Post-typhoon resettlement plan comes under fire

Philippine aid groups call for end to demolition of homes of Haiyan victims in Tacloban
Post-typhoon resettlement plan comes under fire

Hundreds of families who lost their homes to Super Typhoon Haiyan continue to live in temporary shelters in the province of Leyte while waiting for permanent housing to be provided by the government. (Photo by Vincent Go)


Church-based and civil society groups in the Philippines have called on a local government in the central region of the country to stop the demolition of homes of some 3,500 families affected by a super typhoon.

Super Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon to ever hit land, killed some 7,500 people and left thousands of others homeless in the central Philippines, especially in the province of Leyte, in November 2013.

Caritas Philippines, the social action arm of the Philippine bishops' conference, said the plan to demolish the homes and transfer the affected families to resettlement sites would result in the displacement of people in 15 coastal villages.

"This is another knee-jerk reaction that will only exacerbate the situation of survivors who will now have to swallow the bitter pill of living in housing projects that are without access to water, electricity and access to education facilities," read a letter signed by various groups, including Caritas Philippines.

The groups said the "hurried relocation" of typhoon survivors is being done on the pretext of an order issued by President Rodrigo Duterte to complete the reconstruction of devastated communities by December this year.

"Unfortunately, this is not the kind of response that the survivors had been praying for," read the letter signed by a coalition of 163 community organizations and ten non-government organizations including Caritas Philippines, the Urban Poor Associates, and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

Aimee Grafil, a member of the city council, said the city "is doing its best" to comply with the mandate of the national government for the transfer of affected families. 

She also denied that the city is planning to evict families in coastal areas.

"We cannot force them," she said, adding that the government will meet the people "half-way," adding that people "need to understand that we are also doing our part."

The city government of Tacloban has already conducted orientation and consultation workshops with some families. Grafil said the city aims to transfer some 14, 433 families by Nov. 28.

The groups said, however, the typhoon survivors resist the planned transfer because of the absence of livelihood opportunities, and difficult access to essential services such as schools, markets, and hospitals.

Maria Regie Ruego, focal person of the group Pope Francis for Resilient and Co-Empowered Sustainable Communities, said the transfer of typhoon survivors seems to have been done "for compliance purposes" because of the deadline set by Duterte.

"They are doing it so they have something to report to the president," Ruego told She said the city government of Tacloban should defer the transfer of survivors until a plan for an "in-city resettlement" is realized.

Duterte last week emphasized his determination to see victims of Haiyan transferred to permanent shelters soon.

The president said he will return to Tacloban next month to check on the progress of the projects.

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The construction of houses for families who lost their houses is being undertaken by the National Housing Authority, which has been tasked to construct 14,433 homes at 11 resettlement sites in the city.

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