One year after Typhoon Yolanda ripped through the Visayas Region, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman recognizes that much work remains to be done, but expressed confidence that the “Building Back Better” principle of the Aquino Administration is on the right track.
Sec. Soliman believes that efforts to rehabilitate typhoon-ravaged communities may be far from perfect, but she said that the Philippines has made significant strides compared to other countries which were also affected by natural disasters.
“The national and local governments as well as the private sector, local and international non-government organizations continue to join hands to meet the challenge of building back better communities by sharing human and financial resources,” Sec. Soliman said.
She cited that in earthquake-hit Haiti, there are still thousands of people staying in tents after four years.
“To date, there is just one evacuation center in Tacloban City located at the San Fernando Elementary School, serving 48 families,” Sec. Soliman shared.
International organizations have also lauded the recovery and rehabilitation efforts of the government.
In one of his interviews, Javad Amoozegar, Philippine Director of the Action Against Hunger – ACF International said that they have seen so many delays on the ground, but they have also seen how the Philippine government “worked hard to ensure that the needs of the communities are met at the immediate possible time.”
Just yesterday, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said that rehabilitation efforts in Eastern Visayas were “moving faster” compared to those undertaken during the earthquake and tsunami that struck Aceh, Indonesia, 10 years ago.
But the most important attestations came from the survivors.
Ruth (3rd from left) is engaged with her fellow Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries at the Women-Friendly Space in their village where they are facilitators.
“Kami po ng pamilya ko, sa palagay ko naman nakabangon na kami mula sa ‘Yolanda’. Sa totoo lang po mas maganda pa nga ang buhay namin ngayon dahil sa dami ng tulong na dumadating. Nasa tao na lang kung hindi pa siya nakabangon (I think that our family has recovered. In fact, our life is better now with the extent of assistance pouring in. It’s already up to the person if he or she has not recovered),” Ruth Parado, 38, of Barangay Cogon, Palo, Leyte, said.
Like Ruth, Ritchel Ripalda, 32, of Brgy. Tagpuro, Tacloban City, said that her family is now leading normal lives.
“Masasabi ko po na kahit papaano ay nakabangon na rin ang aming pamilya dahil may bahay na kami, may pinagkakakitaan, at nakakapasok na rin sa eskuwelahan ang mga bata (I can say that our lives have gone back to normal because we already have a house, a steady source of income, and our children have gone back to school),” Ritchel said when asked about their situation one year after ‘Yolanda’.
‘Yolanda’ was the strongest typhoon recorded in recent history with the speed of more than 300 km/h. It ripped through the Visayas region one year ago on November 8, causing widespread death and destruction, particularly in the provinces of Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Capiz, Aklan, and Palawan.
Based on DSWD records, there were 1,472,251 families affected with 918,261 displaced. A total of 1,171,469 houses were damaged.
Both Ruth and Ritchel narrated that their houses were washed away by flood waters triggered by the storm surges.
They were able to construct new ones with the help of the government through the DSWD, the private sector, and local and international NGOs.
“Binigyan po kami ng DSWD ng mga yero at ang Leyte Christian College naman ay nagbigay ng mga panghaligi (DSWD gave us galvanized iron sheets for our roofs while Leyte Christian College provided the coco lumber posts),” Ritchel, 32, said.
Ruth’s family received shelter assistance from the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) which they used to build the framework of their house including 20 pieces of GI sheets.
“Lahat po kami dito sa Cogon nabigyan ng first tranche ng shelter assistance mula sa CRS,” Ruth said.
She added that they are still waiting for the second tranche to complete their house structure.
In the meantime, Ruth said that they used old construction materials to cover the sides of their house.
To assist the most vulnerable families whose houses were partially damaged, DSWD distributed 20,334 shelter kits that DPWH procured for priority distribution to families in Tacloban, Palo, and Guiuan in Eastern Visayas, and Capiz and Iloilo in Western Visayas.
In addition, the Shelter Cluster, with the support of more than 70 national and international NGOs and UN Agencies helped 162,492 families repair their damaged homes by providing roofing materials and toolkits.
Some 4,309 families who were unable to construct their houses were transferred by DSWD to the 246 bunkhouses constructed by the DPWH in Western and Eastern Visayas. In partnership with Operation Compassion, the local government of Tacloban City is constructing 60 additional transitional shelter units in Brgy. Caway and Sto. Domingo.
“By year-end, none of the remaining survivors in all ‘Yolanda’-hit areas would be staying in tents and makeshifts,” Sec. Soliman stressed.
In partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), DSWD is constructing an additional 2,700 transitional shelter units for those still living in tents and makeshifts in Leyte and Samar.
Sec. Soliman also said that DSWD has allocated P303.9 million to its Field Offices for the core/modified shelter assistance program intended for the 4,983 families with totally damaged houses in safe zones in Regions IV-B, VI, and VIII. The funds came from the donations it received and from a grant amounting to P131.25 million from the Asian Development Bank.
To date, DSWD already released funding for 250 units in Guiuan, Eastern Samar. Implementation is ongoing.
Lorna tends her sari-sari store provided by an international NGO.
Another survivor, Lorna Letran, 46, of Brgy. Lupok, Poblacion, Guiuan, Eastern Samar, said that aside from the shelter assistance they received, food aid was also abundant.
“Iyong dapat pambili namin ng pagkain ay ‘di na po namin nagastos dahil madami pong nabibigay na relief sa amin ang DSWD kaya pinandagdag na lang namin sa pagpapagawa ng bahay (We were able to save the money intended for our food because there were a lot of relief goods being provided to us by DSWD and various groups. We used our savings to build our house),” Lorna said.
