November 26, 2015
Yolanda survivors from different parts of Eastern Visayas have once again trooped to the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) amid the office’s declaration that today, November 26, is the deadline for local government units (LGUs) to distribute the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA).
People Surge, an alliance of disaster survivors, said setting a deadline is pointless, insensitive and suspicious since many disaster survivors have yet to receive the cash assistance and its distribution is still marred with anomalies.
“Obviously, DSWD is rushing to get the ESA savings from LGUs so it can be used as Liberal Party’s additional election fund for 2016,” Marissa Cabaljao, People Surge Secretary-General said.
In Tacloban City alone, the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) noted that there is still a remaining budget of Php 243 million from the ESA fund downloaded by DSWD. The CSWDO earlier filed a petition to DSWD to make use of the remaining budget as cash assistance to those living in No Dwelling Zones (NDZ).
DSWD, however, remained adamant in its guidelines, the Memorandum Circular No. 24 which prohibits those living in NDZs from receiving the cash assistance.
People Surge said there is still a possible Php 1.8 billion ESA fund undistributed to Yolanda survivors in Eastern Visayas since DSWD only noted Php 7.5 billion disbursed from the Php 9.4 billion ESA budget for Eastern Visayas.
“The Php 1.8 billion could still accommodate over 62,000 families in Eastern Visayas. Instead of returning to the national treasury, the savings could well benefit the still struggling Yolanda survivors in Eastern Visayas,” Cabaljao said.
Last November 16, People Surge held a dialogue with Regional Director Nestor Ramos, resulting in a recommendation letter from the regional office addressed to Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman to give out cash assistance to households in NDZ.
On the same dialogue, Ramos also admitted that Daram, Eastern Samar, an island-town considered to be an “unsafe zone” has already been downloaded with ESA fund by virtue of a Malacanang approval.
“If they can get away with Memorandum Circular No. 24 and give out ESA to those in NDZs in Daram, why can’t they do the same with the rest of the NDZs in the Visayas? It’s just a matter of political will. But Aquino refuses to do what is right. In cahoots with his alter ego in DSWD, Aquino is paving the way to make use of disaster funds for his successor Mar Roxas in the 2016 elections,” Cabaljao said.
Apart from Daram, other towns are also bombarded with issues on ESA distribution like that of in Tanauan and Julita, Leyte and Villareal, Samar whose representatives also spoke before the protesters.
In Tanauan and Villareal, survivors only received Php 10,000 cash assistance instead of receiving Php30,000 for totally damaged households. In Julita, Leyte, meanwhile, disaster survivors were deprived of receiving the cash assistance because of being beneficiaries of ‘snail-paced’ housing project.
“The Aquino government can afford Php 10 billion for a week-long meeting in APEC but is unwilling to spend a budget already there for disaster survivors who have long been waiting for cash assistance and genuine rehabilitation. The Commission on Audit (COA) said there is still Php 923 million disaster funds deposited and idle in banks, why can’t they make use of that?” Cabaljao noted.
“Our struggle for ESA is not a simple money issue. This is an issue of justice—of getting what we, disaster survivors rightfully deserve, and a call for accountability,” she ended.#
People Surge Alliance for Disaster Survivors in the Philippines