Relief group finds no improvement in Yolanda wreckage after 3 months

Feb. 12, 2014

TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine government thanked donors all over the world simultaneously in billboards all over the world during the 3rd month anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda last February 8—a move which a relief group found ironic as they saw the state of poverty and neglect among survivors here.

“Well, if there is one visible change, at least the debris is not that much now, and a few establishments are slowly getting back to business,” said Sr. Noemi Degalla, spokesperson of Balsa Mindanao, who arrived here and in Palo town last February 4 to conduct its second batch of relief, medical and psychosocial mission.

Some 3,600 families benefitted from the relief mission, organizers claimed.

Degala noted that “sadly, even offices of government agencies and institutions like schools look as miserable as ever.”

The United Nation’s Financial Tracking Service has estimated that foreign aid for Yolanda areas have reached US$348.30 million. The UN’s Strategic Response Plan also said that 30% of the funding comes from private individuals and organizations amounting to US$107.09 million.

Tacloban City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO) executive assistance III Federico Anido told Davao Today, “the city is slowly recovering with the help of international aids, local non-government organizations, other Local Government Units.”

But Mark Simbajon, spokesperson of a local group of survivors named ABBAT (Alyansa han mga Biktima han Bagyong Yolanda han Tacloban) said “(A)fter three months, the people here are still jobless; there are less food and no potable water. Worse, we have no houses.”

He told Davao Today that coconut farmers have also suffered because the trees have been uprooted and they have not received any assistance from the government

“Farmers who were indirect victims of Typhoon Yolanda have been neglected; direct victims suffered more,” Simbajon added.

Typhoon Yolanda survivors interviewed by Davao Today complained of the quality of the goods that they got from the government’s social welfare and development office.

One beneficiary from Barangay San Joaquin, Palo, Leyte, Vicente Ballo, said that he and his family preferred the rice which were given by private donors.

Ballo said, “Ang ilang bugas na gihatag sakit sa ilong, tapos ang mga de lata, puro tinapa (The rice that the DSWD gave smells bad, and the canned goods were all sardines).”

“Where are the imported goods that were reported over the news?” he asked.

What slows down the government assistance, Ballo said, was that “we were required to first present our birth certificate, police clearance and 2 valid IDs whenever we get the relief goods.”

Balsa Mindanao’s Degala described the process as “unreasonable.”

“These documents that the DSWD were asking could have been lost because of the floods. Everyone is a victim, everyone needs assistance, thus there is no need to discriminate,” she said.

Meanwhile, CDRRMO’s Anido criticized the substandard bunkhouses built for the survivors.

“The quality is such that it could be easily swept away even if it’s signal no. 1 typhoon. For me, if we have to spend, then let’s spend it well,” Anido said.

Anido noted that “with good shelters, livelihood will soon follow” claiming that city officials have already planned some livelihood projects for those they relocated.

Balsa Mindanao conducted its first relief mision last November and its new set of volunteers joined the second mission last February 4 up to 8, serving residents from four barangays in Palo and seven villages in Tacloban city.

According to Balsa Mindanao, the sites that were chosen “were those hardly reached by the government and other NGOs.”

A liturgy led by nuns and a fluvial candle lighting at Bangon bangon river in Barangay Sabang, this city was held on the eve of the third month anniversary. The candles were placed on banana stalks and made to float at the river, to “remember the dead and to call for justice for survivors,” organizers said. (Earl O. Condeza/

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