From November 2013 to the third week of June 2014, DSWD has distributed 4,635,669 family food packs with 3-kg and 6-kg of rice.
On December 16, 2013, DSWD started distributing bigger food packs with 25-kg of rice, 20 packs of canned goods, 20 sachets of coffee, and 20 packs of noodles.
As of September 30, 2014, DSWD with the support of other organizations like the World Food Programme delivered 7,617,827 food packs with 25-kg of rice to survivors in all affected regions.
To help the survivors earn some cash to meet their daily needs, DSWD implemented the Cash-for-work (CFW) program which provided cash to household heads in exchange for rendering an average of ten days of community work in disaster-related operations.
Ruth, Ritchel, and Lorna were among the 90,226 beneficiaries who participated in CFW activities in the affected regions, including the National Capital Region where a number of survivors temporarily migrated in the aftermath of ‘Yolanda’.
From November 2013 to September 2014, total cash payouts for the CFW beneficiaries had amounted to P130,933,308.
The Emergency Employment Program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) also benefited 54,488 individuals.
Ruth, Ritchel, and Lorna are also thankful that they are beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of the DSWD.
Pantawid Pamilya provides monthly cash grants of P500 for health and P300 per child in elementary or P500 per child in high school with a maximum of three qualified children per household for their educational and nutritional needs. They have to comply to program conditions of sending their children to school, bringing them to the health center for check-ups, and attending Family Development Sessions (FDS).
The three are united in saying that the program has not only helped them meet the education and health needs of their children, but also in their darkest moments after ‘Yolanda’.
Ruth said that the cash grants were only the sure money she had after ‘Yolanda’.
“Inipon ko po iyong cash grants at pinambili ng mga damit ng aking mga anak. Talagang wala pong natirang mga damit ng mga bata. Kung wala po yung cash grants, puro relief clothes po ang gamit sana nila (I saved the cash grants and used it to buy new clothes for my children. All their clothes were gone. Without the cash grants, all their clothes would have been donated to us),” Ruth said.
Ritchel, on the other hand, said that the lessons on disaster preparedness given through the FDS played a big role why they were safe amid ‘Yolanda’.
“Sinabi po doon na kapag nandiyan na ang bagyo, lumikas na agad sa pinakamalapit na evacuation center. Dalhin ang mga mahahalagang mga dokumento, gamot, at ilang mga gamit (I learned from the FDS that in times of typhoons, immediately evacuate. Bring important documents, medicines, and some basic needs),” Ritchel said.
For Lorna, being a Pantawid Pamilya beneficiary has given her access to other opportunities. She also became a beneficiary of the DSWD-Globe Telecoms partnership which provided her logistics support to start a pre-paid loading business.
Source of income
Ruth, Ritchel, and Lorna expressed that the livelihood assistance from the government and the private sector has also helped them start anew.
Ruth is thankful that she now has a sari-sari store, a livelihood assistance from Red Cross.
“Nakakatulong na rin po ang kaunting kita ng tindahan sa kita ko bilang facilitator sa Women-Friendly Spaces (WFS) at ng asawa ko bilang sand gatherer ( The income of my store is a big add on to my earnings as facilitator of the Women-Friendly Spaces and my husband’s as sand gatherer),” Ruth said.
Couple Elias and Ritchel prepare their yema delicacy.
Aside from her pre-paid loading business, Lorna also has a sari-sari store provided by another international organisation.
Ritchel and her husband, Elias, on the other hand, have a yema-making business which they started out of a P2,000 loan from a relative.
“Eto na po dati ang pinagkakakitaan namin ng asawa ko. Kaya lang kung dati kumikita kami ng P3,000 kada lingo ngayon po P1,000 na lang kasi kakaunti na lang ang order saka maliit po kasi iyong puhunan namin ( Yema-making has been our source of income even before ‘Yolanda’. Before, we were earning P3,000 a week. Now, its only P1,000 because of fewer orders and a meager capital),” Ritchel related.
Even with a slowdown in their yema-business, Ritchel remains thankful for the blessings. Elias, was also given a machine for his motorized banca by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
“Malaking tulong na rin kasi nakaka pangisda na siya. Hindi na rin namin masyadong problema ang pang-ulam (It is also a big help to us as Elias can go fishing. We no longer have to worry about our food),” Ritchel added.
Though the three expressed satisfaction with the assistance given to them, if they have their way, they want more livelihood support not only for them, but for the many mothers who have no steady sources of income.
Ruth related that as a facilitator, she often gets feedback about the need for livelihood support to mothers.
“Pagkakakitaan po talaga ang kailangan para talagang makabangon na ang mga tao (A source of income is what people need to really bounce back),” Ruth expressed.
“Palagay ko eto rin po ang sagot sa away pamilya dahil pag may trabaho walang oras mag-away ang mag-asawa (I think that this is also the solution to husband and wife rift because if there is work there is no time for quarrel),” Ruth said with a grin.
Sec. Soliman said that the signing of the P167.9-billion rehabilitation master plan for the 171 ‘Yolanda’-affected cities and municipalities will boost the multi-stakeholders’ efforts in the response phase.
As chair of the Social Services Cluster, DSWD is tasked to facilitate the delivery of basic services such as education, health, and social protection services, as well as provide healthy environments and strengthen capacity to cope with future hazards and disasters.
“With this plan which we hope to implement on target, there will be more Ruth, Ritchel, and Lorna who will give face to the convergence of our efforts to build back better communities,” Sec. Soliman ended. ###