easily accessible to the relocated communities.

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“These are for all the promises buried along with all our loved ones, people who have died in vain. But we, the living, we will not suffer in vain. We will demand accountability and we will take justice! We will not stand by as the funding for our houses are taken from us, as we are reduced to beggars and eyesores, as our dignity is stripped away and our rights forgotten.” Shouted Marissa Cabaljao, Secretary General of People Surge who led the protest earlier.

The group demanded that officials from NHA engage them to address their demands, but while the agency remained largely unresponsive to the protesters passersby jeered in support of their calls and objectives. Meanwhile, the Special Weapons and Tactics unit of the local PNP or SWAT was deployed to defend the regional office with high powered guns on hand and visible to the public. Unfazed, the bolt carried on with their program and successfully registered their estrangement.

Disaster Survivors Conference Launched

Palo, Leyte- People Surge Philippines joined the National Anti-Poverty Commission and the Leyte Center for Development in holding a region-wide Disaster Survivors Conference that gathered farmers and urban poor in the Oriental Hotel earlier today.

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The Conference sought to gather updated information on the local situation of disaster survivors four years after the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda in an effort to produce a region-wide Situationer on areas concerning poverty, food security and human rights in the region as an output.

A series of workshops and input discussions were held to consolidate data from provinces affected not just by Yolanda but also through succeeding calamities and government policies implemented post 2013 to the present, particularly the conference proponents intended to get an overview on government response to the decrease in the agriculture sector’s contribution to the regional gross domestic product on top of an increasing poverty incidence rate in Eastern Visayas alongside red flags from different human right groups in all the provinces of the region.

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Participants shared heart-wrenching stories of prevailing hardships borne by victims of calamities in the country sides who up to this day, do not feel any other form of government presence aside from consistent military operations being conducted in their own communities and even zones of peace like public schools in some provinces.

The conference carried on for three days, from November 5 to November 7 and ended with all its participants and partner-organizations signing the unity statement of disaster survivors outlining their resolutions and other relevant data gathered declaring that the state of Yolanda survivors has had no significant changes to it even after four years of rehabilitation efforts and two administrations.

PRIMER FOR THE 4TH YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF TYPHOON YOLANDA

October 14, 2017

Another year has gone by and the state of Yolanda survivors across the country has yet to improve as the government’s criminal neglect over the plight of Yolanda-struck communities continue to take a toll on the welfare and safety of survivors. In the span of four years, there has been no significant reduction in regional poverty-incidence rates and the lack of livelihood opportunities and government action on issues like crop infestation indicates a dim future for one of the poorest regions in the country.  In the 2016 elections, then-Interior secretary Mar Roxas boasted of a 93-percent completion rate in the post-Yolanda rehabilitation effort. What Secretary Roxas failed to mention however was that the 93 percent completion rate he mentioned only referred to the first phase in a three-phase rehabilitation process. Having taken that long to accomplish basic government responses needed in meeting the people’s immediate needs, the state of Yolanda-hit communities are further exasperated into utter desperation.

 

Poverty and Hunger Region wide

Poverty was not a peculiarity even prior to the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda back in 2013 but since then, the people of Eastern Visayas have been deeply mired in poverty caused by crippling real wage rates nailed at 170 pesos far below the nominal wage rate of the region pegged at 260 pesos in a day. Livelihood continues to be a major consideration among resettled families who keep on returning to their original settlements due to the lack of jobs in the permanent housing communities. As of the second quarter in 2017, over 2.55 billion pesos have been disbursed for the livelihood cluster with the objective of providing sustainable and appropriate livelihood opportunities for typhoon victims. Meanwhile over 113.55 million pesos has been disbursed for the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Kabuhayan Program or the DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP), a project intended to give capital for willing individuals who want to venture into entrepreneurship and small-scale businesses. Yet despite having reportedly reached 11,000 beneficiaries employment rate in the region is still considerably high with over 36 percent of the working age population categorized under ‘unemployed’. In addition, livelihood programs meant to encourage small-scale enterprises from rising across the region instead of subsidizing economic activity under the agriculture sector to spur production is causing a rise in the contribution of other sectors in the local economy while the contribution of the agri sector to the regional gross domestic product is ever decreasing at a steady rate after Yolanda. Because of the Kabuhayan framework introduced by DOLE, former fisherfolk are left with no other choice but to abandon their former way of life and conform with the government’s livelihood package. Local programs like Cristina’s Learn and Earn Program (CLEP) is also being heavily funded by the LGU of Tacloban but are transforming urban poor fisherfolk into hair stylists, manicurists among others.

