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. ###

 

Disaster survivors press for quality, adequate, amortization-free shelters

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Delegates from the Eastern Visayas region participating in the visayas-wide caravan of disaster survivors and rights abuse victims trooped to the National Housing Agency in Quezon City to demand adequate, quality and amortization-free resettlement.

Amid the swift action of the Duterte administration in relocating the communities of super typhoon Yolanda survivors in Tacloban City to their resettlement areas, People Surge, an alliance of disaster survivors in Eastern Visayas argued that what might seem to be a good step, could lead to more danger.

“Resettlement in Tacloban City is still characterized by sub standard houses,” said Dr. Efleda Bautista, chairperson of the 20,000-strong survivors’ alliance. Testimonies of residents in the Tacloban North Resettlement Project lamented the poor state of their housing units. Observations of hollow walls, dilapidated roofing, and damaged septage among others, were bared. “The people are very much concerned of their safety especially after the deadly storm surge that hit the region, but the transfer of communities from the so-called unsafe zones could be a trip to death zones,” added Bautista. Cases of deaths in the resettlement due to heat stroke, diarrhea, dengue and pneumonia have already been recorded due to the flubbed condition of the relocation sites.

The housing projects of the previous Aquino administration has been riddled with corruption that has resulted to the substandard bunkhouses, transitional and permanent resettlement. “We now urge President Duterte to fix these problems but not in haste through plain transfer of communities, the quality of the constructed houses must first be ensured,” said Bautista.

Inadequate housing

Despite the breadth of the damage left by super typhoon Yolanda, the heftily-funded NHA only targetted 205, 128 housing units out of the millions displaced and left homeless. “From this overly conservative target of the housing agency, is their overly failed performance. NHA failed to deliver as they have posted a disgustingly low, 12.3% overall accomplishment,” added Bautista. The NHA is one of the agencies that acquired huge sums of budget this year totalling to P39.2 billion.

Free or for fee?

While the relocatees will not be charged for the housing units awarded to them, it will not take that long, as they will have to pay P200 every month after 5 years of occupying the units. According to the NHA it will be used to upset the expenditures the agency has incurred. “The NHA has made their service to the people valid for only 5 years; that instead of wholly owning up on the housing projects, they acted like business corporations, with the main objective of ensuring minimal expenditures,” said Bautista.

“The determination of President Duterte in expediting the awarding of housing units to Yolanda survivors is well-appreciated, but we urge him to listen to the survivors on their plight and considerations over these issues that concerns no less than the survivors themselves,” concluded Bautista.

People Surge is taking part in the caravan of rights abuse victims dubbed: Tindog Visayas: Lakbayan laban sa kagutuman at militarisasyon. They are joined by organizations of disaster victims from Central Visayas, Panay, and Negros. The groups are hosted by the administration, faculty, and students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta. Mesa, Manila.#

Reference:

EFLEDA BAUTISTA
Chairperson, People Surge
0939-478-1340
peoplesurge.ph@gmail.com

BAKHAWAN backs Lakbayanis’ Manila protest against ‘Great Wall of Leyte’

PALO, LEYTE – Residents living along government-declared No Dwelling Zones (NDZs) under the banner of BAKHAWAN (Baskug han Katawhan ha mga Komunidad nga NDZ) expressed its strong support to the Lakbayanis who staged protest before the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Main office in Metro Manila against the implementation of the Tacloban-Palo-Tanauan Tide Embankment project or the so-called Great Wall of Leyte.

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People Surge stage protest in front of DPWH Main Office in Metro Manila. Photo (c) April Porteria

Earlier today, BAKHAWAN members posted anti-Tide Embankment placards in their communities to vent out their opposition against the megaproject. BAKHAWAN Chapter Spokesperson in Barangay Cogon, Palo said their displacement from their communities is also their displacement from their sources of income and will mean worsening hunger and poverty.

