Statement on the 2nd anniversary of typhoon Yolanda
PH Disaster Survivors to the World: Intensify our Demands for Justice, Our Survival is Non-Negotiable
EASTERN VISAYAS, PHILIPPINES – Two years ago, the world stood witness as Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), one of the strongest and deadliest typhoon ever recorded, left thousands upon thousands of our friends, neighbors, relatives and loved ones killed and missing, rendered millions of us homeless and hopeless than ever.
The world stood witness as the near apocalyptic scene of desperate people scrambling over the littlest grace, spraying walls with “help Us!” vandals and mourning over lost lives became more real than imagined. The world stood witness to our desperation, grief, and struggle.
In two years of post-Yolanda reconstruction, the patronage system of politics reared its ugly head even in the most distressing situation. For two years without adequate assistance to complement our own rebuilding efforts, the government adds insult to injury with condolences of delayed, divisive, conditional and corruption-riddled assistance.
A number of our fellow survivors are slowly dying in bunkhouses while many others suffer from the lack of access to adequate health service, water, and livelihood. Public institutions on health and education were utilized for profiteering under the public-private partnership scheme of the national government.
Our communities were threatened with demolitions after demolitions to pursue projects that we least benefit from while giant corporations are queuing up for multi-million government contracts in Yolanda-stricken areas. They plan to put up big business infrastructures along coastal No Dwelling Zones (NDZ) and prime agricultural lands – all in the name of ‘building back better’.
For two years since Yolanda, the national government gave us what we did not ask for but deprived us of things we need.
Post-Yolanda rehabilitation neglects the poor, enriches the rich
We are enraged to see big businesses leading the government’s multi-billion rehabilitation program. Under the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda’s adopt-an-LGU scheme, development clusters have been distributed among big business monopolists Gokongwei, Ayala, Aboitiz, Pangilinan, Ty, Razon, Sia, Lopez, Zamora, Gaisano, Cojuangco, Ang, Tan, Sy, and Yuchengco. Profit-oriented interests have been prioritized, but the poor people’s concerns were set aside.
Meanwhile in the countrysides, strong post-Yolanda typhoons Ruby and Seniang interrupted small efforts towards recovery. Typhoon Ruby alone yielded an approximately 22 billion pesos’ worth of agriculture damage. The damage to our farmlands costs as much as 2 billion pesos yet our government did not bother so much. We cried for adequate aid but to no avail. This lack of support to bounce back from the new destruction prolongs our miseries and hunger.
Two years from Yolanda, the world should know better
At least two died in one of the government bunkhouses in Tacloban City. An old man died of heat stroke and an eight-month-old baby died of pneumonia. Along NDZs, tens of thousands still await on-site shelter rehabilitation.
The local government in Tacloban targeted 12,345 permanent housing units, but only 342 units have been completed as of June 2015; only 281 of which were occupied. Those who agreed to move to the new settlement site are meanwhile burdened with lack of access to water and the lack of livelihood opportunities. Some of them have opted to return to previous communities in NDZs and brave recurrent threats of demolition and displacements.
In spite of unavailability of awaiting permanent shelter, the government pushed through with the demolition of 72 houses in Barangay 37 Reclamation Area of Tacloban last April 14 to favor the completion of the 44.3 million pesos’ worth Tacloban Fishport Complex. Meanwhile, the government prioritizes the construction of the 7.9 billion pesos tide embankment project from the coastlines of Tacloban to Tanauan, Leyte which will displace more than 10,000 households. The surge barrier design will escape ‘big facilities’ while many of us still living in NDZs will be driven away.
The Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA), meanwhile, was for opportunists to prey upon our unfortunate condition. Reports of loan sharks conspiring with government officials to lure several beneficiaries into lending have been aired. Many identified households failed to receive the full amount of cash assistance while politicking its distribution has been the case in many instances.
Though the ESA is an outcome of sustained people’s pressure, this came to us at a time too late – when most of us have started rebuilding our own shattered homes. Not a single cent, though, is spared for those whose houses were flattened by the storm surge along NDZs.