Since Yolanda, agricultural production has been down by 85.90 percent: There’s been a decrease in rice production by 90 percent, a decrease in coconut production by 75-90 percent and a decrease in abaca production by 60-70 percent. Eastern Visayas relies heavily on the aforementioned crops especially that it’s one of the leading producers of coconut, second only to Davao, and one of the top producers of abaca. With production down, many farmers and farm workers in the region are suffering from low income, hunger and economic insecurity.

 

Issues in Yolanda Housing

When Duterte paid a visit to Tacloban City in November 2016, he ordered the National Housing Authority to fast track the construction of permanent housing units and committed to return in December to check whether or not the NHA had met with quotas set by the administration. True enough, the NHA was able to successfully fast track the construction of over 59,679 additional units on top of the 19,330 built by the previous administration in over 2 years. However, in Tacloban City alone, the Local Government Unit admits that approximately 6000 people have yet to be relocated into permanent housing units as of August. The Department of Public Works and Highways have reported meanwhile that it has met its target of 181 water tank installations yet several relocation sites suffer from lack of clean water.

In lieu of providing suitable areas for construction, Duterte has directed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to hasten its land conversion process to accommodate thousands of new units at the expense of lands intended for agricultural use in a region where a supermajority of its population (70 percent) rely on livelihood based on the agriculture sector.

The recently conducted congressional probe on the post-calamity situation in Tacloban city has revealed that the appropriated funding for infrastructure has practically been spent with a target of 205,128 housing units but as of September 2017 only 42,599 units have been completed. Worse, of the 42,599 units finished only 11,451 units are currently occupied due to the absence of livelihood opportunities in the relocation sites. It was also revealed that undocumented subcontracting which took place in the process of construction became a major source of inefficiency and corruption. According to a testimony made by the National Housing Authority before the House committee on Housing, there were no subcontractors taking part in the construction of Yolanda resettlement sites but contrary to this, the committee was able to produce one of the subcontractors, an Engr. Camillo Salazar, involved in a housing project for Balangiga, Eastern Samar who exposed rampant corruption in the procurement of building materials that made the finished units substandard. The main contractor, JC Tayag Builders, was able to earn an estimated 800 million pesos from all the contracts he was awarded by the NHA covering more than 2,000 units.

 

Privatized Rehabilitation amid Glaring Poverty

As if on cue, the rehabilitation scene after Yolanda seems to have involved the strong cooperation of private groups and business firms in the form of funding and operating post-Yolanda structures and the like. The Tide Embankment Project, which is now in full speed implementation, is a gleaming example of privatized rehabilitation firstly because it is expected to have 6.4 billion pesos in economic returns. The question that remains however is how a 27.3 kilometer wall can exact 6.4 billion pesos in profit, the answer can be found in a statement from the Department of Public Works and Highways-Regional Office in Palo stating that there are already hotels and restaurants that have requested access to the design of the wall to be constructed so that they can pattern their branches’ designs from it. Meanwhile, there are already communities in Baras, Palo that are experiencing the adverse effects of Tide Embankment which include massive displacement of communities that are beyond the indicated No-Build Zones and the destruction of sources of livelihood such as coconut trees that were cut down for the wall. For the sake of the project, local government units are fast tracking relocation at the expense of barangays and coastal communities that are not being duly consulted or informed.

