After the strongest typhoon Yolanda hit the world andbrought massive destructions in Eastern Samar and nearby regions, the socio-economic, and political governance made a 360 degree turn in the said province. The towns hardest hit by the super typhoon are revisiting the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan (MDRRMP) and become a priority agenda of each mayor and LGU officials.
The fishing and farming communities improve their livelihood either by introducing a resilient farm outputs or diversifying their livelihood activities. The community is also building their contingency plan, developing a community early warning system, or documenting local knowledge and practices in adapting climate change impacts. While all these interventions are moving towards achieving a resilient province of Eastern Samar, howeverfar from the entire picture is the resettlement/housing for the internally displaced persons. The National Housing Authority (NHA) targeted 4059 permanenthouses in 12 towns in Eastern Samar namely Lawaan, Balangiga, Giporlos, Quinapondan, Salcedo, Mercedes, Guiuan, Hernani, Gen. McArthur, Llorente, Balangkayan and Maydolongbut after 2 years, none of the housing units is turn over to the municipality or beneficiary. As of the moment, only two (2) towns started the construction; Guiuan is targeting 281 permanent houses and Balangkayan at 349 units but another 3768 units waiting for the funding support. On the recent Tacloban resettlement forum held in Leyte Park hotel last July 22, Marilyn Lauzon narrated that NHA commitment in Eastern Samar is still at zero percentage. The resettlement is far from the target and the people are waiting inside their temporary-transitional shelters for a modest, safer, humane permanent houses. Thus, the state obligation to the IDPs to come-up space for them to participate, the LGUs and NGAs collaboration on the shelter program, the INGOS and CSO support are urgent need to fast tract the resettlement commitment in the province.
With this, Oxfam-Guiuan initially planned to convene a Provincial Resettlement Forumwhich later turned to Eastern Samar Round-table Discussion (RTD) on Resettlement which was held in Hotel Doña Vicenta, Borongan City last October 23, 2015.It was attended by more than 50 participants from the local government officials and IDPs from the 12 identified municipalities. The event was in cooperation of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) of Region 8 together with NGOs for Fisheries Reform, Inc. (NFR). Bringing-in all the stakeholders on the resettlement issues, the gathering provided a clearer picture of resettlement issues and the challenges in the province. Prior to the roundtable discussion, the event started with the municipal level consultations on the identified municipalities to thresh out community and LGU level issues. The results were presented during the forum as part of the context setting. The municipal level challenges, ways forward, and recommendations were consolidated and relayed to the relevant government agencies present during the event. The gathering include the following objectives:
a. bring-in in one space all the IDPs challenges and ways-forward on the resettlement issues generated during the municipal level consultations;
b. influence the NGAs to achieve a safer, humane, safe solutions in the resettlement;
c. provide a mechanism on the ground in monitoring the resettlement progress;
d. bridge the working relation amongst the community, LGU, NGAs, CSO, and INGOs.
However, the primary objective to present the consolidated challenges, ways-forward and recommendations of the 12 municipalities was partly not able to realize due to the limited time of the team to conduct municipal consultations in some of the 12 identified municipalities. Nevertheless, Christian Salamida of NFR presented the generated results of the three municipal consultations conducted in Guiuan, Mercedes and Salcedo, Eastern Samar. Common issues and challenges appeared such as the delay of identification of permanent relocation sites, tedious and costly process of land acquisition despite mandatory implementation of AO 44, poor implementation of the AO 44 to fast-track relocation processes, lack of technical guidance on setting up Local Inter-Agency Committee as a space for active engagement of IDPs, the need to access safe water and sanitation, to build a sustainable livelihood and to provide education for their children. Meanwhile, a workshop was done to let other municipalities identify their issues and challenges and the corresponding solution or recommendation on resettlement. Presentation of the outputs came next. However, thisplaced everyone to a question: What’s next after this? Herewith, Oxfam disclosed for a possibility to have a round two resettlement integrated forum.
Meantime, the right question is: What can we do now? Through collective actions from different sectors such as local government units, national government agencies, local non-government organizations, INGOs, and UN agencies, the challenges in the resettlement programs for the Yolanda-affected areas can be addressed through:
Land use plans must integrate hazards & vulnerability mapping.
People must not transfer to permanent relocation sites without clear safe and unsafe zones
identified and cleared by Mines and GeoSciences Bureau.
Evacuation centers must be a priority.
Complement the financial support for local authorities from the Philippine government, with
transparent procedures for relocation and adherence to standard qualities.
Passage and localization of national land use policy.
Truly, it is crucial that displaced families should participate in planning process in the different levels in all the relocation issues. Without participation from the people, it can lead to unfulfilled rights which can eventually trigger the failure of the entire relocation project.
Article written by Mr. Christian Jason Salamida