TACLOBAN City, Leyte, June 12, 2015—Backed by Fr. Robert Reyes and the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), 40 leaders of Tacloban’s urban poor sector on Thursday, June 11, met with Mayor Alfred Romualdez in a bid to halt what they fear as a planned eviction of Yolanda survivors still living in the danger zones of the city.
A known champion of the poor, the “Running Priest” stressed that a dialogue between the mayor and the affected residents is an important step in the right direction.
“Yolanda may have destroyed houses and claimed lives, but survivors are alive and open to work with Tacloban City officials, especially Mayor Alfred Romualdez, in developing a comprehensive and effective plan for permanent housing that will not dislocate survivors from their livelihood and the environment which they have considered home for so many years,” shared Reyes in a statement.
The priest went on to explain that a vibrant city “depends not only on leadership and vision but on a strong and motivated workforce.”
Joli Torrella, UPA community organizer based in Tacloban, reminded the government of its duty to listen to the people and to ensure they are part of any decision-making that concerns their welfare.
The group, numbering up to about 500, staged a prayer rally outside the city hall, singing together to protest the looming transfer.
According to UPA, some 14,433 families, or roughly 38 percent of the entire Tacloban population, is expected to be relocated up north, where basics like, water, electricity, transportation, and jobs are hard to come by, if at all.
Lida Tabucao of Barangay 31, commented, “We have been waiting for this meeting with the mayor to hear directly from him his plans for the poor people like us. We wish that he would listen to our proposed on-site development and end the issue of eviction.”
For the housewife and mother of five, whose husband earns less than the legal minimum, being moved to another place means an added burden.
“If we will be transferred far from this place it would be impossible for my children to finish their education. I hope the måayor would see that his poor people has not yet fully recovered from Yolanda relocating us means more sufferings,” Tabucao lamented.
Meanwhile, Caritas Philippines had earlier voiced its disapproval of what it dubs a “forced eviction.”
“While the city government is denying that it is not forced eviction and is just a transfer option, this doesn’t seem the case. Why, in the first place, would they set a deadline for the people to vacate the area if it’s an option?” asked Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Caritas Philippines executive secretary.
The priest confirmed that the eviction of about 3,000 families will be carried out on July 1.
They are to be relocated in temporary shelters for at least two years as they await the completion of the permanent houses by the National Housing Authority and non-government organizations (NGO). (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)