COMMUNITY OF YOLANDA SURVIVORS AND PARTNERS (CYSP)
Summary of Issues and Recommendations
Cabinet Secretary Leoncio “Jun” Evasco Jr.
thru Assistant Secretary Evelyn Cruzada
September 5, 2016
On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Yolanda, the strongest typhoon in recorded history to have landfall, hit the Philippines took with it thousands of lives and left unparalleled destruction of livelihood and infrastructure in its aftermath. More than 6,000 people died and 30,000 and more had been injured, affecting 3, 424, 593 families. In total, 16, 078, 181 people were affected in 12, 139 barangays situated in 591 municipalities, 57 cities, and 44 provinces in 9 regions. Of these provinces, 14 were most affected, covering 171 cities and municipalities .
The Aquino Administration estimated the staggering cost of reconstruction at a total of Php 360 Billion to cover both short-term and strategic recovery and reconstruction. The UN, on the other hand, listed 56 organizations which appealed for USD 775,748,656 to finance early recovery work alone covering the period of November 2013 to October 2014. These financial costs, however, cannot in any way make up for the incalculable losses of lives and livelihoods of Yolanda survivors. Hence, to be meaningful, reconstruction needs to be efficient, effective and responsive to the demands of survivors.
State of Yolanda Reconstruction
Three years since, however, reconstruction in Yolanda-affected areas has been in a dismal state. This is rooted in the absence of a strong leadership under an independent, stand-alone agency that should oversee preparedness, response, recovery and long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction. Currently, no government agency is taking charge of managing, implementing and coordinating the Yolanda reconstruction process. The status of current reconstruction efforts and any assessment on what further needs to be reviewed, improved and corrected regarding these reconstruction efforts therefore remain unclear.
From the perspective of survivors, there is obviously a wide gap between what had been officially reported and what still needs to be done in reconstruction. The following is a brief assessment of the major aspects of reconstruction: (1) shelter reconstruction, (2) tide embankment, (3) farmers and land rights, and IPs’ ancestral domain, (4) livelihood and emergency shelter assistance, (5) funding issues and audit, and (6) coordination, management, implementation of disaster response.
A total of 205,128 units were targeted for shelter reconstruction. Freedom from Debt coalition (FDC) cites official reports which indicate that 20,893 housing units (only 10% of the total target for shelter reconstruction) were built as of March 2016. Key issues on shelter reconstruction are as follows:
• The unilateral declaration of areas as “no build zone” “unsafe zone” “danger zone” or “no dwelling zone”. These declarations hinder the provision of shelter assistance and the re-establishment of houses of affected survivors;
• Unsuitable and substandard housing. Many ongoing or completed housing projects all over Yolanda areas are unsuitably built and do not adhere to housing rights standard. The main issue is that these resettlement areas are situated far from survivors’ original settlements (the closest in Tacloban City is 15 kilometers away), and this (1) hinders access to basic services such as water and electricity, lack access to educational facilities, and (2) removes the survivors from their main sources of livelihood, which will therefore result in possible economic dislocation of target relocates;
• Inadequate funding. In a congressional inquiry in 2015, the National Housing Authority (NHA) admitted that the government allocated less than half of the P61.262 billion earmarked for the housing units for victims of Typhoon Yolanda (where P26.996 billion had been released as of September 2015). Reports on current and actual funding, and projected funding for completion of target remain unclear.
