Mounting anger in Eastern Visayas over government fumbling 100 days after Yolanda

People Surge
February 15, 2014

The Aquino government is facing the mounting anger of the people in Eastern Visayas over its failure to lift them from their misery, said People Surge, an alliance of survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). “The people need more than relief operations that of course will not last forever,” said Sr. Edita Eslopor, spokesperson of People Surge. “But because they still live in uncertainty a hundred days after the storm, the Aquino government only reinforces their fears for the future. The people are suffering, and they are seething because the government  cannot assure the most basic needs such as food, livelihood, housing and social services.”

Sr. Eslopor explained that the most glaring fact about the post-Yolanda reconstruction program is that the people are not at the center of the program. “There is no still no clear plan for recovery and reconstruction, which is estimated to cost 360.9 billion pesos, according to the blueprint Recovery Assistance for Yolanda by the National Economic and Development Authority. Is it because such a huge amount of money is stirring a frenzy of horse-trading between the government and the big foreign and local businesses it seeks to partner with? The design is geared towards public-private partnerships, meaning the total needs for reconstruction will be shouldered by the private sector."

Based on a study conducted by the People Surge, more than 2 million farmers and fisher folks in Eastern Visayas alone were affected. The total damage of  more than P64 billion in agriculture consists of coconut production losses valued at P41.958 billion, P6.428 billion damage on the fishing industry, P5.695 billion damage on banana plantation, P 3.462 B damage on palay (unhusked rice), and P6.5 billion damages on livestock and root crops, abaca, corn and vegetables. Eighty percent of the population in the Eastern Visayas region rely on agriculture. Yet, the government intends to infuse capital on the rehabilitation of infrastructure.

“The delay is proving deadly to the urban and rural poor who were left in desperate straits. The peasants are living at the subsistence level already, with no foreseeable income, and prey to usury. Families in interior villages usually alternate root crops with rice, eating rice only one to two times a day. But with root crops heavily damaged by the typhoon, they are now consuming rice two to three times daily, thus, rapidly diminishing their rice supply. Worse, they are forced to sell their rice because their sources of cash crops have been damaged.

“Meanwhile, the urban poor face homelessness as well as the loss of livelihood because the “no-build zone” policy in areas 40 meters from the shoreline such as in Tacloban City bars them from returning to their communities. Today they are crammed into the anomaly-laden bunkhouses, many of which are not even finished yet months after the calamity.”

The spokesperson of People Surge added that the government should address the immediate concerns of the people. “What the government should be doing is ensuring the food security of the peasants, promoting quick-growing cash crops so they could recover lost income, while providing the necessary agricultural assistance to sustain them in the long term. Moreover, the government should think of the people's interests first and find alternatives to its “no-build zone” policy, which is arbitrary in the first place because Yolanda's storm surge reached kilometers inland.”

Sr. Eslopor said the government's failure to heed the people's plight led to the founding of People Surge last January 24-25 in Tacloban City, in the biggest mass demonstration in Eastern Visayas in recent years. “If the Aquino government will not act, the people will act to fight for their own interests. The government had enough time in the past three months to attend to the people's basic needs. The fact that the people of Eastern Visayas are still demanding food, livelihood, housing and social services is a testament to the criminal negligence of the Aquino government.”

Media & Advocacy Desk,
PEOPLE SURGE (Alliance for Yolanda [Haiyan] Victims)
09261751602 / 09993909675