A year after Yolanda swept the Visayan Region, rehabilitation and recovery for the 9 administrative regions (with 12,222 barangays in 44 provinces, 591 municipalities and 57 cities) is still wanting, with a total cost of damages at Php 89,598,070,000 or Php 89.5 B. Two days before commemorating the death anniversary of the 3,424,593 families—-16,078,181 individuals with the destruction of their homes (1,140,332 houses), President Aquino will be hounded by the howls of the survivors and activitists, with torches signifying their rage over the neglect and outright marginalisation, over private-sector led rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts of the government.
As, President Aquino procrastinated,“sitting like a duck” over the approval of the Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Plan (CRRP), stories of land-grabbing, displacements, rising hunger and human rights violations continued humming over the affected communities as they contend with the scarcity of meaningful governmental response - a disaster that dwarfs the fury unleashed by Yolanda.
“We are worse of now than when Yolanda hit us! A year after, we are forced to contend with un-livable housing, no livelihood programs, diminishing public services, while local and national government bicker against each other, on where to put the large amounts of money they have for us victims.” says Farah Diva Gamalo, Sanlakas Coordinator and a Yolanda survivor from Tacloban, Leyte.
The PNoy government post-Yolanda has set in motion a rehabilitation course that purports to embody the build back better principle. It has unveiled its Rehabilitation Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) which has pegged the investment requirements for recovery and reconstruction at P360.9 B for critical immediate actions, short-term interventions and medium-term needs within a four (4) year horizon from 2013 until 2017. Only after a year, did he finally set his signature over the CRRPs that were brought to his lap long ago, in August 2014, but no substantial funding were downloading that directly helped the poor survivors.
Under the 2014 General Appropriations Act, P20 Billion pesos have been earmarked for the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts of the government. On top of this another P80 B worth of unprogrammed funds has been allotted to augment the rehabilitation budget to finance the government’s short-term interventions. OPARR has pegged the cost of rehabilitation at P170.7 billion ($3.93 billion*) and the total of Php 169 Billion was only recently signed by the President, only when almost a year has passed.
Various international donors were quick to respond. A combined and estimated funding support in the amount of PhP73 billion were gathered to fund various reconstruction and recovery program. Around PhP17 billion went to the Philippine Government and the remaining PhP56 billion went to various Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) that are partners of the international donor institutions in the Philippines. And more came from new debts incurred by the government, specifically from WB and ADB, with WB and ADB (formally) approving $1-B additional typhoon aid apart from their earlier commitments of Php 500M and Php 1B, respectively.
Sammy Gamboa, Secretary General of the Freedom from Debt Coalition decries, “the World Bank Group’s hypocrisy in dealing with climate change has to stop now! People must reclaim power over energy systems and promote alternative ones that do not compromise the well-being and even the existence of people and planet”, attesting to the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC that painted a grim scenario.“Stop delivering the Yolanda SURVIVORS,at the hands of the culprits,” he adds.
However, the cornerstone approach under RAY is to “encourage and facilitate the active involvement of the private sector” for its implementation. This includes expansion of public-private partnership arrangements for major investment programs, fostering business-community links through adopt a town partnerships, among other modalities for “greater private sector involvement”.
“There’s the rub. Much of the investment will be ushered in by the corporate sector with the Government sidestepping in favor of big business. This explains for example why Nickel Asia Corporation, a big mining firm, is spearheading the rehabilitation efforts in Guiuan, Eastern Samar – an area rich in nickel and magnetite. In Salcedo, some civil society organizations are being used to pursue the interest of the corporations. All this dirty energy production, including mining and coal fired power plants, that has been proven to aggravate Climate Change, adds to heaping more disasters” says Larry Pascua, PMCJ Coordinator.
The corporate-driven and led rehabilitation is compounded by yet another issue: RAY in itself was formulated and executed devoid of public participation, even of those whom it assumed to be its beneficiaries, the Yolanda-stricken areas and communities. Even as voices from the affected areas are yearning and struggling to be heard, the government has announced RAY 2.
What the year leading to this commemoration day for Yolanda reveals, is not only the utter lack of disaster preparedness by the government when the Tyhpoon hit or when another typhoon of similar magnitude strikes but its willingness to lend itself accomplice, if not principal, to a business track by corporations that capitalizes on the vulnerability of millions, of building back businesses with better return of investment prospects. Like Yolanda, the rehabilitation and reconstruction program of the government continue to prey on the people. But the survivors’ say “No more to this incompetence and lack of genuine adherence to justice and human rights.
“We are not beggars asking for short change. We are your citizens and demanding our basic rights to food, shelter, education and social services, most wanting because we are survivors of a tragedy that no one expected. But don’t give us another tragedy, by not including us in decision making of OUR reconstruction and recovery programs!” adds Larry Pascua.
“We demand for the government to fulfill its obligation in promoting and ensuring the welfare of its people, thus spearheading a people-centered, rights-based rehabilitation process. People not corporations should be underlying inspiration in rebuilding the communities and local economies!”, says Sammy Gamboa, Secretary General of the Freedom from Debt Coalition. He adds, “Stop getting loans, in our (Yolanda Survivor’s) name”.
“OUR RAGE IS BURNING, AND WE WILL NOT STOP UNTIL WE CLAIM WHAT IS RIGHTFULLY OURS, A LIFE WITH HUMANITY AND DIGNITY, AFTER YOLANDA”, adds Farah Diva Gamalo.