• Issues on land acquisition for housing projects. Public lands for housing are apparently not available. Private, open spaces within the city for in-city, on-cite relocation are not being acquired through expropriation. In Medelin and Daanbantayan in Cebu, for example, the National Housing Authority has yet to acquire lots for survivors. Same goes with more than 5,000 Eastern Samar survivors who are in “danger zones”;
• Lacking of a sense of urgency. In a Bogo City, shelter projects have yet to be completed due to the very slow pace of reconstruction;
• Prevalence of bunkhouses. Many survivors still stay in bunkhouses close to three years after Yolanda due to the slow construction of appropriate housing projects. Moreover, basic services including water, sanitation and electricity are still lacking in these bunkhouses;
• Absence of concrete, long-term plan in shelter reconstruction. There is no clear plan and program on how people’s shelter reconstruction will be implemented, especially in many of the declared danger zone areas such as the case of members of Alliance of Survivors in No Build Zone Areas in Eastern Samar with 4,000 members;
• Land disputes in relocation sites. Relocation sites that were acquired without prior permit from owners create tensions among survivors and tillers. A special case in this regard is a piece of one-hectare land acquired by the Diocese of Borongan for farmers that was used by the NHA to build a relocation site. Farmers are thus deprived of the land intended for their use.
Proposals and recommendations
For survivors, a meaningful shelter reconstruction should adhere to standards of right to adequate housing, with the following elements: secure tenure, availability of social services, facilities and infrastructures, affordable, decent, safe and accessible, among others. In this regard, CYSP proposal for the government include:
1) Ensure a more decent, humane, and safe living areas through in-city or in-town and on-site, near site relocation for survivors and ensure that all housing projects are provided with social services;
2) Support people’s plan to guarantee a participatory housing reconstruction process;
3) Acquire private lands suitable for the construction of houses through eminent domain, including the acquisition of lots that have been foreclosed by banks (e.g. BPI foreclosed lands, per research of UPA);
4) Utilize public lands that are suitable for shelter construction; Require the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to identify public lands that are suitable for housing projects;
5) Provide easy and quality access to livelihood opportunities for those in the resettlement areas (e.g. Calbayog);
6) Ensure that basic amenities especially electricity and water are present and functioning well in the relocation sites (e.g. Calbayog);
7) Comprehensive planning for relocation sites should include provision of social services like health center, day care center, elementary schools, etc. to avoid displacement of school children and to better address health-related problems (e.g. Calbayog);
8) Immediately review ongoing construction projects to make sure that they are responsive and it adheres to the right to adequate housing of survivors. Stop the relocation of settlers in Tacloban northern barangays and other areas for being inappropriate and unresponsive to survivors needs.
9) Adopt genuine consultation and bottom-up approach as necessary requirement for housing and other projects for Yolanda survivors;
10) Ensure fair and impartial implementation of Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA);
11) Establish evacuation centers in strategic areas;
12) Activate an inter-agency working group to be led by the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) to make sure that housing issues and concerns are addressed timely and appropriately.
This project exemplifies the problem of a top-down adaptation and mitigation strategy in disaster response. The 27.3-kiilometer infrastructure project which will cost P 7.5 billion hopes to serve as a storm surge protection. However, survivors are critical of this project for to the following reasons:
a) The project was conceptualized and is being implemented without proper/adequate consultations with affected communities;
b) The science of the project is being seriously challenged by noted scientists. Respected scientist Kelvin Rodolfo, among many experts, is of the opinion that the embankment will magnify, instead of reduce, the dangers from flood waters: waters will be prevented from receding back to the sea and will instead inundate inland for a possible prolonged flooding;
c) It threatens to displace populations as it will traverse densely populated settlements, while avoiding commercial establishments and areas of the more affluent. Unfortunately, the government does not have a clear plan to address the potential displacement of affected communities;
d) It lies within a fault line that have experienced constant tremors which makes the site prone to liquefaction;
e) It is being funded through huge loans which will further deepen the indebtedness of the country; and
f) It ignores other options for mitigating water surge, such as soft and natural mitigation strategies like mangrove reforestation.
Proposals and recommendations
1) Stop the implementation of tide embankment and subject the plan to immediate review;
2) Initiate proper and adequate consultations with communities that will be affected by the project.
Farmers and land rights and Indigenous peoples’ ancestral domain
The rural sector, particularly the farmers, fisherfolks and indigenous peoples were among the most devastated and affected by Typhoon Yolanda. Land-dependent but land insecure survivors are also among the most vulnerable survivors due to their exclusion from certain humanitarian support (e.g. shelter assistance, farm support) for lacking formal property rights.
