TACLOBAN CITY- The Urban Poor Associates (UPA) together with 500 Yolanda survivors held the first gathering of 14 Homeowners’ Associations on October 25, Saturday, 7:30 AM -12 Noon at the Gymnasium of Leyte Normal University, this city.

The activity was in partnership with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The gathering of homeowner’s association is part of a vision of building resilient and empowered communities in Tacloban. Formation of association will strengthen and unite Yolanda survivors to ensure that all their concerns will be addressed — land, permanent and temporary houses, jobs, health, administrations of the work, and participation in major decision making. The Homeowners’ Associations in Yolanda-affected areas were formally recognized by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB). A lecture on the Magna Carta for Homeowner’s Association (RA 9904) and framework on the importance of registration with HLURB were applauded by the people.

Editha Monredondo, president of Happy Homes HOA from Barangay 56-A, Magallanes said, “In the past, our neighborhood seems oblivious with one another so, we do things on our own. There was no cooperation. Our area stinks with dirt, but when UPA organized us we learned the value of camaraderie, of working together, to improve our condition. UPA encouraged us to do small things together like cleaning our place, talking to our neighbors and helping one another in time of need.”

“We suddenly realized that we are developing a much better community. UPA then asked us to form an association and elect leaders. We started to make programs for everybody – planting vegetables for household consumption and negotiating with the local government to allow us repair our tents into a decent temporary housing, where we can sleep soundly at night. Now, with our association we are aspiring for more, and that is to have a safe, decent and permanent housing,” Monredondo added.

Marlon Maraya, president of Buranday HOA said, “We feel so lucky to be recognized by the city government. This will make our works in the community easier because we can tell that we are a legitimate group. We can now also assert with the national and local government to issue a resolution that will allow us to do repairs of our tents in our own barangay. We in Barangay 56, also feel secure that the government will not just drive us away from our place which was declared ‘No build Zone’ without consultation and decent relocation.”

The group also integrated a legislative action supporting the Urban Development and Housing (UDHA) Act Amendments. UDHA law paved the way to allow Yolanda survivors to acquire transitional housings and shelter rehabilitation in the declared “No Build Zone” area. Yolanda survivors submitted a petition in support of the pending measures amending UDHA law [SB 1874/ HB 2791] to further protect their shelter rights. At the end of the program, the 14 Homeowner’s Associations representatives from Barangay Magallanes and San Jose District placed ribbons with hand-written messages on a colorful kite. This is a symbolic action on the quest of Yolanda Survivors for decent and safe housing.

In parting, Celia Santos, UPA UDHA advocacy officer and Tacloban project coordinator, said, “This is our commitment of giving life and claiming what is human and land rights. Forming an association particularly in poor Yolanda-affected areas give collective measures to empower the people to push for their shelter rights.” “This occasion will also serve as a reminder to everyone and the government that Yolanda survivors must be capacitated so that when all the international help is over, Yolanda Survivors can stand on its feet with high spirits. Through building associations Yolanda survivors is guaranteed that they will be served with integrity and that their needs will be given a priority,” Santos concluded. (PR)