The Tide Embankment project is a 7.9 billion-peso worth infrastructural project to be built on the pretext of protecting the people from storm surges. It is a 27.3 kilometer embankment from Barangay Diit in Tacloban to Barangay Cabuynan in Tanauan, Leyte and is set to displace approximately 10,000 households living in government-declared No Dwelling Zones (NDZs).

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Brgy. Cogon, Palo, Leyte, a fishing community where 59 households are set to be displaced.

“We have been living in this area ever since we were born. We grew up in this barangay because it is close to the sea where we get food on the table. There is no sea in the interior barangay in Palo where they want to dump us,” Lina Escarlan of BAKHAWAN Cogon Chapter said.

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Lina Escarlan, a fish vendor and member of Bakhawan in Palo. Bakhawan is an alliance established after typhoon Yolanda and was reorganized this year with convenors People Surge, Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap and the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC). Photo (c) Barry Anthony Parrenas 

“What do they want to build here? Tourist spots, hotels and the like? For the rich, the bodies of water are for leisure but for us fisherfolks and fish vendors in Cogon, the sea is life, the sea is where we seek help for our daily survival,” she added.

BAKHAWAN also assailed DPWH’s pronouncements that the Tide Embankment project will first be implemented in Palo because residents are not resisting.

“No resistance or no consultation? We only came to know this project last October when DPWH employees assessed our houses, vandalized our homes and painted red numbers to indicate that we will be affected by the project,” Escarlan further said.

People Surge, one of the conveners of BAKHAWAN, said the project’s lack of democratic consultation is in contrast to Duterte’s pro-people pro-poor pronouncements. “They started asking people about the project when the fund has already been bankrolled to DPWH. They should have asked the residents prior to its implementation and we cannot but resist such project that is socially unacceptable,” Marissa Cabaljao, People Surge Secretary-General said.

Cabaljao also assailed the government taking opportunity of Yolanda as a means to evict people from their dwelling places. “For the past years, the poor have been blamed for their vulnerability. Whenever we assert for our right to stay in our dwelling places they dub as ‘danger zones’, the Yolanda card is thrown at us as if we had the luxury of choice to decide where to live. It is as if erecting our houses near the shorelines just so we can be closer to our sources of income is a choice, rather than a necessity, that we make for our daily survival.”

BAKHAWAN members said some of their neighbors keep coming back after being “relocated” to resettlement sites and brave recurrent threats of demolition in NDZs. While the Tide Embankment prepares for another gigantic storm in the future, the hurried eviction and displacement from our sources of income is actually another ‘Yolanda’ in the making.

The group is also skeptical as to those whose interest the project serves since big businesses along the coast will be escaped by the project while their houses will be evicted. “If big businesses will be escaped by the project, for whose interest is this so-called ‘great wall of Leyte’? For whose interest and at whose expense?” Cabaljao stressed.

BAKHAWAN stressed that if the government truly wants their safety, the 7.9 billion pesos should be realigned to the construction of climate resilient permanent evacuation centers and to the more pressing needs of the disaster survivors for land, livelihood and decent homes.

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Bakhawan members in Palo. Photo (c) Barry Parrenas

“We challenge the Duterte administration and his newly-appointed Rehabilitation Czar Michael Dino of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV), to heed the call of the people and stop the implementation of the Tide Embankment Project. With stern warnings from scientists that the project may cause more harm than relief, the Duterte administration must stop and review such a billion-worth project inherited from the previous Aquino government. The core of Yolanda rehabilitation should be the poor and not use Yolanda as a capital to further oppress us and enrich the few whose interest this project very well serves,” Cabaljao ended.#

Reference(s):

Lina Escarlan
Bakhawan Palo

Marissa Cabaljao
People Surge

Facebook: PeopleSurge | Twitter: PeopleSurge | peoplesurge.ph@gmail.com
Website: www.peoplesurge.org or www.peoplesurgephils.wordpress.com
Tel Numbers: TNT – 09071363325 | Globe 09164915652

Eastern Visayas farmers press gov’t, DA for emergency agri rehabilitation

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People Surge and Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma (SAGUPA) Sinirangan Bisayas leaders at the national office of the Department of Agriculture.

