Saturday, November 8, 2014
Church Bells Peal Today for Super Typhoon Yolanda
Church bells peal at 6 p.m. today as the nation marks the first anniversary of the onslaught of super-typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan), which left at least 6,340 people dead, with 1,785 others still missing.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also called on Filipinos nationwide to mark the “Yolanda’s” first anniversary as a National Day of Prayer in unity with those who survived the disaster.
The CBCP call was embodied in a circular issued by CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas.
As this developed, congressmen lamented the dismal performance of the government in rehabilitating areas severely affected by the super typhoon, which they described as “another disaster.”
Villegas invited Church leaders and apostolic administrators around the country to a simultaneous ringing of church bells at 6 p.m., to be followed by the CBCP’s commemorative prayer. Villegas also encouraged prelatures, dioceses, schools, and organizations to conduct their own activities to mark the event.
The commemorative prayer is as follows: “Most loving Father, One year ago, the fury of Typhoon Yolanda made us experience darkness and the pain of losing everything; it made us understand the meaning of despair. But in the midst of all these, You never have forsaken us. In the most special way, You gifted us courage and strength to rise again. In the most loving way, You shielded us with mercy and compassion. And You accomplished miracles through those who came to our aid. And as we remember that day today, we thank You for the gift of faith, hope and love. We thank You for bringing us closer to You. We thank you for letting us live another day. Spare our nation from the wrath of nature, as we find ways to care for Your Creation. Glory be…”
House minority bloc member, Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan, described the government’s performance in rehabilitating Yolanda-hit provinces as “another disaster.”
“From the very start, when politics reared its ugly head, the survivors were doomed. It’s been a year and yet many of the dead are not yet buried! Should that not have been the priority? Even the accounting of the casualties is a victim of PNoy’s strange and stubborn refusal to accept the truth that the deaths reached more than 10,000. When they stopped counting the dead after 6,000, the unaccounted and unidentified were thrown into limbo,” Ilagan said.
One year after the Yolanda disaster, the death toll remains unclear. As of April 17, 2014, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) confirmed 6,340 deaths. However, there were also claims that the fatalities could reach 18,000.
Ilagan further complained that the relief operations “were selective and in utter disarray,” adding “only the valiant efforts of private groups saved the day.”
She lamented that even the distribution of relief goods was politicized, which showed the government’s lack of concern for the “Yolanda” survivors.
“Proof of government’s ineptitude and politicking – the rice and other relief goods rotted. What did PNoy’s ally, (Palo) Mayor (Remedios) Petilla do? She literally buried her sins,” Ilagan said.
Ilagan said long-term and sustainable assistance should be extended to the typhoon survivors.
“Today, many survivors need counseling. Many have no income. The promised bunkhouses are cheap, flimsy, and inadequate. They also suspiciously cost a lot! A dismal failure! Even with the appointment of a rehabilitation czar. What can he show as performance? Where did the billions of donations go?” Ilagan asked.
Another member of the House minority bloc, ABAKADA party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz anticipates that it would take some time for the 14 provinces hit by Yolanda to recover, lamenting the snail-paced rehabilitation efforts of the Aquino administration.
“Sadly, the situation in the Yolanda areas has yet to normalize, a lot of the victims have yet to regain their footing as government’s best plans have yet to gain traction. It will probably take some time before the residents of the affected areas get back on their feet and move on,” he said.
President Aquino’s allies – Deputy Speaker and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao and AKO Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe – cannot help, but agree with their opposition colleagues’ observations.
“Judging from what I have been reading, there has been too much delay.
Between the time of devastation and today, what we have seen thus far are plans and blueprints.
The Executive must begin implementing,” Aggabao said, referring to the October 29 approval of the 8,000-page P167.9-billion Yolanda Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan.
“I think the government should now be making those bold moves that would show tangible benefits to the affected people like permanent housing and jobs,” Aggabao stressed.
Of the Yolanda rehabilitation and recovery fund, P75.67 billion will go for resettlement projects for the victims; P35.14 billion for infrastructure development; P30.6 billion for livelihood and continuity of economic activities and business; and P26.4 billion for social services in disaster-stricken communities.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone whose province was heavily battered by “Yolanda” said the government should provide sustainable livelihood to the survivors.
“The rehabilitation and reconstruction of public infrastructures are going on. What should be given extra push are livelihood projects such as small agri-business, fishing, and farming, among others and resettlement,” he said.
Batocabe said “much is to be desired” to ensure the full-blown implementation of rehabilitation and recovery plan, recommended by Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR) Secretary Panfilo Lacson to extend resettlement, infrastructure, livelihood, and social services in the “Yolanda”-affected areas.
“We still need to improve on our response time and absorptive capacity to immediately rehabilitate, rebuild and reconstruct communities flattened by the super typhoon. But then the strength of the typhoon and the magnitude of damage are unprecedented which require us to adapt new strategies in responding to the crisis while ensuring transparency and accountability,” he said.
“But, let us leave that to the executive to get their acts together. Besides, the magnitude of disaster is so overwhelming and unprecedented and hence, we are still learning how to cope with this unusual crisis,” he added.
Earlier, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate filed House Resolution 1638 urging the Lower Chamber to conduct a probe into the government’s slow rehabilitation efforts, the disbursement of supplemental fund and donations, and actual death toll related to the Yolanda disaster.
Meanwhile, Some P563 million has been raised by the Catholic Church for the victims of “Yolanda.”
Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice, and Peace (NASSA), said most of the donations came from the 41 various Caritas Internationalis member-organizations in six continents.
In a CBCP News post, Gariguez said that at present NASSA is currently overseeing the construction of 3,753 permanent housing units or disaster resilient-shelters, 1,600 of which were recently completed and are already livable.
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