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Haiyan survivors mark 100 days with protests

Say government has done little to help rebuild their lives

<p>Villages start to rise from the devastation in the province of Samar (Photo by Vincent Go)</p>

Villages start to rise from the devastation in the province of Samar (Photo by Vincent Go)

  • Ronald Reyes and Joe Torres, Tacloban City
  • Philippines
  • February 14, 2014
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Survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan that devastated the central Philippines last November marked the 100th day after the tragedy with protests over the government's alleged inaction on behalf of survivors.

"Three months after the typhoon, the situation has gone from worse to worst. Hunger and neglect continue to haunt [us]," said Jun Berino, head of the activist group Bayan in the province of Leyte.

Mark Simbajon, secretary general of People Surge, an alliance of survivors, vowed that they would launch a "bigger, broader and stronger series of protests" in the coming days, including possible class-action suits against the government.

"We continue to long for the assistance from this government that has done nothing," Simbajon told ucanews.com.

"We commemorate to never forget, never forget how hard we have to get through to survive, and how hard it is to remain utterly neglected," he added.

Redemptorist missionary Karl Gaspar, who has been assisting typhoon survivors in Samar province, said that despite the billions of dollars raised by international and local aid agencies "one wonders where all that aid has gone if one views the reality on the ground."

In a letter to the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, Gaspar said the "ugly head of corruption has again surfaced in all these dealings." He said except for cash-for-work projects, temporary shelters and tents, and distribution of housing materials, "there is nothing else reaching the survivors."

President Benigno Aquino earlier announced a multi-billion peso "build back better" communities projects in the area.

Aquino's spokesman Herminio Coloma said "a total of 1,373 families" have already transferred to 60 completed bunkhouses in the provinces of Leyte, Eastern Samar and Samar. He said all bunkhouses would be finished by the end of February. 

Berino, however, said many of the 40,000 survivors who still live in tent cities are not interested in transferring to the government's bunkhouses. "Most the victims really wanted to return to their places to be near their livelihood," he added.

Some 12,000 residents of Tacloban also staged a protest action last month to demand for the US$1,000 monetary aid per family promised by the government. They also called for the scrapping of the "no-build zone policy" that effectively evicts families in coastal communities from their homes.

Even the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said there is a "huge gap" in the Philippine government's response in providing shelter and livelihood to the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.

The International Red Cross has also noted what it calls lingering "huge needs" in the area, adding that "there are clearly still gaps in terms of what needs to be done."

"We're not just talking about immediate recovery, we're of course, moving into a phase where we need to rebuild the lives of millions of people," said Peter Walton, head of international program at the Australian Red Cross, in a television interview.

Global non-profit shelter organization Habitat for Humanity, meanwhile, broke ground and laid the first bricks at a reconstruction site in Santa Fe, a municipality in northern Cebu on Monday.

"One hundred days after Haiyan struck, we are proud to have begun reconstruction projects," said Rick Hathaway, Habitat for Humanity Asia-Pacific vice president.

The groundbreaking marked the start of reconstruction efforts by Habitat for Humanity Philippines in the affected area, with a project funded by Christian Aid Ministries.

Habitat for Humanity Philippines aims to distribute more than 30,000 shelter repair kits and build 30,000 core homes, depending on availability of funding.

More than 1.1 million homes were either damaged or destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan, according to Philippine government figures.

At least 6,000 died and some 2,000 others remain unaccounted for, while 28,000 were estimated to have been injured when Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the central Philippines in November.

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