Yolanda survivors’ strength inspiring amid gov’t neglect—NCCP head

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QUEZON City, Nov. 9, 2014—Despite “government neglect and disorganization from day one”, an official of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) believes Yolanda survivors’ strong spirit is the real good news.

“While the services rendered by non-government organizations [NGOs] are laudable, more amazing is the strength and resourcefulness of survivors in claiming their rights and re-establishing their rights These are inspiring news in the face of massive government neglect and disorganization from day one,” Fr. Rex Reyes Jr, NCCP general secretary said exactly a year after the disaster in an interfaith event held Saturday, Nov.8, at the Trinity University of Asia.

A girls lights a candle for the survivors of Yolanda during the NCCP’s "Rise Up for Abundant Life, An Interchurch Forum-A Year After Haiyan" on Nov. 8, 2014 at the Trinity University of Asia. (Photo: NCCP)

‘Slow-paced action’

Data from the United Nations (UN) Humanitarian Shelter Working Group show 60% (300,000 of the 500,000) of households whose homes were completely destroyed have either been housed or promised housing by shelter agencies and local NGOs.

The report mentions around “205,000 families still need to be relocated by the local government units (LGUs) and the delivery of the Emergency Shelter Assistance Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is yet to begin in earnest”.

Reyes lamented President Benigno S. Aquino III (PNoy) approved the blueprint for comprehensive housing and resettlement only last week—or almost a year since the disaster struck.

The priest faulted PNoy’s allegedly “slow-paced action” and “pussy-footing.

He shared the recent findings of the Commission on Audit (COA), as reported by the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) on Sept. 12, 2014, showed that “thousands of food packs, canned goods, bottled water, body bags, and rice spoiled or missing or unsued; millions of pesos worth of goods and funds unaccounted for, and close to a billion pesos of funds still unused months after the supertyphoon pummeled Eastern Visayas.”

Procedural lapses, non delivery

PDI cited “weaknesses” in the performance of key government agencies: low use of funds, procedural lapses or deficiencies in tracking receipts and use of funds, serious flaws in the procurement and contracting processes, delay in the delivery or non-delivery of goods, among others.

“This sad state of affairs repeated each time disaster strikes is an indictment of a government that pays lip service to the basic needs of its citizens, denying them of their rights. It cannot go on like this given that this country is one of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” Reyes stressed.

The head of the country’s biggest group of mainline Protestant and non-Catholic churches shared NCCP remains involved in rehabilitation work delivering relief, clean water, livelihood, housing, psychological and educational support to selected Yolanda-hit communities in Leyte, Samar and Iloilo.

“The effectiveness of our relief and rehabilitation efforts is based on the principle that survivors have a right to live. At the same time, they are part of the process made possible by the time-tested practice of community organizing where they affirm self-determination. We could not have done it the way we did without the committed community organizers,” he said.

“Still, there is much more to be done as the needs are great,” Reyes added. (Raymond A. Sebastián)

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