By: Joey A. Gabieta/Roel T. Amazona
TACLOBAN CITY- As the region commemorated the fifth year anniversary of the massive devastation brought by super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ on Thursday (Nov.8), survivors continue to rant their woes.
Five years after the onslaught of Yolanda, thousands of survivors are yet to be relocated to the promised housing projects by the government.
Records from the regional office of the National Housing Authority(NHA), as of October this year, out of the 56,140 housing units supposed to be constructed for Yolanda survivors who totally lost their houses, only 24,200 have been so far been built.
And out of this number 18,085 of these housing units have actually been awarded or occupied by the family-beneficiaries.
Here in Tacloban City, considered the ground zero of Yolanda, 11,466 families have been relocated to the 15 resettlement sites. The city government has earlier identified 14,433 families who need to be given homes.
Dorcas Secreto, NHA’s regional management estate specialist, said that they are still on target of completing these housing units by year.
She also dismissed claims that the houses were of poor quality saying that the designs and specifications of these houses were submitted by the assigned contractors to the Department of Public Works and Highways for approval and scrutiny.
She described as just ‘construction defects which could be repair’ instances cited by beneficiaries in saying their houses were or poor quality like wobbling walls and cracking walls, among others.
Eflida Bautista, one of the founders of the People Surge, a group comprising of Yolanda survivors, said that basic amenities remain lacking in many of these resettlement sites.
“It’s like being hit again by Yolanda. There is no day that they don’t fear for their lives and the lives of their children,” Bautista, a former college professor, said.
“When it rains, come the floods (due to lack of drainage system) and on sunny days, the heat is unbearable. They have to line up for potable water rationed to them,” she added.
For the group, not only the houses were poorly built but not well-planned, citing the lack of needed facilities.
On Thursday, several local government units across the region commemorated the fifth year of Yolanda’s onslaught.
Tacloban City Mayor Cristina Romualdez, in a commemorative program held at the Tacloban City Convention Center, said that while the activity aim to give tribute to those who were killed, the now yearly event should be given a new meaning.
According to Romualdez, the event is a ‘celebration of the resilience of the survivors.’
Joining the city commemorative program were Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos and her brother, former senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, former presidential adviser for political matter, Francis Tolentino, former Leyte congressman Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Sec. Michael Dino, presidential assistant for the Visayas.
Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla led the provincial-led commemorative program held at the grounds of the provincial capitol building.
“What we want is to remember and honor those who died and give sympathy to the families of the victims,” the governor said.
Petilla, however, said that its time for the survivors to ‘move on’ and see the brighter side of life.
“We should learn how to keep on going. We are blessed how fast our recovery not only in terms of infrastructures but recovery of the people. I know for most of us, the experience was shocking and traumatizing but we have to overcome and move on,” the governor said.
This sentiment was shared by Palo Mayor Remedios Petilla.
“We should not forget what happened to us five years ago but we should move on. Those who died due to Yolanda would not feel at peace if those they left behind continue to mourn over their loss,” Petilla said.
Tanauan Mayor Pelagio Tecson, Jr., said that while the massive disaster resulted in the destruction of properties and killed thousands of people in their town, ‘they were never defeated.’
“It failed to break our spirits. And five years since, we have gone a long, long way.Rebuolding our lives, homes and rebuilding our communities,” he said.
Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan also led in the commemorative program as she also urged the Samareños to never forget on what happened five years ago.
“Let us also remember and send our thanks to the individual people, the companies, the local and international organizations and countries who helped us to stand up and rebuild our lives one way or another,” she said in her message.
Several towns in Eastern Samar also joined in the commemoration of Yolanda’s onslaught led by Governor Marcelo Ferdinand Picardal and Guiuan Mayor Christopher Sheen Gonzales, where Yolanda made its first landfall.