More than a hundred farmers and disaster survivors from Eastern Visayas provinces today demanded agriculture secretary Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Pinol to implement emergency rehabilitation measures to revive the agriculture and fisheries sector in the region that was severely devastated by supertyphoon Yolanda and subsequent natural and man-made calamities.

Groups from Eastern Visayas are on the second day of their Caravan against Hunger and Militarization in the National Capital Region that aims to raise public awareness on the current regional situation.

“The previous Aquino administration neglected us and plundered disaster fund and resources intended for calamity victims. Now, we are challenging the Duterte presidency to respond to our most urgent demands,” said Nestor Lebico, spokesperson of Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA-SB), the regional chapter of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Eastern Visayas.

Eastern Samar, Western Samar and Northern Samar provinces are among the DA’s priority areas. The agency, under Pinol, has earmarked billions of funds for increased food production and poverty alleviation in the said provinces under the Strategic Areas for Agriculture Development program (SaAD) but government aid and rehabilitation efforts are not reaching the intended beneficiaries. In fact, farmers have registered 85 to 90% production losses due to successive typhoons, drought and infestations affecting coconut, abaca and palay.

Address hunger, stop militarization

Lebico said farmers in rural communities in Samar and Leyte provinces continue to experience worsening hunger, three years after Yolanda struck. Based on conservative government estimates, hunger incidence in the region is at 45 percent.

“The Duterte government cannot turn a blind eye on the grim realities in Region 8. Before Yolanda, Eastern Visayas is the poorest region with the highest hunger incidence. The situation took a sharp turn from bad to worse. Now, more than 90 percent of the 4.1 million people in the provinces of Leyte, Southern Leyte, Samar, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar and Biliran are poor and hungry.

“Recovery is impossible as long as the agriculture and fisheries sector in the region remain neglected,” the peasant leader said, adding that the agriculture sector accounts for almost 45 percent of the region’s employment.

“We have no lands to till, no government support and services for farmers and fisherfolks. Coconut farmlands are infested with coconut scale insect or cocolisap. Abaca is infested with bunchy-top virus. People who are trying to start a new life in the hinterlands cannot live in peace because of intense military operations. It’s like we are stuck between purgatory and hell,” Lebico said.

No genuine rehab for coco farmlands, agri

Coconut farming is the main livelihood in Eastern Visayas. In 2014, Yolanda destroyed 11.3 million of the 12 million coconut trees in the region, damaging 80 percent of 1.1 million metric tons of crops. “Whatever was left of the coconut farmlands in Samar and Leyte was infested with cocolisap,” Lebico said. “Coconut production in the region has fallen from 2,000 nuts per hectare to only 200-500 nuts,” he added.

First discovered in 2010, the cocolisap has infested large areas of coco farmlands in Luzon and Mindanao by 2014 and last year, cocolisap started to infest Eastern Visayas.

According to IBON, the value of coconut production has steadily dropped from Php6.4 billion in 2013, to Php4.7 billion in 2014, and Php4.6 billion in 2015. The value of palay production in the region has also declined by 2.7 percent in the same year. Decline in fisheries is also evident with Eastern Visayas posting a 22.7% decline for example in the value of aquaculture fisheries production in 2015.

KMP secretary general Antonio Flores said the government and the DA must heed the demands of Eastern Visayas farmers for the distribution of free organic farm inputs, seedlings distribution, much-needed technical assistance and equipment to farmers and fisherfolk, a two-year moratorium on payment of irrigation fees, and the genuine rehabilitation and development of the agriculture sector and fisheries sector in the region. ###

People Surge hits Duterte’s defense of militarization in rural areas

‘Military rule in disaster-affected communities unwelcome’, survivors group say

Reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent defense of the continuing deployment of troops in various rural areas, survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) deplored the pronouncement for justifying the continuing militarization that has worsened the ordeal of their communities over the past three years.

