On Monday, September 5, representatives from different chapters of People Surge (PS) in the Eastern Visayas region convened at the San Jose Gymnasium in Tacloban City for a region-wide Survivors’ Conference on Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA), which was followed by a heated dialogue at the Regional Office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
In attendance were People Surge leaders from PS-Eastern Samar Chapter, PS-Borongan City Chapter, PS-Northern Samar, PS-(Western) Samar Chapter, PS-Leyte Chapter, PS-Julita Chapter, Concerned Citizens Movement of Typhoon Yolanda in Biliran (affiliate of People Surge), Kusog Han Barangay 37, Cabuynan Women’s Association (affiliate of PS in Tanauan), People Surge—Ridgeview Village and the regional office of People Surge represented by Marissa Cabaljao, PS Secretary-General and Sr. Edith Eslopor, Founding Chair of People Surge.
Almost three years since Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and more than two years since Supertyphoon Ruby battered Eastern Visayas, survivors remain firm in their call to have ESA for supertyphoons Yolanda and Ruby distributed to all victims, scrap their corresponding guidelines (DSWD Memorandum Circulars 24 and 19 for Yolanda and Ruby, respectively), and demand for accountability over the misuse of Yolanda funds.
No ESA (Yolanda) in Borongan
Abraham Palce of People Surge—Borongan grilled local DSWD officials during the dialogue on why Borongan City did not receive ESA for the damages of Yolanda despite reports from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Council of Eastern Samar that Borongan City had the highest number of totally damaged households during super typhoon Yolanda.
Yvonne Abonales, Officer in charge of DSWD Regional Director Restituto Macuto replied that they received no damage reports neither from the Borongan City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) nor the Borongan LGU on the damages of Yolanda.
“So kun nagkaada report may-ada kunta kami? Amu lagi an problema kay an iba nga nasud nakadto na pagbulig pero kamu waray man la nanginano kun tuod nga waray kami damage?” (So if there was a [damage] report, we could have received [ESA for Yolanda]? That’s the problem because other countries already went there to help but you did not even go there to check if indeed there was no damage?) Palce raised.
Palce said that local government’s negligence in submitting a damage report and the regional office’s lack of initiative to validate allowed for the non-distribution of ESA for Yolanda in their area.
During the ESA Conference, Palce also criticized DSWD’s MC24 which excludes areas that are beyond the 50km radius path of Yolanda. “Diri valid nga argumento ito nga 50km radius kay iton theory la ito nira. Ha actual assessment, apektado talaga an bug-os nga Borongan” (It is not valid to argue about the 50 km radius because that is just a theory. In the actual assessment, the whole Borongan is actually affected), Palce stressed.
ESA delayed, ESA denied
Meanwhile, Abonales reported that the Php159 million budget for ESA Ruby has already been downloaded to the LGU of Borongan last August 31.
“So it takes two years to process these funds?” negotiators from People Surge asked, implying that ESA should no longer be labeled as “emergency shelter assistance” since it has lost any sense of urgency.
Abonales said their office has long submitted a budget proposal but it was only recently that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released the funds. Now that it has already been downloaded, it is for the LGU to distribute ESA in accordance with DSWD’s Memorandum Circular #19 Series of 2015, she added.
People Surge has long criticized the said guidelines as it wields the power to LGUs in prorating the standard amount of Php30,000 for totally damaged and Php10,000 for partially damaged households should they determine that there is a budgetary limitation. MC 19 also prohibits LGUs from requesting additional funds to DSWD requesting for compensation.
Moreover, MC19 also reduces the amount to be received by beneficiaries who are sharers and/or renters compared to beneficiaries who are house owners. Only Php10,000 will be given to sharers who are totally damaged and Php5,000 to partially damaged households.
People Surge-Borongan observed that the enlisting of beneficiaries is questionable since the number of beneficiaries was reduced after the revalidation. “That would result to great injustice to those delisted for political or personal considerations,” Palce said.
Of the 23 municipalities in Eastern Samar, only five were included as recipients of ESA (Ruby) namely, Borongan City, Dolores, Oras, Can-avid and Taft, based on the written report provided by DSWD Region-8 after the dialogue.
People Surge—Northern Samar as represented by Samuel Montero Picardal also noted similar concern of politicizing the distribution of ESA. “Kumbaga, kun hin-o it harani ha luwag, hiya it makakatagamtam,” he said.
Only 6 municipalities will receive ESA (Ruby) in Northern Samar—Catarman, Mondragon, Laoang, Bobon, Las Navas and Lavezares. DSWD said affected municipalities in Northern Samar are also due to receive ESA for Nona while a cash-for-work program is due to be implemented as an aid for damages of typhoon Glenda.
IDPs and NDZ dwellers also demand ESA
Meanwhile, People Surge members from Ridgeview Village, the biggest permanent resettlement site in Tacloban, also demand cash assistance and sought to abolish MC24.
The MC 24, the guidelines for distributing ESA for Yolanda, excludes those who avail of permanent housing from receiving ESA since the latter is also intended as shelter assistance.
But People Surge—Ridgeview Chapter President Ging Eraya argued that there is no point in not letting them avail of ESA because they were told to pay for the houses anyway.
Eraya said during the conference that they have been informed by the National Housing Authority (NHA) that the permanent housing would only be free for five years. He also said these houses are substandard, without privacy and access to basic utilities like water comes with difficulty.
Residents living in government-declared No Dwelling Zones (NDZ) who are also prohibited from receiving the said cash assistance continue to call MC24 as an injustice to those who faced the rolling storm surges in the frontline.
“There are 14,400 NDZ households in Tacloban who are in need of help. It’s been three years now and we assert that we are also entitled to a cash assistance,” Conciso Ocasla of Kusog han Barangay 37 said during the conference.
During the dialogue, the present officials of DSWD revealed that they did not receive any liquidation from the Tacloban City LGU pertaining to ESA.
ESA in Leyte
Meanwhile, DSWD reported that the LGU of Julita already submitted a liquidation for ESA Yolanda, noting that they have Php30 million undistributed fund already returned to the national treasury.
But Alfredo Silvano of People Surge—Julita Chapter was not amused. He said many from their ranks should have received ESA for Yolanda but were disqualified by MC 24 because they received full houses from non-government organizations.
Silvano said the Php 30million could have been better spent by distributing to those in need of cash assistance.
People Surge, the biggest alliance of disaster survivors in Eastern Visayas, is determined to campaign for the abolition of MC24 and hold those accountable for the misuse of Yolanda funds. They will file petitions and continue to surge the streets with more protests as the third Yolanda anniversary draws near.#