Bantayan Island still not getting enough help from national government
BANTAYAN ISLAND, Philippines—Ten months after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) plowed through Central and Eastern Visayas, victims in the town of Santa Fe are still not getting enough help from the national government.
“We are still waiting for the assistance especially emergency shelter coming from the [Department of Social Welfare and Development] and other agencies that will be providing. We are still waiting for calamity funds. For the meantime there are donors from the non-government agencies that are able to give temporary shelter,” Santa Fe Mayor Jose Esgana said early this month.
Yolanda made its fourth landfall in Bantayan when it struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013. Although there were no casualties in this town, 95 percent of the population was affected.
For Esgana, the national government seemed to have forgotten about them.
“Nabuhay lang ang lugar namin nung inannounce during the [State of the Nation Address] ni [President Benigno Aquino III] na approved na niya [ang rehabilitation plan]. (Our place was only remembered again when Aquino made an announcement during the SONA [about the rehabilitation plan],” he said.
He was referring to Aquino’s statement during his SONA speech in July, which said the local government unit rehabilitation and recovery plan for Yolanda-stricken areas has already been signed.
“Since the announcement we are still waiting for the release of the funds,” he said.
Esgana said the government is expected to release a total of P12.2 billion for Yolanda victims in Cebu province. P860 million will go to Santa Fe.
“Merong mga tulong through DSWD, yung mga nagbibigay ng materials. Pero other than relief goods dito na tayo ngayon sa shelter, may binibigay pero hindi enough. (There is help from the DSWD like the materials they distribute but other than relief goods, were are now seeking for shelter [assistance]. They are giving something but it’s not enough),” he said.
Esgana said they have only received funds for the repair of the municipal building and public market.
“You can say it has no sense at all. It cannot reach the people affected. Although it can help the economy what we are waiting is shelter assistance,” he said.
The mayor claimed that about 30 to 40 percent of the 30,000 population are still living in tents.
“Tents are supposed to be only good for six months and now it’s the tenth month. It’s very sad that we still see tents,” he said.
He also expressed worry that some residents in 40-meter-no-build-zones by the sea continued to rebuild their homes there.
“Hanggang ngayon andun sila. Na-repair nila [ang mga bahay]. Ayaw na namin sila magtayo doon pero no choice kami payagan sila kasi in their own effort nagtayo sila. Di rin sila makapagpatayo ng konkretrong bahay (Up to now they are still there. They repaired their houses. Although we do not want them to rebuild their homes there we have no choice but to let them because they fixed their houses on their own efforts. But they cannot build concrete houses),” he said.
Esgana admitted that most of the help after Yolanda came from the non-government organizations and international communities. For instance, Prudence Foundation, the charitable arm of British insurer Pru Like UK, is in the process of constructing 135 houses that can withstand magnitude 8 earthquake and winds of up to 275 kilometers per hour. They also provided livelihood by donating 183 motor boats with fishnets and 140 pedicabs.
“Di naman ako oposisyon [pero] masasabi ko rin na kung ang tulong iaasa sa international communities or NGOs di magandang pakinggan. Mabuti pa yung ibang tao na hindi gobyerno. (I’m not part of the opposition but if we rely on the help of international communities or NGOs, it doesn’t sound good — that we get more help from people that are not part of the government),” Esgana said.
He said he has not lost hope in the government and he is still “101 percent” expecting for assistance from the government to come.
“Our appeal to national government ay wag sana paabutin ng matagal [ang tulong]. Di naman masama maghintay. In Santa Fe, nabalitaan siguro natin na nagka sinkhole in one of the islet. Sila din victims ng Yolanda. Nakatira pa rin sila sa tents (Our appeal to the national government is they don’t take too long [to help us]. It’s not wrong to wait. But you may have heard that in one of our islets in Santa Fe has sinkholes. Those living there are also Yolanda victims and up to now they are still living in tents),” he said.
Beach resorts recovering
Meanwhile, beach resorts in Santa Fehave are built continuously to attract tourists. The town is also the port of entry to Bantayan Island.
“Sa awa ng Diyos in more than 30 resorts dito madami ng naka-recover. More than 70 percent na. (Thank God, in about 30 percents of resorts, 70 percent have already recovered),” Esgana said.
“We want to thank the Department of Trade and Industry for providing rehabilitation financing program which allowed the owners to rebuild their resorts,” he added.
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