“President Duterte, your military troops are illegally occupying our villages, harassing and vilifying our fellow survivors, and disrupting our still struggling livelihoods. These fascist attacks are no different from the previous Aquino administration’s systematic militarization of our communities and are most certainly unwelcome in our villages,” said Dr. Efleda Bautista, chairperson of People Surge.

People Surge, the largest alliance of survivors of Yolanda and other subsequent typhoon disasters in the Eastern Visayas region, reported that the 87th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) has presently encamped in both village facilities and civilian homes across nine barangays in Calbiga municipality in Samar. They also cited the 78th IBPA’s hamleting of survivor communities in the town of Burauen, Leyte, including villages of indigenous Mamanwa.

“The military has imposed a virtual Martial Law over our communities ever since we came together to demand justice over the criminal neglect we continue to suffer since 2013. Duterte is saying that these operations are for ‘peace and order’, but what we are getting is the brutal suppression of survivors’ communities protesting the pervading landlessness, poverty, and other agricultural crises in the countryside,” Bautista said.

Bautista recalled how the first year after the landfall of Yolanda was marred with the killings of peasant leader Rodolfo Basada and youth organizer Jefferson Custodio, both their fellow survivors of Yolanda, at the hands of suspected military operatives who were harassing them prior to their deaths.

Mother of slain development worker Jefferson Custodio still seeks justice for son's murder, two years after his killing.
Mother of slain development worker Jefferson Custodio still seeks justice for son’s murder, two years after his killing.

The survivors group hit the continuing implementation of the Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency program implemented during the Aquino administration, saying its militarization strategy has targeted their organized communities upon the suspicion that these are base areas of the communist rebels under the New People’s Army.

“The perpetrators of Basada and Custodio’s killings are still out there and militarization is still rampant in our communities. If Duterte asserts that it is the Republic of the Philippines who decides where to place its troops, then, by all means, he should kick them out of our besieged communities. There is no justice and definitely no peace if our communities are still subjected to intensified militarization instead of our longstanding demands for genuine rehabilitation,” ended Bautista.

More than a hundred survivors from People Surge arrived yesterday in Metro Manila as the first wave of the Lakbayan laban sa Kagutuman at Militarisasyon (Caravan against Hunger and Militarization).

Bearing the theme ‘Tindog Visayas’ (Rise Up Visayas), the Visayas-wide protest caravan aims to raise the persisting crises of hunger, landlessness, and militarization before Malacanang Palace and other national offices of various government agencies. Tindog Visayas will culminate in the big rallies commemorating International Human Rights Day on December 10.#

Reference:

DR. EFLEDA BAUTISTA
Chairperson, People Surge
0939-478-1340
peoplesurge.ph@gmail.com

Disaster survivors storm Aquino residence, demand accountability

Yolanda survivors hold a die-in in front of former President Aquino's Times Street residence. (c) News5
Yolanda survivors hold a die-in in front of former President Aquino’s Times Street residence. (c) News5

On the second day of the “TINDOG VISAYAS: Lakbayan laban sa Kagutuman at Militarisasyon” here in Metro Manila, Yolanda survivors from Eastern Visayas stormed the residence of former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in Times Street, Quezon City to demand accountability over his administration’s criminal neglect against the victims, alleged corruption of Yolanda funds, incompetence and its poor disaster preparedness and rehabilitation efforts.

“If Noynoy thinks that he’s off the hook, then he’s badly mistaken,” said Dr. Efleda Bautista, Chairperson, People Surge, the largest alliance of calamity survivors all over the country.

“Thousands of our brothers and sisters died during the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda because of the many loopholes in the disaster preparedness measures implemented by the government. After Yolanda, we were faced with a criminally negligent administration who indulged in so much politicking instead of giving us immediate relief and assistance,” Bautista added.