The construction of public works such as roads and bridges have also been undertaken but data collected from Ormoc, Leyte and Borongan, Eastern Samar have shown that the construction of roads and bridges are in connection to the opening of new Malls by business magnates instead of bettering the conditions of Yolanda-hit communities. In Catbalogan City, the Sky City Mega Project is being undertaken by its local government unit which aims to construct a 440-hectare commercial zone that will accommodate an Information and Technology Center along with other commercial residential areas and a new center of commerce in the capital city of Western Samar. This project, which is estimated to cost a walloping 4 billion pesos and has walk-in investments coming from San Miguel Corporation, Robinsons Malls and Robinsons Lands Corporation, DSG Sons Group, SM Holdings, the LKY Group, PureGold among many others, and will be done in the midst of extreme poverty still being borne by the peasants of Western Samar who are suffering from poor irrigation (60 percent of Western Samar have no irrigation) crop infestation and landlessness after the onslaught of Yolanda. In addition to these basic agrarian issues, the National Greening Program (NGP) is also taking a toll on the degree of landlessness among peasants in the region. Northern Samar peasants under the Northern Samar Small Farmers Association (NSSFA) have released reports indicating cases where their lands are being taken from them by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the mass reforestation of bamboo shoots across the province particularly in Las Navas and Catubig. Despite strong resistance from the local peasants, hundreds of hectares are being claimed by the NGP. One of the principle objectives of the said program is to help reduce poverty and provide alternative livelihood to farmers in upland areas but ironically operates in favor of landlessness, debilitating farm production and stealing peasant livelihood.

 

Militarization and Killings

In addition to privatized construction at the expense of Yolanda survivors, the trend of militarizing communities across Eastern Visayas has recently emerged with multiple cases of forced evacuation from Calbiga and Matuginao, harassment of locals in Southern Leyte, aerial bombings in the northern part of Western Samar and the killing of farmers like that of Jason Montalla, a 33-year-old peasant killed by state elements in October. As if the suffering wrought on by natural calamities and their aftermath were not enough, agencies like the Armed Forces of the Philippines have overstepped their role in protecting the Filipino people by persecuting them based on false-charges and baseless accusations of rebellion and criminal behavior.

Under Duterte’s OPLAN Kapayapaan, the Armed Forces of the Philippines are freely deploying thousands of troops across the provinces of Eastern Visayas under the guise of humanitarian relief. Recently in Ormoc City and Northern Samar, AFP battalions are conducting Community Support Programs or CSPs which aim to provide dental services, relief distribution, livelihood trainings etc. to legitimize their presence in far-off communities without violating international humanitarian law. In the process, Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas has documented cases where soldiers are collecting tributes from local villagers in the form of food, clothing and even forcing them to provide shelter. Similar cases have been confirmed in the militarization of Calbiga, Samar where Lieutenant Colonel Arnel Floresca admitted of forcefully entering houses so they could sleep on dry beds. Humanitarian relief has been used as a scapegoat by the administration to harass and pursue counter-insurgency in the Philippines, as an effect three farmers have already been killed in post-Yolanda communities since 2016.

 

Lack of Access to Public Utilities

Another common and persistent complaint among resettled families in permanent housing communities is the lack of electricity and access to clean water. In the case of Tacloban, the Local Government Unit admits that it would be difficult to provide good pipelines that will give water to the communities in the Northern Barangays because of the Leyte Metropolitan Water Districts’ “one subdivision-one meter” policy that practically makes it impossible for clean water to be accessed in the resettlement areas. So far, the best development on the water situation of Yolanda rehabilitation sites is on the awarding of water trucks last July, 2017 but no clear cut solution has yet to be implemented.