Unresolved land rights issues in farming communities and among indigenous peoples, coupled with the devastation of Yolanda, weakened the resistance of these communities against corporate land grabbing. Farmers and IPs were forced to give up their land claims after the government refused to provide them basic protection as disaster victims, such as ensuring their resettlement, even if temporarily, on the very same lots were their houses used to be erected. The slow pace of rehabilitation due to land insecurity could have been prevented if the agrarian reform law and the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) were more effectively and decisively implemented prior to Yolanda.
Many of the land rights issues are pre-existing, and could be resolved with a little sense of urgency and accountability from the government. Unfortunately, many of the actions required will involve correcting the inadequacies of the previous administration, such as the many cases of undistributed Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs). Resistance from within the government is making disaster reconstruction more difficult as those involved in past misdeeds continue to be employed in the very same office that created the problem for farmers. These CLOAs were produced without going through the proper process for the purpose of propping up the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) previous years’ annual reports. Most unfortunately, the resolution of land-related concerns and land rights/ancestral domain claims of Yolanda survivors are not officially included as a strategy in Yolanda reconstruction.
Issues of indigenous peoples
a) Delayed issuance of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) particularly in Yolanda-affected areas in Palawan, Kalibo and Capiz.
b) Exclusion of IP communities from social services and humanitarian assistance intended for Yolanda survivors;
c) Legalized water and other forms of resource grabbing such as the permit issued to pearl farm owners in Coron and the Calamianes Group of Island which pushes IPs away from their ancestral domain and sources of livelihood;
d) Exclusion of IPs from participatory governance such as bottom up planning and budgeting.
Issues of farmers
a) Undistributed Certificate of Land Ownership Award: a total of 12,685 CLOAs for 30,000 hectares of land involving 14,000 farmers in Leyte, and 24,000 CLOAs more in Iloilo. These cases are slowly being resolved through constant farmer-initiated dialogues;
b) Uninstalled beneficiaries, involving 1,200 farmers and covering 1,800 hectares in the City of Ormoc and Kananga, province of Leyte, and thousands more uninstalled cases in Iloilo and Northern Negros;
c) Persistent shared tenancy even in areas already covered under Presidential Decree No. 27;
d) Pre-and post-Yolanda land grabbing which deprived farmers survivors of their land, the very asset needed to recover from Typhoon Yolanda (e.g. Sicogon Island in Iloilo, and Leyte Sab-a Basin Development Authority (LSBDA) in Leyte;
e) Slow pace of agrarian reform implementation in Yolanda-affected areas;
f) Lack of support services to potential and actual beneficiaries of agrarian reform.
Proposals and recommendations (for IPs’ issues)
1) Fast-track the issuance of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles of Yolanda-affected IP communities in Kalibo and Central Panay (Panay Bukidnon IP community), and Palawan (Tagbanua IP community);
2) Order the NCIP and other line government agencies (DA, DAR, DSWD, DepEd, etc.) to concretely provide for the basic social needs of the IP communities who were affected by the typhoon –medical services, school supplies, sustainable technology approaches to farming, agriculture and fishing, suitable livelihood opportunities to indigenous women, etc.;
3) Ensure the inclusion of IP communities in the bottom-up budgeting program of the government to improve farm-to-market roads in the deliverables of DA, DAR and the DPWH;
4) Revisit the permits to operate provided to pearl farm owners in Coron, Palawan who now are greatly affecting the source of living of the IP communities in the area. Aside from being provided with less than the minimum wage in the pearl farms, the IPs are also having difficulty accessing the sea waters of the Calamianes Group of Islands due to the heavy operation of pearl farms in the areas.