“We were victimized by the Aquino administration, a few times over. First, is the questionable use and misuse of billions of donations and government funds supposedly provided for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Yolanda-hit areas. With the outpouring of foreign aid and the P20-billion rehabilitation supplemental budget in 2014, and the P23.84 billion Disbursement Acceleration Program allocations for disaster projects, why is that we still even have to haggle with for example the Emergency Shelter Assistance, as if our very survival is negotiable?”

“Aquino and his cohorts saw the people’s misery as nothing but a very lucrative business venture as evidenced by the privatization of the implementation of its already flawed rehabilitaion program. While disaster victims languished in coffin-like resettlement houses, Aquino and his gang bagged millions of the rehab fund,” said Bautista.

“We will never let this pass and even if his term as president has already ended, he still has time left to be served—in a cold, hard cell where criminals and corrupt officials like him should be,” said Bautista. “The same goes out to then secretaries, Dinky Soliman (DSWD), Mar Roxas (DILG), Jericho Petilla (DOE) and rehab czar Panfilo Lacson. We demand that President Duterte mete out the necessary and just punishment for these top-ranking officials who made Yolanda survivors lives’ a living nightmare. A lot of our brothers and sisters died, a lot of rehab fund disappeared from thin air– these people have to answer for that,” ended Bautista.

Reference:

DR. EFLEDA BAUTISTA
Chairperson, People Surge
0939-478-1340
peoplesurge.ph@gmail.com

Yolanda survivors to Duterte: Rehabilitate Eastern Visayas, not the power-hungry Marcoses

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Dr Efleda Bautista, Chairperson of People Surge, joins other Yolanda survivor-leaders to meet President Duterte during the third Yolanda anniversary commemoration marked by a massive protest against prevalent hunger and poverty in the region.

 

Yolanda survivors group, People Surge will join tomorrow’s Black Friday Protest in Luneta to urge President Rodrigo Duterte to redirect his efforts to the rehabilitation of Yolanda-hit areas particularly in Leyte and Samar instead of playing a part in the politcal rehabilitation of the power-hungry Marcoses.

“Yolanda survivors are one with the whole nation in denouncing not only the clandestine burial of Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani but more importantly, this brazen attempt of the corrupt Marcos family at revising our history and the evils of Martial Law,” said Dr. Efleda Bautista, Chairperson of People Surge.

“Yolanda survivors stand united against the infamous proclamation of the Marcoses that Tacloban is their political bailiwick. We are not. And we refuse to be the stronghold of a dictatorial family who ruthlessly perpetrated gross human rights violations and who mercilessly plundered our nation’s coffers. That beyond such label of Eastern Visayas are the genuine clamor of the people for service,” said Bautista.

“President Duterte must seriously reconsider his position in this issue. The unrepentant Marcoses do not deserve any ounce of rehabilitation, instead it is the people of Eastern Visayas who rightly deserves it. Three years after Yolanda and other less known but equally destructive tphoons, ravaged our region, justice and genuine pro-people rehabilitation programs remain elusive. Statistics implying lower poverty incidence in our region is nothing but a lie because our farmers still remain poor and hungry.”

Following the third year anniversary since Yolanda struck Eastern Visayas, People Surge will be launching a massive caravan of disaster survivors from all over the region to storm the national capital. Farmers for example are battling the twin problems of the absence of genuine rehab programs and the widespread crop infestation such as the cocolisap for coconut and bunchy top for abaca, both of which are prime agricultural outputs of the region. The dismal state of rehabilitation in general have tremendous and disastrous effects on the poor sectors of the region and the group hopes that this caravan will make the Duterte administration see the urgency of responding to the people’s clamor for change.

“We challenge President Duterte to effect his promise of change for us Yolanda survivors. His administration must now take concrete steps to end the three-year injustice brought about by the criminal negligence of the previous administration. In the same manner that we will never forget the fact that Marcos is no hero and undeserving of any honors, we will never forget our call for justice and accountability, genuine, pro-people rehabilitation programs and .”