The promise of providing electricity has also been elusive over the years as the promise of energizing resettlement areas have been repetitively made every year since 2013 but to this day resettled households are experiencing problems with energy supply. In the case of Ridgeview in Tacloban City, there are only some houses with access to electricity. Meanwhile scattered reports from different resettlement communities in GMA Village and UN Habitat in Tacloban City are also indicating that the electricity lines previously given to them are set to be cut down due to high energy consumption, the burden of payment is said to be transferred to the victims who have taken up residence in the permanent housing units.

 

Financial Assistance Programs and Realignment

The Emergency Shelter Assistance of DSWD has already exceeded the original target of 425,000 families for both the totally/partially damaged houses. However, ESA is still being implemented based on the request of selected LGUs for additional assistance for their respective municipalities amid conflicting reports from DSWD clients that they were told of how the ESA program no longer had funding. As of 2017, DSWD reports that there are still 705 families in Eastern Visayas categorized under ‘totally damaged housing’ that have not received their financial assistance. Meanwhile, in the same report it is said that all families categorized under ‘partially damaged housing’ have received their part of the ESA but community based information from People Surge indicates otherwise.

As for the Presidential Financial Assistance program under Duterte, 5 thousand pesos were allotted for beneficiaries across the region, the number of beneficiaries are distributed as follows:

Province Total no. of beneficiaries Total no. accomplished
Wester Samar 17,787 11,453
Eastern Samar 11,977 6,726
Northern Samar 22,073 17769
Leyte 4,889 2,010
Biliran 5,190 3,205

 

As shown above, DSWD region 8 was unable to provide and distribute the PFA to all targeted beneficiaries per province because of validation issues or that the targeted beneficiaries weren’t considered eligible for the program. In addition, the Commission on Higher Education has also promised a one-time 5 thousand-peso assistance program for Yolanda victims who had directly experienced super typhoon Yolanda. It was found out that the cash assistance was withheld from public knowledge for over a year because CHED was unable to distribute the cash assistance in 2016. The Commission earned the ire of many students nationwide for its complacency and neglect in providing assistance to the youth and student sector who were gravely affected by the storm. Commissioner Prospero De Vera even added that the aid was “long overdue” and that the fund should have been distributed since 2013. The money that was used to fund the assistance will come from a 540-million-peso residual fund for Yolanda-related aid but was heavily criticized for having “residual funding” while the post-Yolanda scene experienced numerous other problem areas especially under funding. Moreover, a similar case can be found in the realignment of over 5 billion pesos of Yolanda funding for the rehabilitation in Marawi City. The lone Islamic city in the Country was recently attacked by government forces and terrorist-organization Maute Group facing massive destruction of both public and private property.

 

Our Demands

We have long reiterated the necessity behind holding those involved in corruption and criminal negligence in the previous administration accountable. Specifically, an investigation must be launched over missing Yolanda funds and relief goods under the governance of the Gang of Five: President Noynoy Aquino, DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman, Rehab tsar Ping Lacson, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and DOE secretary Jericho Petilla. Permanent Housing must be made accessible and free for all Yolanda survivors with no pre-conditions or amortization schemes, basic social services must be provided by way of subsidizing access to water, energizing relocation sites and Yolanda-hit communities and ensuring public transportation for victims. Livelihood programs must not only be made available to the public, it must also be sustainable and appropriate to the needs and way of life of the victims being provided for. Militarization must end on all fronts in Eastern Visayas, all troops under the 8th Infantry Division must be pulled out from the provinces of Eastern Visayas and the perpetrators to extra-judicial killings of farmers and mass activists must be held accountable by the current administration.

In the end, Duterte must ensure that a review be conducted to determine the applicability and efficacy of existing Yolanda rehabilitation programs and plans and must give premium to the principle of pro-people rehabilitation to expeditiously ensure recovery for all.

 

Unite and Surge Forward

Now, more than ever, unity is of paramount importance as the direction of line agencies like the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Social Welfare and Development have shifted in recent months to forgo the interest and clamor of calamity

victims to pursue the narrow economic and social agenda of the Duterte administration such as agri-liberalization and massive infrastructure that do not resolve the immediate, intermediate and long-term demands of the Eastern Visayas people and instead benefits private firms, individuals and prominent government officials and bureaucrats.

