100 days after Yolanda, survivors troop to Malacanang for help, condemn Aquino’s ‘criminal negligence’

February 19, 2014

Sr. Edita Eslopor of People Surge shows a copy of the demand letter from Yolanda survivors received by Malacanang.

Sr. Edita Eslopor of People Surge shows a copy of the demand letter from Yolanda survivors received by Malacanang.

Survivors of super-typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), together with families and supporters, trooped to Malacanang on Monday, Feb. 17, to demand immediate help, as well as to protest, among others, the privatization of rehabilitation projects in Eastern Visayas.

They also commemorated the first 100 days since the storm with a protest action in Mendiola Bridge, Manila, near the presidential palace.

Representatives of People Surge, an alliance of Yolanda survivors that led a large mobilization in Tacloban last January, asked to enter the presidential palace to personally deliver a demand letter signed by more than 17,000 petitioners.

They were initially refused entry by the Presidential Security Group (PSG). Three reperesentatives from People Surge were only allowed to enter to deliver the letter after former Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino, Gabriela Secretary-General Joms Salvador and theater artist and activist Monique Wilson negotiated with the PSG.

Among the demands of the victims are:

(1) Provide P40,000 immediate financial relief to every affected family based on a framework that relief distribution has been insufficient. This amount could barely cover at least two months of food and non-food needs of a family of six in the Eastern Visayas region prior to the typhoon. The real value of this amount is substantially diminished as a result of the continuous increases in the prices of basic commodities;

(2) Scrap the ‘No-Build Zone’ policy that enforces outright land grabbing, effective demolition and eviction of the victims from their homes and livelihood. Provide the survivors with free, adequate and disaster-resistant housing, sufficient supply of clean water and provision for electricity;

(3) Sustain the distribution of relief assistance of food and water to victims both in the urban and rural communities until such time that their economic lives are relatively stable and recovered.

People Surge condemned the Aquino administration’s rehabilitation plans of placing the affected areas under public-private partnerships, saying that private sector’s participation means profiteering at the expense of the survivors.

Monique Wilson tells the crowd of Yolanda survivors and advocates how the Presidential Security Group refused to allow People Surge representatives to enter the palace. <strong>KR Guda</strong>

Monique Wilson tells the crowd of Yolanda survivors and advocates how the Presidential Security Group refused to allow People Surge representatives to enter the palace. KR Guda

Treated like criminals

Sr. Edita Eslopor, head of the delegation of survivors who went to Malacanang, said they were offended that the PSG, and the Aquino administration refused to see them.

“We were like criminals being escorted with policemen inside. They didn’t even want us to enter the gates of Malacanang if we did not insist that we are just going to file our petition to Aquino,” said Eslopor, in an interview with Pinoy Weekly.

Palatino, now spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-National Capital Region, said that authorities inside Malacanang tried to stop them many times before the Palace have received their petition letter.

“(Pork barrel scam suspect Janet Lim) Napoles was allowed inside Malacanang. But the victims of Yolanda had a hard time entering the gates of the Palace,” observed Palatino.

In response to the survivors’ demands, Communications Sec. Sonny Coloma, in a radio program, admitted that the government had been inadequate in addressing Yolanda survivors’ needs.

“We realize that despite its best efforts, government is unable to adequately respond to all the needs of all the affected families and individuals. We continue to welcome suggestions on how we can improve our response and assistance,” said Coloma, in an interview over a state-run radio station.

The United Nations (UN) earlier said there continues to be no adequate shelter for millions of Yolanda survivors 100 days after the storm hit Eastern Visayas.

“The need for durable shelter for millions of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed is critical,” said Luiza Carvalho, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Philippines, in a statement.

Carvalho said that the authorities, UN agencies and non-government organizations, and the Filipino people should be commended for the pace of progress that they have seen in the first 100 days. But she said that “we cannot afford to be complacent.”

Palatino, for his part, said that many of the survivors continue to suffer not only from the effects of the storm but from the Aquino government’s “criminal negligence.”

Monique Wilson, who is global director for One Billion Rising for Justice, meanwhile, said that she will bring to the international media’s attention the current situation of Yolanda survivors and the government’s neglect of their needs.

“We won’t stop. We will tell the whole world through One Billion Rising for Justice so they will know and see what they (the administration) are doing to you. We will not leave you behind,” Wilson said during the program in Mendiola.