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‘Yolanda’ survivors yet to adapt to life in resettlement sites

Jobs and other sources of income lacking; houses abandoned

TACLOBAN CITY—It took almost six years before Sotico Luvillar was able to own and occupy the house intended for survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) which pummeled this city on Nov. 8, 2013.

While he is happy to be a homeowner, Luvillar finds himself going back to his original village due to lack of jobs in the resettlement sites.

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Luvillar, 52, could not even say if he would permanently stay at the 40-square-meter house at Knightsridge Heights in Barangay 98, San Jose District, that he was sharing with his daughter, Cristine, and her husband, Dennis.

Since transferring to his new home in September, he had been waking up at 4 a.m. so he could go to San Jose District, a distance of 14 kilometers from the resettlement site, to drive his pedicab from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Luvillar, who used to live at Barangay 88 where the deadly storm surge wiped out thousands of houses, would earn P150-P200 a day for driving 15 hours.

“I go back to San Jose to work because there is no source of income [in the resettlement site]. At least here in San Jose, I could still earn which helped sustain our daily needs,” he said.

Cristine Espina, 32, a housing beneficiary at a resettlement site in Kawayan Ville, had to do odd jobs just to earn because she could not find work in her new home.

Aside from selling fish ball in the neighborhood, she also took in laundry from her neighbors, sold used clothings and scavenged in the nearby landfill just to help her partner, Catolico Castilla, feed their two children.

Empty houses

The lack of source of income in the resettlement sites was one major factor why rows and rows of housing units were empty.

At least 14,433 units for Yolanda survivors had been built in 17 resettlement sites spread in northern villages in Tacloban.

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As of September, 11,136 of these had been awarded to the beneficiaries but only 7,434 are actually residing at their units.

Dorcas Secreto, National Housing Authority-Eastern Visayas management estate specialist, said more than 4,000 families had opted to return to their original village to work.

“We cannot compel them to stay. We understand their reason they have to return to San Jose. It’s there where they earn a living,” he said.

The Tacloban City government, through the help of international humanitarian agencies, has tried providing livelihood projects for the Yolanda survivors.

They were given sewing machines, capital to start sari-sari stores, among other business ventures that didn’t take off.

“It’s because these people are not business-minded. They were not trained as businessmen though they underwent some training for this purpose,” said Leonard Tedence Jopson, acting chief of City Housing and Community Development Office.

Still, he added, the city government continued to help the beneficiaries. Four of the Yolanda survivors were hired as city hall employees.

Building a community

Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez said he had been inviting businessmen to invest in these areas to generate employment.

“Let us not focus only on housing. We should also [address] the different needs of the people because we are building a community,” he said.

Many of the beneficiaries didn’t also stay in the two resettlement sites built in Concepcion town, Iloilo province, where Yolanda made its 5th landfall six years ago and killed 13 people and displaced 39,617 others.

“The people do not stay here because they do not have a source of income. They go back to the islands to fish. Some houses are abandoned and people steal the electrical wirings of empty houses,” said Roseli Billones, a former village watchman that secures Bacjawan Norte Relocation Site 2.

Concepcion, a third class municipality with an annual income of not more than P45 million, has 16 smaller islands under its territorial jurisdiction.

Edna Furog, 41, a resident of Bacjawan Norte Relocation Site 2, said the government announced livelihood programs with financial assistance but these had remained unimplemented.

Reasons for leaving

“I understand why people leave. We are far from the town proper so it is hard to get work. My husband goes to the islands to fish and comes back three times a week only. Sometimes, he gets extra work in the construction of the houses in [in Bacjawan Norte Site 2],” Furog said.

Bacjawan Sur resident, Inocencio Datu Jr., 51, said he had asked the municipal office about the livelihood program because his wife wanted to sew dresses.

Datu, a pastor of the Baliguian Christian Community Church, a Baptist congregation, said he was told that they would just update him.

But for Concepcion Mayor Raul Banias, beneficiaries left the resettlement sites because they could not adapt to their new life there.

“People choose to leave [their houses] because they have been removed from their comfort zones [in the islands]. They are unable to adapt to the new life in the relocation sites.”

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TAGS: Cristine Espina, Knightsridge Heights, resettlement sites, Yolanda survivors
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