A series of activities and initiatives will be launched on multiple fronts as part of the month long build-up and actual campaign peak for the upcoming Yolanda anniversary starting October 15. People Surge is eyeing partnerships with varied groups and organizations to maximize the scope and range of engagements intended to (1) spark greater awareness on the situation of Yolanda survivors, (2) generate material and morale support for disaster-struck communities in Eastern Visayas by revitalizing our call for justice.

Yolanda survivors and disaster survivors in general should never have to experience the same calamity twice yet it appears that the current Duterte administration is keen on following the steps of its predecessor in managing the post-disaster scene of the world’s most powerful typhoon in recorded history. Rising cases of fascism and persistent widespread hunger and poverty is pushing more people into action against criminal neglect and deprivation of basic human rights.

Yolanda survivors should look back at the many triumphant mobilizations and mass demonstrations conducted by People Surge Philippines and remember the concrete victories we have achieved as a united people hit by calamities but inspired in the vision of justice and the restoration of economic security in the region. In the past, we have succeeded in bringing the issue of climate justice and government inaction to the international stage, we have prompted the cooperation of international and local organizations to support our calls in demanding for relief and accountability, we have ensured the defense of Yolanda-victims’ rights who are consistently struck by man-made calamities such as militarization and harassment. As we pick up lessons from the past, may we develop ways in reinvigorating our campaign aimed at emboldening the people of Eastern Visayas against hunger, poverty and fascism! Take justice!

Join the November 8 anniversary mob!

Rabunos Eastern Visayas!

Victims Lash Out in Fury: Drops body bags of “False Promises”

Tanauan, Leyte- Earlier today, People Surge led a silent protest in the memorial for Yolanda victims located along the highway of Tanauan, Leyte. But their silence wasn’t without anger as they affixed a banner enjoining the passersby to take justice on behalf of the victims of poor government response and criminal negligence that persists to this day.

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In solidarity with Yolanda victims, People Surge also lit close to a hundred candles dedicated to all the loved ones who were consumed by the raging storm surges when the storm made landfall way back in November, 2013.

5 body bags were also laid on the ground for locals and passing vehicles to see, representing the five false promises made by the current administration: An investigation over the Gang of Five*, housing, aid to farmers, livelihood and the distribution of the Emergency Shelter Assistance fund to all of its targeted beneficiaries.

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In a statement made during the protest, People Surge’s secretary general Marissa Cabaljao had this to say:

“There is a grave sense of urgency behind the protests we are launching, especially now that we commemorate the day of the dead. If it’s easy for elected officials to brush off the legitimate demands of marginalized sectors or disaster victims here in Eastern Visayas, what’s stopping this administration from doing the exact same thing in other parts of the country? We remember the dead but we don’t let them grow in number.”

In the midst of lighting candles, local Mayor Pelagio Tecson stopped over and asked the protesters to return back to Tacloban arguing that there was no need to hold actions in their town.

“Taga Tacloban kayo? Bumalik kayo doon. Wala kaming problema dito sa Tanauan, alam niyo yan. Binigyan namin ng bahay lahat, dinistribute namin yang ESA.” Tecson said.

[Are you from Tacloban? Go back there. We don’t have problems here in Tanauan, you know that. We gave houses to everyone, we distributed that ESA.]

Marissa Cabaljao responded saying the protest was peacefully conducted and while its true that houses were distributed in their town, the issue of these being substandard has already been proven in a congressional hearing.

The protest concluded with the participants fists raised high, reaffirming their commitment to fight for justice especially now that four years has gone by but there has been no substantial improvement in the state of Yolanda victims.

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*The Gang of Five is the collective term meant to refer to President Noynoy Aquino, Rehab czar Panfilo Lacson, DOE secretary Jericho Petilla, DSWD secretary Dinky Solliman and DILG secretary Mar Roxas, the people principally implicated in massive corruption wraps in the post-Yolanda recovery efforts.