Reference:
DR. EFLEDA BAUTISTA, Chairperson, People Surge
0939-478-1340, peoplesurge.ph@gmail.com

Advance the Yolanda Challenge to End Hunger, Poverty, Militarization, and Injustice!

Three years after Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated the Eastern Visayas region, the demands for justice for the persisting crises and accountability over the criminal neglect remain elusive for disaster survivors.

Hunger and poverty have only worsened for the people. Leaving no chance for full recovery, the islands of Leyte and Samar subsequently faced several more disasters over the succeeding years after Yolanda, which further mired our people in suffering.

Rural Poverty

Many have only seen ‘Ground Zero’ in Tacloban City, but rural communities, especially in the interior villages, have been equally hit hard by the far-reaching impacts of consecutive typhoon disasters. Government estimates on agricultural damages were pegged at P55 billion with the bulk affecting the coconut industry, one of the main economic activities of the region.

It takes seven years before damaged coconut trees can fully recover and be productive again, leaving hundreds of thousands of peasant coconut farmers without any livelihood. No response, aid or any form of assistance was given by the government to the agriculture sector.

Different kinds of crop infestations have magnified the problems in agricultural communities, damaging what was left of their produce. Abaca plantations have almost been wiped out by the bunchy top virus in the northern part of the region, while rice grains are constantly under attack by black bugs and stem borers. The drastic drop in agricultural productivity is making bigger and bigger holes in the money pockets of our peasant brothers and sisters.

It is the height of callousness that peasant farmers who feed our nation are rendered unable to feed themselves, as the extreme conditions are forcing them to eat only once a day. Yet the previous government continues to turn a blind eye to the millions of tillers, perpetuating the long-standing landlessness of the majority of the peasantry in Eastern Visayas and exacerbated by recent calamities.

Homelessness

Housing is a basic need, but homelessness has been a chronic problem for survivors. The emergency needs of survivors particularly for shelters have yet to be addressed. Alarmingly, DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo exposes that over 200,000 disaster victims did not receive Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) because of discriminatory department policies during the previous administration.

Families living in areas declared by the national government as no-dwelling zones were stricken off the list of beneficiaries. Even government employees whose homes were reduced to rubble were also removed from the list for the reason supposedly because they already have a P15,000 monthly income monthly.

As with Sec. Taguiwalo’s findings, reports of mishandling of funds and politicking have been widespread, with some LGUs not providing the full amount of the ESA or opted to give shelter materials instead of the full amount. The corruption of shelter assistance funds is an open secret, with local government officials and loan sharks finding an opportunity to cash in on the suffering of the people.

The previous administration failed to give access to free, safe, decent and adequate shelters for many survivors. Even the National Economic Development Authority recognizes their shortcomings as their data show that only 28% of the P40 billion allocated to resettlement have been used.

In the Ridgeview relocation site, there were 2,000 shelter units initially allotted, but only 800 are presently occupied since a large number of those have not been completed. Residents complain of weak infrastructure, lack of basic utilities like water and electricity, inaccessibility of livelihood, and generally insufferable conditions in the permanent shelters.

Survivors residing in the no-dwelling zones and along the entire eastern coast of Leyte are threatened to be displaced by demolition to pave the way for multi-billion peso big businesses and mega-infrastructure, including the mega-infrastructure Leyte Tide Embankment Project. Ironically, these measures supposedly reduce the risks of communities but actually present flooding, socio-economic, and ecological risks because they are designed haphazardly.

Disaster capitalism

Billions of dollars in foreign aid came pouring in, which have been insidiously used to leverage for policies and programs beneficial for them. The United States mobilized their military and other agencies to deliver Yolanda aid, and have been used to justify their longstanding military occupation of the country.