Proposals and recommendations (for farmers’ issues)
1) Speed up and ensure the implementation of agrarian reform including the distribution of CLOAs to Yolanda-affected farmers;
2) Immediately distribute the undistributed CLOAs in Eastern Visayas to direct/actual tillers; cancel CLOAs awarded to non-tillers and generate new ones in favor of actual tillers;
3) Review and impose penalties to mining operations, especially in Yolanda areas which have “added insult to injury”;
4) Immediately install CLOA holders in Yolanda affected areas (Leyte, Negros, Iloilo, etc.);
5) Conduct information campaign and massive legal education for farmer-beneficiaries under PD 27 who are still paying shares to former landowners;
6) Implement leasehold in coconut areas that are still under tenancy;
7) Conduct a deeper investigation and inventory of CLOAs issued in the areas covered by LSBDA; fast track the reconstitution of titles to facilitate the redistribution of CLOAs to deserving beneficiaries;
8) Review the agreement between the communities in Sicogon Island, DAR and Ayala Land, Inc. and ensure the protection of the rights of farmers and fisherfolks in the area.
Livelihoods and Emergency Shelter Assistance
The reconstruction of survivors’ livelihoods is another issue that requires a serious review. Government data estimates that 600,000 hectares of agricultural lands were affected. With 1.1 million metric tons of crops reported as lost which may not include the cumulative total of permanent crops such as coconut that is expected to recover in 7-8 years. This assumes that all permanently damaged trees are replaced and are pre-Yolanda yields. The most affected farming sector is the coconut sector where it was reported that 400,000 hectares were damaged and 161,000 hectares totally destroyed.
Most fisher folks appear to have received livelihood reconstruction support which include boat distribution and repair, fishing gears and equipment although lack of capital remains a serious concern for most fisher folks. Rice farmers appear to have normalize their farming activities, although they continue to be threatened by inconsistent support as well as the removal of quantitative restriction in rice importation by 2017. Other cash-based assistance also helped in the process of recovery of many survivors such as those that were implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
As a means of cash assistance, the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) implementation proved to be the problematic, in many cases delayed, and in some cases exclusionary and prone to patronage. Key issues on livelihoods reconstruction:
a) Uncertainty on the extent of coconut rehabilitation. Coconut farmers’ livelihoods need more attention because of the total damage to their crops and given the longer gestation period for the benefit from replanting (6-8 years). There is no government report on the extent of reconstruction of coconut farms. It is also unclear how tenants in coconut lands who are without tenure security were targeted in the reconstruction process;
b) Need for financial support. Fisher folks need financial capital to build back better and be independent from informal financiers;
c) Issues related to the ESA include:
• Exclusion. Exclusion of (1) survivors living in No Build Zone; (2) survivors who chose to be recipient of housing projects, even when the relocation date is still uncertain; (3) sharers or those living within a household of a recognized home owner; and (4) survivors whose houses are in lots that they do not own;
• Political patronage. There were reports that the ESA was manipulated and used to perpetuate political patronage: Unqualified recipients were qualified, eligible claimants were disqualified, and categories were manipulated to upgrade the classification of recipient from partially destroyed to totally destroyed to receive the maximum grant under ESA.
Proposals and recommendations
1) Subject ESA to civil society-led audit or a COA audit with citizens’ participation;
2) Ensure that rehabilitation, including livelihoods projects, reaches all affected areas including remote or isolated communities;
3) Implement appropriate and immediate alternative livelihoods for fisherfolks, informal settlers informal settlers, farmers and other affected sectors;
4) Provide women and other sectors immediate and suitable livelihood programs;
5) Provide a comprehensive situationer on the status of reconstruction of coconut farms and coconut farmers;
6) Ensure equal and impartial distribution of ESA, including its implementation in communities located in danger zones; and
7) Ensure infrastructure support to all affected areas.