People Surge visits Mass Grave, condemns rising death toll

Tacloban City- Disaster survivors gather once again at the Tacloban Mass Grave near the Holy Cross Cemetery in Diit to pay respects to loved ones four years after their lives were taken by Super typhoon Yolanda back in November 8, 2013. People Surge Philippines, the national alliance for calamity victims led its members in prayer and solidarity with the thousands of storm victims still awaiting justice from the present administration and accountability from the previous one.

 

“We are mournful of the fact that on top of non-stop calamities every year, criminal negligence and massive corruption over Yolanda funded projects and operations are adding to the extreme conditions faced by Yolanda survivors. It is high time for Duterte to handle post-Yolanda recovery with utmost seriousness. He has to get things done along the lines of pro-people rehabilitation otherwise he is no different from the previous administration” says People Surge secretary general Marissa Cabaljao.

During the program held in the memorial site, People Surge lamented over the sustained human rights violations that were taking place in the region long after typhoon Yolanda made landfall. Pointing to the newly affixed crosses littered all over the 2.7 hectare property, People Surge warned that the number of people to die in Eastern Visayas from the man-made calamity of militarization is causing the pile-up of bodies being buried all over the region.

People Surge lit a candle for the victims of state repression and red-baiting such as Jefferson Custodio, one of its volunteers killed in 2014, along with victims of police brutality and extra-judicial killings such as Aldrin Iriarte and Kenneth Bertes, and the victims of militarization as in the case of peasant leaders and organizers in Samar and Leyte islands. Ending the program with banners in place and fists raised high, the participants to the mass grave visit called on justice for all the victims of state-sponsored violence especially over those left vulnerable after calamities.

 

Duterte admin should learn from the Yolanda experience: People Surge

Ormoc City and the municipality of Kananga in Leyte were placed under state of calamity on July 10, Monday, following the situation briefing attended by President Spokesman Abella, Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade, Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi, NDRRMC Exec. Dir. Ricardo Jalad, representatives from the concerned departments and local officials.
The declaration came days after Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez said there is no need to declare such in their city. The two Leyte areas were hardly-hit by a magnitude 6.5 earthquake last Thursday, July 6 which was followed by a magnitude 5.4 tremor on Monday morning and at least 300 aftershocks.
Power outage in the islands of Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Negros and Bohol followed after the Energy Development Corp. (EDC) shut down its geothermal power plant in Brgy. Tongonan, Kananga, Leyte affecting almost three million people. Just recently, Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella expressed his frustration at failing to meet the targeted power restoration within ten days. Fuentebella actively reminded the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) to fast-track the repair of transmission lines. NGCP, however, is still asking for three more weeks for the full restoration of power on the said islands. For the meantime, a rotational brownout is being experienced in Eastern Visayas.
Local government units should hasten rehabilitation in quake-hit towns in Leyte, according to the alliance of disaster survivors People Surge. “The Duterte administration should learn from the Yolanda experience”, said People Surge Secretary General Marissa Cabaljao.
The strong earthquake which jolted Leyte caused landslides on some barangays in Ormoc, Carigara and in Jaro, Leyte, the epicenter of the quake. Two deaths were reported, four were missing while hundreds were injured. The tremor brought the residents of Ormoc and Kananga trauma and some were being “hysterical” according to Gomez.
DSWD reports 90 affected families in Kananga, Leyte staying in the town’s evacuation center. DSWD – Eastern Visayas Regional Office is yet to finalize the final account of displaced families for the distribution of appropriate assistance.
“The government should give immediate assistance to the affected families and they should fast-track the rehabilitation of the affected barangays”, said Cabaljao. She reiterated that the Duterte administration along with the local government officials should craft a rehabilitation plan which is based on the needs and demands of the earthquake victims.
According to People Surge, the calamity that hit Leyte days ago should serve as a wake-up call both to the local and national government to give focus to disaster preparedness, which includes building “calamity-ready” infrastructures and giving proper disaster preparedness education. “The victims shall be provided with resilient houses and sustainable livelihood as their economy must have been severely affected by the calamity”, Cabaljao concluded.
(Photo from Rappler)

