TACLOBAN CITY- From the Philippines to the United Nations General Assembly on Climate Change in New York, victims of supertyphoon Yolanda in the country joined other environment advocates in the world to air their plight and demand justice.

Efleda Bautista, convenor of an alliance of Yolanda survivors People Surge, stood with other international rights groups for a “People’s General Assembly” in New York as an alternative gathering outside the building where world leaders convened during the September 23 summit. “We are here to claim justice. The devastation caused by typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines is a wake-up call to leaders about the fatal consequences of global warming and climate change to people, especially from developing countries,” Bautista said.

Supporting the group are Campaign for People’s Goals for Sustainable Development, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), and IBON International. A network of non-governmental organizations Rights Network claimed that rehabilitation in Yolanda-stricken communities continues to be at a snail’s pace. Ruelie Rapsing, the group’s communication and development officer, said that “survivors of the super typhoon, mostly from the farming and fishing communities, are still unable to avail of the support services and other programs from government agencies and aid groups” eleven months after Yolanda.

“Lack of tenurial instruments poses a major hindrance in the delivery of support services for the farmers and shelter programs for fisher folks,” Rapsing said. To address this, Rapsing said that government must first settle land distribution and ownership among the victims. “The government should fast track the resolution of pre-existing tenure and property rights questions, particularly the implementation of agrarian reform in favor of farmers with no land tenure security and land and housing rights for fisher folks with no housing tenure security,” he said. The group is currently launching a signature campaign in Leyte and Samar to call on the government “to exercise its power of imminent domain to acquire lands for the relocation of survivors within areas accessible to their sources of livelihoods.” (RONALD O.REYES)