The Aquino government has announced its plans to taper off relief distribution by January 2014.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
TACLOBAN, Leyte — Survivors of Typhoon Yolanda said they would need relief goods for the next three to six months as they rebuild their lives and the livelihoods they lost to the storm.
“We live on a day to day basis. There is no assurance. We are dependent on relief operations. The day after tomorrow we may not have food anymore,” Noel Cabada, 55, said.
Cabada is among the 35 families residing in Martinez Compound in Tacloban City. Most of his neighbors in Barangay 31, he said, earn a living by fishing and driving tricycles. There are also some who are employed in private establishments and government offices.
He believes that it is the poor people who would have a hard time recovering from the devastation brought by the typhoon. The only way that they could be able to stand on their two feet again is for the government to provide shelter and livelihood programs to the survivors of the typhoon “from today until the next 365 days.”
Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) is one of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall. The devastation it brought to provinces of Eastern and Central Visayas has killed 5,235 and injured 23,501. About 1,613 are still missing, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council as of Nov. 23.
The typhoon also destroyed about $558 million worth of infrastructure and agriculture, which has gravely affected farmers and fisherfolk.
“The conditions of peasants and the urban poor are going to get worse. They will face hunger and worse, impoverished conditions after the typhoon. Right now, they do not have houses and food,” Nestor Lebico, secretary general of Samahan ng Maliliit na Magsasaka sa Silangang Bisayas, said in a previous Bulatlat.com report.
The International Labor Organization, in an Interaksyon.com report, said that about 1.8 million out of the 4.4 million who lost their livelihood to the typhoon are from the “vulnerable” forms of employment, which, according to the report, means that “they were forced to accept or create whatever work was available to survive. As such, they do not have social security and access to loans and benefits or any form of financial protection.”
The Department of Labor and Employment said they are going to provide for livelihood programs amounting to P5 billion ($116 million) in 2014. Labor secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, in an interview, said they are already purchasing “starter kits” and are preparing the necessary trainings for the livelihood program. The International Labor Organization, on the other hand, said it would allocate $25 million to provide jobs.
Eastern Visayas, one of the affected areas, is the third poorest region in the country, according to the 2013 report of the National Statistical Coordinating Board. Its poverty incidence rose from 36.2 in 2009 to 37.2 percent in the first half of 2012. The 2011 Annual Poverty Indicator Survey revealed that 16 percent of the region’s residents experienced hunger, which is relatively high compared to SOCCKSARGEN (13 percent), Caraga (11.7 percent) and Northern Mindanao (10.1 percent).
Lebico added that while both rich and poor people in the area were affected, it is still the poor who would have a harder time recovering from the devastation the typhoon has brought.
Benedicta Oquiño, 43, helps to augment her husband’s meager income as a farmer by making barbecue sticks, earning around P400 to P500 ($9 to $11) every two days. After the typhoon, she has no one to sell her barbecue sticks to and her husband Fernando, 47, also lost all his crops.
“Poor people are used to being poor, even the children understand our situation. They understand why we could not give them money and that we have to use it well to cover our needs,” Oquiño said.
But since they only get to eat once a day, Oquiño said, her children would cry at times. “But we do not have money. They would cry because they are still hungry. I try to explain that we do not know where to get money because we lost our livelihood,” she added.
Maria Fe Manlamano, one of the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda, said that a month from now, she and her family would not know how they would be able to secure food. She used to bake empanada (chicken or pork pie), a local delicacy, for a living. Manlamano, however, lost her house and her livelihood to the typhoon.
Fisherfolk in Dulag, several towns away from Tacloban, tried to fish days after Typhoon Yolanda hit their community. But Bernardita Lacbayo, Municpal Disaster Risk Reduction Management officer of Dulag, told Bulatlat.com that fisherfolk caught cadavers instead.
Lacbayo estimated that their constituents need to receive relief packs for at least two to three months. Most of them, she added, earn a living by fishing or as coconut farmers.
“But all of these crops are now gone. Farmers lost their agricultural products. It was totally washed out. That is a big problem,” she said.
Coconut farmers, for one, would need to replant and wait for three years before the new trees can bear fruits, according to a GMA report.
Distribute, not sell relief
Initial assessment of the recently concluded Samahang Operasyong Sagip, a relief and medical mission for the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda, revealed that almost three weeks after the typhoon hit the country, residents still “see no light at the end of the tunnel.”
Rosalinda Tablang, head of the Samahang Operasyong Sagip, said, “The people were left with nothing,” adding that based on interviews with officials of Barangay Batang in Hernani, Eastern Samar, it is still not clear when the rehabilitation of the community would start.
During the Bulatlat.com coverage in Tacloban City and neighboring towns, typhoon survivors narrated how they are not getting sufficient assistance from the government.
Resident Josephine Ablay, who was among those interviewed, was seen lining up outside Tacloban City’s Legislative Hall on Nov. 17 to get a relief pack. She said it was only her second time to receive one. She and her children have only been eating instant noodles and biscuits since the typhoon hit their province.
The lack, even the absence of relief, according to Rex Mahinay, a resident of Dulag, has brought a growing dissatisfaction among the people, adding that they have received news from Manila that survivors of the typhoon were supposed to benefit from the numerous donations for them.
Mahinay, however, at the time of the interview, said his family has so far received six cans of sardines, six packs of noodles and four kilos of rice.
In a related development, the Department of Trade and Industry held a “Diskwento Caravan” that sold food and other basic necessities to survivors of Typhoon Yolanda at a reported 10 to 30 percent discount.
“This is very disappointing and very frustrating since the whole world knew that donations for the Filipino people were overflowing since day one of the typhoon. While the government of other countries have been thoughtfully giving great amount of help to the Filipino people affected by the typhoon, the government of the Philippines seems to be unwilling to help its own people,” the CNN’s iReport article read.
Kilusang Mayo Uno, for its part, said the Aquino government should provide relief goods to survivors not discounts.
“Almost three weeks after Yolanda hit the country, the Aquino government still does not know the extent of the damage caused by the supertyphoon. It still thinks that Yolanda survivors have money to buy basic necessities and that it can now go back to business as usual mode,” Elmer Labog, chairperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno, said.
Drawing flak from netizens and peoples’ groups, Trade secretary Gregory Domingo said, in a statement, that the government agency has been doing “Diskwento Caravans” for many years and that it is a “public service conducted by DTI in partnership with big manufacturers and/or distributors.”
“It is their desire to help that keeps them going. I only hope they,” referring to DTI employees holding the discount caravans, “don’t read the negative comments regarding the Diskwento Caravan on (CNN’s) iReport as it will certainly break their heart,” Domingo said.
Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. also defended the “Diskwento Caravan.”
The Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid, a revolutionary peasant group allied with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, for its part, called for an intensified land occupation.
“Farmers cannot rely on big landlords to help out in rebuilding their lives and agriculture in typhoon-devastated areas. The PKM, led by revolutionary government committees, together with the New People’s Army can seize the initiative and launch intensified land occupation for the immediate rehabilitation, recovery and expansion of the revolutionary mass base,” Andres Agtalon, spokesperson of PKM, said in a statement.