Proposals and recommendations on Human Rights, Climate Justice and Ecological Justice
1) Immediately have a moratorium on tide embankment;
2) Put a stop to mining and other projects that pose a threat to the environment and people’s livelihoods (such as the Manicani Island);
3) Cease militarization in the countryside and immediately investigate cases of human rights violations in Basey and other Yolanda-affected areas;
4) Indemnify the victims of oil spill in Yolanda-affected areas;
5) Ensure the integration of disaster risk reduction in local governance and link it to climate change adaptation; and
6) Promote the use of renewable energy as a primary source of energy to protect the environment the environment.
Funding Issues and Audit
Funding for Yolanda reconstruction is another concern. The original estimate for short term and strategic recovery and rehabilitation was placed by the government at P 360 B. The yearly allocation for rehabilitation and reconstruction since 2014, however, had been consistently below the required funding requirement. Government agencies such as the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), publish inconsistent reports as to the amount disbursed for Yolanda reconstruction. Reports of anomalous implementation of emergency assistance as well as reconstruction projects abound and this may further increase the required budget for reconstruction without necessarily building back the lives of survivors (e.g. unoccupied houses due to distance and lack of basic social services). COA also reported the non-utilization of funds at various government offices even when these funds are available. A more serious concern therefore is whether and to what extent such budget allocation and utilization achieved the recovery and reconstruction objectives and targets. Key issues/questions include:
a) How much funds were spent, how much funds are left?
b) In the completion of Yolanda reconstruction, how much funds are needed per sector of response?
c) What is the government’s budget plan to pursue the reconstruction in Yolanda area?
Proposals and recommendations
1) Immediately provide an official, updated consolidated and consistent report on how much funds were spent by what sector of response and how much funds are left for reconstruction;
2) Initiate a COA-led, participatory audit of Yolanda funds, projects and programs;
3) Review and update the current recovery and reconstruction plan based on the actual needs for the completion of reconstruction.
Coordination, management, implementation of Disaster Response
It is clear that current mechanisms have not been able to adequately respond to the demands of survivors and address the totality of long-term recovery and reconstruction. The current NDRRMC is effective in disaster preparedness and responding to actual emergencies but is not equipped to manage long term recovery and reconstruction, even as amendatory bills to improve its mandate and functions are pending in Congress. The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Recovery and Reconstruction (OPARR) created through a memorandum order was powerless, had no budget nor staff to undertake its tasks and was eventually dissolved; and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), a national level agency that is tasked to undertake national level economic planning, has functioned mainly to monitor line agencies performances through agency reports at the national level, but has no staff to undertake disaster response and is politically powerless to mobilize line agencies.
Proposals and recommendations
1. Issuance of an Executive Order. This is to create a central authority under the Office of the President for a more effective, organized, and coordinated implementation of disaster response. This central authority will provide a strong leadership needed to deliver the necessary support to disaster-affected areas. This cannot be solely in the hands of an agency under a department. As shown in the experience in Yolanda, an independent, stand-alone agency, preferably under the Office of the President, is needed to oversee preparedness, response, recovery, and long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction for disasters
2. Yolanda Summit. This will jumpstart the commitment of President Rodrigo Duterte who promised survivors that “One of your feet will be in Malacanang”, upon seeing the devastation in Yolanda-affected areas. This government-led summit is proposed to be done during the third year of Yolanda commemoration in November 2016.
3. Thematic dialogues. Finally, CYSP proposes that dialogues for thematic concerns be undertaken to address the specific issues of Yolanda survivors to improve the quality of government response. These thematic dialogues should be Yolanda-wide and anchored by the agency or agencies concerned with the issues. This will hopefully set in motion a more regular interaction between agencies and survivors toward the gradual resolution of survivors’ issues. The following thematic dialogues are proposed:
4.1. Dialogue on shelter reconstruction (to be convened by HUDCC)
4.2. Dialogue on indigenous people’s rights (to be convened by NCIP)
4.3. Dialogues on land rights and other farmers issued (DAR with PCA, NFA, NIA, etc.)
4.4. Dialogue on coastal resources management (to be convened by BFAR)
4.5. Dialogue on Tide Embankment (to be convened by the Cabinet Secretary)