Survivors under siege
Instead of helping us rebuild, the government deployed its armed troops and intelligence operatives. They came not to protect us but to contain the escalating anger caused by long months of injustice. Eleven disaster survivors from among our community leaders were killed this year. They add to the number of deaths after Jefferson Custodio of Leyte and Rodolfo Basada of Samar. State security forces stand as only suspects to the crimes.
Our children continue to witness the trauma of illegal military encampment in schools. Their uncalled-for presence interrupts agricultural production and education in Barangay Mabini of Basey, Samar. Our fellow survivors are under attack as in other parts of the country for being at the front lines of campaigns for fellow disaster survivors. Despite this, we refuse to remain silent.
The need for accountability
The government supports development aggression at the expense of the environment and the people. Our vulnerability amidst natural calamities roots from the aggravating economic crisis. The cash dole-outs and presence of aid groups will never solve such crisis. Landlessness, joblessness and suppressed wages, among others, continue to plague our fellow survivors.
World leaders meeting in Manila on November will only want to preserve, rather than address, this condition. The United States’ Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, meanwhile, is a deal designed to destroy local economies which will also allow the use of carbon pollutants in the name of profit.
Aquino, meanwhile, double-speaks on curbing carbon dioxide emissions. In reality, he has been supportive of building coal-fired power plants, now at 14, in the country. His staunch advocacy for liberalization has rendered the government incapacitated in responding to various disasters.
After Yolanda, members of the ‘Gang of 5′ have become despicable figures of ineptness among survivors. They are President Noynoy Aquino, Mar Roxas, Dinky Soliman, Panfilo Lacson and Jericho Petilla. Now that the 2016 elections come close, Roxas wants to be President while Lacson and Petilla eye Senate seats. But we send our message to frustrate their ambitions in 2016.
The powerful nations in the Asia-Pacific, led by the US, have been aggressively deploying to the Philippines battalions after battalions of their troops on a rotational but regular basis. We are fully aware of the US’ pivot of military might to Asia-Pacific to protect their economic hegemony. We believe that disasters have become excuses to justify foreign interventions in domestic affairs but more so in the whole economic system and governance.
Two years is enough to cast judgment that the whole reconstruction plan post-Yolanda is a failure in the absence of people’s participation in crafting the plan. It is for these reasons that we, as disaster survivors, should be in the forefront of seeking accountability from both the Aquino government and its corporate benefactors, local and abroad.
Our message to the world
From Yolanda’s wrath, we are made to witness this new normal where most of our people have to suffer the twin disaster of government ineptitude and climate change. We fully recognize that developing countries like the Philippines have the least emissions but bearing the most of its worst catastrophic effects.
From the ground zero of typhoon Yolanda, we join our voices united with the people’s protest against economic policies that favor profits more than people. The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) that is catered through APEC will pave the way for more Haiyan-like catastrophes in the Philippines and anywhere in the world.
In December, the COP21 in Paris is a critical point for countries to come up with a meaningful and binding international agreement to address climate change. The urgency is real. We are very much aware that a 1-degree rise of our global temperature will push us more to struggle harder in order to survive.
Hence, we are joining our voices in solidarity to our brothers and sisters at the frontlines in pushing for ambitious and binding agreement based from science and justice, allow people to develop their local economies, and pave the way for regionally appropriate solutions for a just and sustainable world.
On the second anniversary of Yolanda, lighted candles may no longer be enough. We must organize an escalated action strengthening our broad networks to pressure our own inept governments and the world’s top 200 corporate giants amassing wealth from carbon pollution and social exploitation.
We continue our resolve to link our struggle for dignity, rights and justice with the global peoples movement that challenges the system causing environmental and climate destruction breeding injustices that further aggravated our vulnerability to climate change. We must intensify our demands for justice holding the responsible ultimately accountable. Now is the time to end the climate crisis. Let the world know – our survival is non-negotiable.