When our economic and military ties with the United States were recently questioned and threatened with severance under the new Duterte administration, the US government arrogantly reminded us of the aid efforts of their military forces, as if humanitarian aid is contingent on their military presence.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency, meanwhile, is backing the P7.9-billion Leyte Tide Embankment Project despite the various risks presented by the mega-infrastructure. It has also been widely reported that majority of rehabilitation projects are driven by private companies, implementing only where they can profit.

Climate injustice

Yolanda is far from the climate norm that the people of Eastern Visayas have grown accustomed to over the past century. There is growing evidence that the most powerful typhoon ever to make landfall in world history is linked to the alarming rate of global warming and climate change. We can expect more typhoons like Yolanda over the next decades.

The past century has also been a history of poverty, landlessness, environmental destruction, and militarization at the hands of the United States government. This has rendered our communities extremely vulnerable to disasters like Yolanda, incapable of overcoming the worsening impacts of a changed climate.

Not surprisingly, the US and other industrialized nations is also one of the leading opponents of vulnerable countries demanding compensation for the super typhoons and other climate impacts that we are already experiencing. Instead, we receive minuscule bread crumbs of aid and assistance.

The Yolanda Challenge

We disaster survivors have diligently worked together to rebuild our lives. We have also come together in recognizing that we are being denied of our rights to life, livelihood, and a safe future, and have united in a continuing struggle to demand justice and accountability.

We now have before us a new government under Pres. Rodrigo Duterte who won the national elections on the promise of radical change. The removal of the criminally negligent government of Noynoy Aquino had the collective anger and indignation of disaster survivors as one of its driving forces.

It is time to put that promise of change to a test. With the prospect of a Duterte administration that promises to listen and respond to the plight of Yolanda and other disaster survivors, we unite to present the ‘Yolanda Challenge’ to Pres. Duterte with the following demands:

  1. The government must acknowledge the worsening hunger in Eastern Visayas by providing emergency and food assistance to the agricultural sector, being the most vulnerable and hardest to recover in times of disasters. An efficient system must also be put into place to avoid using the assistance for corruption and politicking.
  1. For the agriculture and fisheries sectors:
  • Provide immediate and environment-friendly technical assistance to solve the pest problem in coconut and rice. Stop the use of chemicals to cure the bunchy top virus in abaca, and provide alternative technical assistance.
  • Provide motorized boats and fishing equipment to fishermen
  • Give a two-year moratorium on irrigation fees.
  1. Release the full amount of ESA without discrimination to all those who haven’t received the assistance and/or was shortchanged.
  1. Investigate the implementation and distribution of ESA and the whole Yolanda rehabilitation fund.
  1. Provide free housing without any conditions in permanent resettlement areas.
  1. Give immediate attention and provide free social services and utilities like water, electricity, etc in permanent resettlement areas
  1. Junk the No Build Zone/No Dwelling Zone Policies.
  1. Stop the Tide Embankment Project.
  1. Stop militarization and pull out the military from the barrios. Remove the participation of the military in relief and rehabilitation efforts in times of disasters.

In the medium term:

  1. Immediate response and rehabilitation for the agriculture sector (both farming and fishing) thru the following:
  • Provide free organic farm inputs like native varieties, vegetable seeds, abaca seeds, organic fertilizer, etc.
  • Provide comprehensive technical and material support for sustainable agriculture to solve the problem of food security, i.e trainings, provision for farm implements to develop production and farming.
  • Provide livelihood assistance to farmers and fishermen until they have fully recovered from the effects of the disasters.
  • Distribute the coco levy fund to coconut farmers.
  • Conservation and rehabilitation of marine resources.
  1. Allot additional budget for State Universities and Colleges (SUCS) and subsidy for poor students and victims of calamities. Implement a moratorium on tuition and other school fees increase in Eastern Visayas.
  1. Provide enough financial support for the families of those killed during the typhoon.
  2. Investigate and prosecute all officials responsible for the criminal neglect of the victims of typhoon Yolanda.
  1. Call on the Philippine government to demand reparation to the victims and those affected by climate change from the industrialized countries.

