Solon eyes zero backlog in ‘Yolanda’ housing



November 10, 2017 at 11:10 am by Maricel Cruz and Bill Casas

THE chairperson of the House of Representatives’ committee on housing and urban development has urged the National Housing Authority to aim for zero backlog in housing units intended for families affected by Super Typhoon “Yolanda.”

Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez, chairperson of the House of Representatives committee on housing, issued this after over 190,000 housing units were reported due for completion by next year for the families of “Yolanda” survivors who suffer the wrath of the strong typhoon in 2013.

“Next year, the fifth anniversary of ‘‘Yolanda’’ should be observed with all homeless victims being made to experience the comforts of having their own homes,” Benitez said.

Meanwhile, Leyte Rep. Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt-Romualdez on Wednesday night led the sundown memorial in Tacloban City where she and Taclobanons released at least 1,000 sky lanterns to honor the first responders and casualties of Super Typhoon “Yolanda.”

“Tonight [Wednesday], we pay tribute and salute the selflessness of all volunteers and organizations that took part and contributed in the recovery and rehabilitation efforts of the communities affected by the typhoon,”  Romualdez told the crowd at the Sangyawan grounds of the Balyuan Center facing Cancabato Bay near Tacloban City Hall during the 4th anniversary of Yolanda.  

“The overwhelming support that came our way, gave us comfort and hope amidst the wrath of devastation,” Romualdez said.

“We celebrate the strength and resilience of our people, of our phenomenal capacity to survive that could prove to be an inspiration to our fellow Filipinos, many of which live amidst challenges caused by disasters and conflict,” Romualdez added.

In her speech, Romualdez asked prayers for “Yolanda” victims, stressing they should not be forgotten as their deaths raised awareness on disaster management and prevention not only in the country, but in the entire world.

At the same time, poor farmers and fisherfolks from Eastern Visayas lamented Wednesday their situation they said was far from the state of recovery and rehabilitation. 

“Contrary to the government’s claim that Yolanda disaster victims in Eastern Visayas will benefit from the Asean integration and Asean free trade area, real recovery and rehabilitation will remain distant as long as landlessness and feudal conditions exist. EV is an agricultural and coastal region. Land-use conversion and declaring shores as no-dwelling zones only favors local and foreign business interests,”  said Antonio Flores, secretary-general of KMP. 

      “Year after year, Eastern Visayas farmers and fisherfolks can only hope for real recovery. More than the calamitous effects of Yolanda, their lives and livelihood are always kept at worst conditions by the perennial landlessness and poverty in the entire region. Even before Yolanda, Eastern Visayas and its provinces are among the poorest in the country. The hunger and poverty situation went from worse to extreme,” Flores said.

According to IBON Foundation, 53 percent  of EV’s farmers are landless, 27 percent are underemployed and 39 percent of the regional population are among the poorest. 

The delivery of social services is slow and corruption-ridden. 

Only 25 percent of the promised housing units were delivered and 47 percent of livelihood services was accessed. 

Benitez also called for the swift release of funds to finance  Typhoon Yolanda Housing Project as noted by the Commission on Audit in the recently released 2016 Annual Financial Report for Government -Owned and -Controlled Corporations that included NHA.

Benitez said CoA also cited the alleged failure of the NHA and other agencies involved in “Yolanda” housing to make available relocation sites for displaced families in the typhoon-stricken areas.

“After the target three-year period for providing homeless families with a roof over their heads lapsed last year, only half of the target houses were completed. I find this fact sickening,” Benitez said.

Citing COA’s 2016 AFR, Benitez said the NHA completed only 49.84 percent or 190,413 houses out of the target 382,082 units in 2016.

Benitez also lamented that of the total houses completed and ready for distribution, only 76,004 are actually occupied.

“Many Yolanda victims have aired strong doubts as to the structural integrity of the houses being offered them. Corruption is to be blamed for this,” Benitez said.

Benitez earlier vowed to bring to justice officials and private contractors for the delay and substandard quality of housing projects.

“Four years have passed yet thousands still live in temporary housing or in danger zones,” Benitez lamented.

“It appears that, for many families, the tragedy continues,” he added.

Benitez’s committee earlier conducted a series of public hearings in Eastern Samar, Tacloban and Congress since August to probe the snail-paced implementation of “Yolanda” housing projects; and uncovered substantial information that aside from delays in the construction, substandard materials were used in the Yolanda housing project in Balangiga, Eastern Samar.

In her speech, Romualdez said: “As we lift to the heaven these sky lanterns, we raise our prayers for our departed loved ones, for blessings on all dear to us, for peace in our homes and communities, and for the strength to move on and rise again.”

“November 8 is a day we will never forget. We will never forget the

friends and family we lost. We will never forget the pain and grief.

We will always remember the courage and selflessness of those who come to our side,” said Romualdez.

She added: “That is why every 8th of November is a date we will hold sacred, when

we recall how one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded,

struck our home region, leaving tens of thousands of people dead and

missing, millions homeless and livelihoods destroyed. 

“It was the worst of times, the adversities we will always keep in our hearts.”