Rejection of Ka Judy spells trouble for Yolanda Victims

Earlier today, the Commission on Appointments chose by a majority vote the rejection of Ka Judy Taguiwalo as Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Amid strong public support nationwide, Senator Ralph Recto revealed that she was unable to “hurdle the majority” of congressmen who claimed to vote based on the interest of their constituents. A large bulk of the supporters of Ka Judy’s appointment come from Yolanda-hit areas in Eastern Visayas where she played a crucial role in reversing the harsh realities inflicted on disaster victims by the Aquino administration and implementing additional rehabilitation programs in the wake of having no more funds to continue the distribution of Emergency Relief Assistance.

Sec. Taguiwalo talking to DSWD Regional director Restituto Macuto to assess Yolanda housing in 2016. Photo taken online.
Ka Judy was a vital partner of People Surge in fighting for the rights of disaster victims, not just in Eastern Visayas but althroughout the Philippines. Her role in providing immediate relief to the victims of the recent Ormoc and Kananga quake which hit the region last month and plunged it into a 10 day power crisis was noted in contrast to the slow-paced work of the Department of Energy and other concerned agencies. Her timely intervention in the wake of the Marawi siege and the declaration of Martial Law allowed the victims of man made calamities to survive and take refuge in the comfort of a social welfare deparment guided by pro-people policies and the genuine objective of serving the exploited masses.

Sec. Judy Taguiwalo speaking before fishermen from Samar on the 3rd Year Anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda, a major mobilization organized by People Surge. Photo taken from the NCCP.
We consider the CA’s decision a blatant disregard over the apparent will of the people who, from the day of her nomination by the National Democratic Front as interim secretary in 2016, has shown its vociferous support for her appointment. People Surge believes that with the rejection of Ka Judy as DSWD secretary, the department will once again be vulnerable to the politicking of bureaucrat capitalists who put the selfish interest of businessmen and government officials above that of the basic masses. The decision of the CA to reject Ka Judy will have an impact on how the government will address the injustice Yolanda and other calamity victims face even to this day!
REFERENCE:
Marissa Cabaljao
Secretary General
People Surge

BAKHAWAN hits DPWH’s hypocrisy over the Tide Embankment Project

befunkyPALO, LEYTE — Members of Baskug Han Katawhan ha mga Komunidad nga No Build Zone (BAKHAWAN) lambasted the insistence of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to implement the controversial Tacloban-Palo-Tanauan Tide Embankment Project as various Yolanda survivors groups led by the Community of Yolanda Survivors and Partners (CYSP) staged a protest action today outside the gates of the DPWH Regional Office.

“It is plain hypocrisy to prioritize the construction of this project over the needs of disaster survivors. It is hypocrisy that this huge project is being implemented in haste, all in the name of securing our lives, while our right to housing is sold by no less than our own government,” BAKHAWAN Secretary-General Christopher Durana, a resident of a coastal community in Tacloban said.

“It is a one big joke for DPWH to pronounce that public consultations have been held when we see here thousands protesting against the project. It is hypocrisy to sell this project in the altar of safety when it actually brings more harm than relief,” he continued.

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BAKHAWAN Secretary General Christopher Durana.

A heated dialogue ensued after the protest where BAKHAWAN leaders and other groups grilled DPWH Region VIII OIC Director Edgar Tabacon. Tabacon mentioned that housing the affected families is not within his office’s jurisdiction and that the project will push through in Sections 4 and 5 (Palo and Tanauan).

BAKHAWAN maintains that DPWH’s handwashing on the housing aspect reveals an utter lack of empathy on affected households who will be displaced by the tide embankment. Laying the blame on other government entities does no help; in fact, as proponent and implementer of the megaproject, DPWH is duty-bound to have comprehensively addressed housing issues before implementation and take the lead in coordinating with agencies concerned.

