A man lights a candle along 24-kilometer stretch of road in Tacloban on Saturday. Some 24,000 candles were lit during a ceremony as a way to show gratitude to the international community for its assistance in Leyte province (Photo by Vincent Go)
Thousands of Typhoon Haiyan survivors and their supporters staged protests in several cities in the central Philippines on Saturday to condemn what they described as government neglect regarding their plight.
"The government not only neglected us, our leaders also fooled us," said Efleda Bautista, spokeswoman of People Surge, an alliance of typhoon victims in the Eastern Visayas region.
A year after the disaster that killed at least 7,500 people, Bautista said survivors — especially those in the city of Tacloban — are still living in tents without adequate support from the government.
"We have felt a year's worth of the government's vicious abandonment, corruption, deceit, and repression, and have seen a year's worth of news and studies that confirm this situation," said Bautista.
International aid agency Oxfam noted that most of the 200,000 families identified for resettlement by the government still live in bunkhouses, tents and homes repaired with scraps and debris from the typhoon.
In an assessment paper released this week, Oxfam also noted that current government plans for devastated areas "ignore key elements of sustainable relocation processes and lack technical guidance and support”.
Oxfam urged the Philippine government to prioritize the "suitability and sustainability of relocation processes, rather than to rush and risk wasting scarce resources and increasing the poverty of vulnerable groups”.
Danilo Antonio, undersecretary of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery, said criticisms raised by various groups against government efforts are "understandable”. However, he said the government's recovery and rehabilitation response is on track.
"We have to follow government processes, and it takes long[er] compared to how the private sector works," Antonio said. "We are just being careful," he added.
Froilan Kampitan, general manager of the National Housing Authority, said it could take three to five years to complete the "physical construction" of homes for displaced families.
Saturday evening, some 24,000 candles were lit along a 24-kilometer stretch of road in Tacloban to show gratitude for the international community’s assistance in Leyte province.
Jeff Manibay, who organized the ceremony, described the event as a "tribute to humanity’s finest hour”.
"This candlelight memorial is an opportunity for us to say thank you to all those who helped us," said Manibay.