Not just the bells: Balangiga residents sound off on rehab mess
For all of President Rodrigo Duterte’s talk on the Balangiga bells in his second State of the Nation Address (Sona), residents of Balangiga town in eastern Samar actually have a more pressing demand: For the national government to review “slow-moving and botched” housing projects for Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) survivors in eastern Visayas.
Members of nongovernment organization Community of Yolanda Survivors and Partners (CYSP) aired this plight, in a protest rally at the National Housing Authortity (NHA) office in Tacloban city on Monday coinciding with the President’s Sona in Metro Manila.
“During Aquino’s administration, nothing came out of his ‘build back better’ promise. In the current administration, the campaign promise to us survivors that we have one foot inside Malacañang seems to translate now into us having one foot in the grave,” said Marife Juana, a beneficiary of the New Hope housing village in Tacloban City, in a statement from CYSP.
Earlier, members of the CYSP, particularly coming from eastern Samar, held a press conference in Metro Manila to air complaints of long-delayed and substandard housing units particularly in Barangay (village) Cansumangkay in Balangiga town. The survivors described “dancing” or shaking walls, and even what looked like sardine cans being used as downspouts in the government resettlement site units.
The complaints, which have remained largely unaddressed despite earlier efforts by the CYSP to bring them to the attention of regional government offices, have finally prompted the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) to launch an inspection on the site, CYSP informed the Inquirer.
CYSP shelter working group coordinator Joli A. Torella asked Neda to conduct a full audit on all ongoing and existing resettlement sites, not just in Balangiga. “The audit should not just focus on the structural integrity, but must also focus on the whole process of shelter rehabilitation including whether survivors will have sources of livelihoods and adequate access to social services. The housing units being constructed today are unfortunately without such provisions. This is the primary reason why survivors are refusing the houses,” Torella said.
“We are counting on NEDA to report on the sloppy state of the relocation site in Balangiga. We are also hoping that this report would stop the application of the urban design [of housing projects] to rural areas. We are farmers and fisherfolks, we should not be placed in row houses where our tools and livestock have no place” explained Tessie Elacion, a “Yolanda” survivor and resident of Balangiga.
“We fear that the NHA is constructing ghost towns, or houses without occupants, if the government will continue to ignore the demands for genuine consultation and participation of survivors,” Torella added./rga
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