“DPWH’s adamant decision to pursue the 7.9billion pesos-worth project despite mounting opposition is a display of stubborn reluctance to people’s dissent. As if we can be lured, equating token consultations with social acceptability could not pacify our escalating anger against this project,” Durana said.

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Lakbayan ng Visayas in Manila. Photo from Pamalakaya Pilipinas.

Meanwhile, in the national capital, a dialogue was also held today by People Surge, Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) and expert scientists from AGHAM with DPWH Main Office in Manila to stop the implementation of the mega-project. The groups argue that environmental hazards such as liquefaction, inland flooding and the destruction of about 97 hectares of mangroves have not been comprehensively studied in the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Along with dialogues and protests, a petition is also being circulated asking for President Rodrigo Duterte to put a halt to the mega-project.

“We are demanding President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the Tide Embankment Project the soonest possible time. If he is truly for the poor, he must listen to our dissent and realign the billion-worth budget to the more pressing needs of us Yolanda survivors,” adds Durana.

BAKHAWAN, in partnership with the CYSP, a broad coalition of NGOs and their community partners, mobilized the thousands of Yolanda survivors from Metro Tacloban, and some parts of Eastern Samar. BAKHAWAN, an affiliate organization of People Surge, vowed to continue protesting against the implementation of the project which is set to displace over 14,000 households from their homes and livelihood.#

NEWS RELEASE
December 12, 2016

Reference:

Christopher Durana 
BAKHAWAN Secretary-General
09502262790

‘Great Wall of Leyte’ is anti-people, anti-environment – fisherfolk to DENR

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Manila, Philippines – The fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to revoke the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued in the Tide Embankment Project (TEP), also known as ‘Great Wall of Leyte’, for its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) does not comprehensively discuss its negative environmental impacts and implications.

On the Visayas-wide protest led by PAMALAKAYA and super-typhoon Yolanda victims under the alliance of survivors People Surge on Friday, they stated that aside from various social costs TEP would bring to the people, it will also disrupt the natural cycle of marine environment and species.

The Tide Embankment Project which costs 7.9 billion pesos is a long stretch of seawall from Tacloban to the town of Tanauan, Leyte, touted to protect people from storm surges. Of the 27.3 kilometers length of the embankment, 20.1 km. are in Tacloban, 4.1 km. will cover Palo and 3.1 km. in Tanauan. It shall have a height of about 4.5 meters and its center line said to stand 30 meters from the seashore.

According to People Surge, more than 14,000 households, majority are fisherfolk will be demolished for the completion of the embankment project. In Palo, Leyte, several residents have already started to self-demolish as ordered by the DPWH in exchange for little compensation based on assessed value.

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A study by the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) and expert scientists from AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People) show that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted for the project did not comprehensively address environmental issues such as the effects on mangroves, concerns on inland flooding, liquefaction, and other environmental hazards.

It is crystal clear that this project does not undergo environmental studies, the government wants to rail road its construction to displace thousands of fisherfolk and coastal settlers living ashore. We urge DENR Secretary Gina Lopez to conduct a deeper study on how TEP would cost the marine environment, and moreover the social and economic rights of the fisherfolk,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.

Yolanda survivors from Visayas gathered in Manila to protest the slow rehabilitation in the Yolanda-stricken areas and the continuing environmental plunder as a government’s response to their clamor.

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TEP is not rehabilitation but demolition and dislocation in disguise. This will usher the grand sell-out of fishing communities for local and foreign investors. The government wants to completely convert our coastal areas from productive fishing community into grandiose money-making business hubs of the rich. It is notable that this project would wipe out every single houses situated along its target location except private beach resorts owned by renowned local families and businessmen,” Hicap said.

PAMALAKAYA said they will continue staging protest actions by any means until this disastrous and destructive sea-wall project would be totally stopped. ###