MANILA, August 7, 2015—It took a United Nations (UN) representative to make the Malacañang realize what concerned citizens have been telling it all along: that government response to the Yolanda crisis has been lacking.
No less than Chaloka Beyani himself, UN’s special rapporteur on human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), has confirmed in his recent statement the “inadequate attention” the Aquino administration has given to survivors of the super typhoon that wrought havoc on Eastern Visayas in 2013.
Even as it feels vindicated by the UN report, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) meanwhile decries the Palace’s reaction, with Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma vowing in one interview that the government will provide “swifter and more aid to the Yolanda victims” almost two years after the disaster.
While welcoming the inputs of the UN official on the “dismal state” of rehabilitation works, Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, lamented that the government had to wait for Beyani’s report before it finally decided to beef up efforts in Yolanda-hit areas.
“This is another promise that we fear will not be kept and it is a promise made already quite too late,” he said.
For PMCJ National Coordinator Gerard Arances, the Aquino administration’s approach to the Yolanda problem was lopsided at best, claiming it failed to consider concepts of mitigation, resiliency, and adaptation.
“When the government first created policies on how to respond to rehabilitation needs, the beneficiaries that should have been the center of these policies were not even consulted,” he explained.
Given the lack of consultation, he pointed out the plan was not reactive to the needs of the Yolanda survivors.
“As such, thousands of families are still displaced, away from their homes and livelihoods, forced to live in substandard housing facilities that are not only incapable of sheltering them from the most normal of weather conditions but pose additional security threats,” he asserted.
Begging for loans
Arances went on to blame the government for allegedly encouraging the private sector to take advantage of the situation with their “adopt-a-town program,” which he believes resulted in rehabilitation efforts becoming “corporation-centric.”
“These corporations were given free rein on how the rehabilitation efforts were being implemented, and people’s needs were now on the bottom of the priority list while profit-making was the top priority,” he said.
PMCJ also rejects Aquino’s approach to rehabilitation that only allows more indebtedness since a major chunk, Php 120 billion out of the total Php 170 billion budget for rehabilitation came from loans from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
“This practice of begging for loans rather than demanding for compensation and reparation is the most counterproductive approach to any rehabilitation effort. What the government should do is to demand that these institutions pay for damages or at the very least provide in the form of grants and not loans,” Arances stressed.
“Let us not forget that Yolanda is also a product of the worsening climate change, of which the biggest culprits are those same institutions, along with the governments of the north, and big fossil fuel corporations that these institutions have funded for a long time,” he added.
PMCJ moreover demands the government to revisit its policies, to spend time knowing what survivors really need through proper, sincere and comprehensive consultation, and to act for the benefit of the Filipino people, and not for corporations and foreign institutions. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)