Long Term Demands:

  1. Implement genuine agrarian reform. Pass the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill.
  1. Implement national industrialization.
  1. Stop contractualization.
  1. Provide decent and living wage to workers.
  1. Create a comprehensive and pro-people program for disaster resilience especially to the most vulnerable sectors of the society.
  1. Junk anti-environment and anti-people policies such as Mining Act of 1995, Fisheries Code of the Philippines etc.
  1. Junk all neoliberal policies which causes hardships among the people.

The promise of genuine change—the end of hunger, poverty, and militarization perpetuated in survivors’ communities, and the accountability of the criminal Aquino administration—can only be achieved if we never falter in our unity, hope, and aspiration for genuine justice. Brothers and sisters, fellow children of the storm, let us carry on the struggle!#

Rehabilitation Gone Wrong: A Horror Story

Three years ago, a storm unlike anything we’ve ever seen hit our shores. Yolanda was its name, with its cold breath uprooting anything that stood in its path, its waters drowning and washing away the hopes and lives of the people of Eastern Visayas. Mud people walked the streets begging for food to eat, assistance to start over. Homeless people stared blankly at the wasteland that stretched before them. People asking for help, immediate help. Even after 3 years now, help hasn’t arrived. The souls of the dead still mingle with the bodies of the living, hungry for justice. As a different horror continue to sweep the region, that of government rehabilitation gone wrong

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Yolanda wasn’t the last of the horrors, it was just the beginning. Along with it came other monsters, bigger and more haunting than the storm surges. Emergency was given a new meaning. Instead of lightning fast assistance to the survivors, they were made to wait, even to beg for their survival. Some were outright stricken off as beneficiaries of the cash assistance, as business interests were prioritized instead of lives in government declared “no dwelling zones”. Three years and still the emergency assistance promised to them might as well been buried in one of the mass graves. The rainbow colored leprechaun responsible for this horror, continue to walk away scot free, along with her share of pot of gold from the government coffers.

Instead of ensuring the safety of the living, survivors were placed in disaster prone resettlement areas, susceptible to flooding and even landslides. Survivors were housed in coffin like shelters, as if to ready them should death come knocking at their doors. Instead of homes for the living, haunted houses were provided, with the stench of heat and dry earth creeping inside the hollows. The foul environment have already caused deaths to the inhabitants. Night becomes darker as the sun sets because even light have been deprived of the residents. Resettlement areas have gotten the biggest share of the rehabilitation fund, yet reports prove that only 28% of the units have been completed out of the P40 billion allocated to housing.

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Local spectres are busy painting the towns a façade of recovery, development even. Yet the monstrosity of the man made disaster cannot be hidden even with beautification projects and band aid solutions provided to the survivors. A “Great Wall” was planned to defend the people should the surges return, but in reality it is a prison made to  keep the survivors mired in poverty.

Livelihood was far from the minds of the puppets, even taking advantage of the destruction to leech off profit and concessions for foreign masters. Until now, hunger and poverty remain widespread due to the displacement of thousands of people from their actual sources of livelihood. Farmers continue to till the land amidst the deaths of their crops, that would take seven years for them to recuperate their income. Pests came swarming at their farmlands, leaving nothing for them to eat. Feudal lords continue to take advantage of their helpessness with rock bottom prices for their produce, even as the farmers struggle to put food in the table. Workers are plagued everyday with insufficient income and threat to their jobs. Students are dazed, forced to quit school to take up the cudgels and responsibility to feed their families. Women, and all other survivors stand rooted in their hopelessness, waiting if any help would arrive at all.

But the ghosts of the past must not remain a distant memory. A new surge is being born out of the calamity that was Yolanda, out of the disaster that was the Yellow Administration and the no1 puppet Aquino. The cries of the dead forge with the mass of the living continue the call for justice and accountabilty. Three years is enough. It is not those who have departed that they should fear, but the anger of the living waiting to put an end to this horrors of horrors.###