Aquino to return to Yolanda-hit areas

Natashya Gutierrez
President Aquino defends the slow pace of bunkhouse construction and says the government is looking at long-term solutions in affected areas

BACK AGAIN. President Benigno Aquino III is set to return to areas hit by Typhoon Yolanda. Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III is set to visit areas hardest-hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) next week, over 100 days since the storm hit the Philippines on November 8.

Aquino said he would also visit areas affected by 2012’s typhoon Pablo as well as Bohol, which was struck by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in October 2013.

He is set to personally inspect the progress of the rebuilding efforts, which have been criticized as slow. (READ: Gov’t hit for delayed Haiyan shelters)

The government’s bunkhouses have helped less than 1% of homeless survivors, statistics show 100 days after the disaster displaced more than 900,000 families. In a fact sheet prepared on February 16, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said 1,455 displaced families have moved into 60 completed bunkhouses in Leyte, Eastern Samar, and Samar.

The United Nations (UN) too said that “huge needs” remain in typhoon-hit areas.

Aquino however defended the pace of the rebuilding. (READ: Aquino: Yolanda rehab is top priority)

“What’s slowing down the construction of bunkhouses when I visited Leyte, is that it’s so labor intensive. It takes a while, because putting it together is very precise and we want to put them in better spaces than the tents,” he said.

Because of this, he said they have started giving construction materials “to those who live in safe areas who want to build the houses themselves.”

The President also addressed suggestions to give P40,000 financial assistance to affected families, saying he does not believe it is a long-term solution to the problem.

“How long will they be able to use that to sustain their families? Will they be able to build their homes with that amount?,” he said.

Instead, Aquino said the government would focus on implementing no-build zones in danger-prone areas to keep residents safe in the long run. He said the government will pay for electricity and water in the relocation sites at Tacloban, which was hardest-hit by the typhoon. 

The government has set aside about P360 billion to rehabilitate affected areas, said Aquino.

“To those saying it’s slow, I just won’t comment. If they can come here, I’m sure they can also address their livelihoods there,” he said.

Yolanda left about 6,200 people dead and nearly 2,000 others missing. It also destroyed or severely damaged 1.1 million houses, leaving more than 4 million people homeless.

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