Forgotten Panagatan islets badly in need of aid
MANILA, Philippines – Though relief operations are now underway in all major cities affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), islands hard to reach even before the storm have seemingly been forgotten. (READ: Yolanda death toll reaches 3,621)
In Antique, the Panagatan Islets, home to around 1,300 people, are in a desperate situation. Though not as severely hit as other localities, it still suffered 80% damage to its seaweed crops, the main livelihood of its locals.
Around 95% of houses were destroyed, leaving many homeless. While many have started rebuilding, others spend the night exposed to the elements.
The local government of Caluya town has so far managed to send relief goods to only one of the 3 Panagatan Islets. The relief included: one kilogram of rice, 2 noodle packs and one canned good. Delivered only on Thursday, November 14, it is the only form of official aid in the islets so far.
Shannon Arnold, a fisheries specialist working for a confederation of fishermen and farmers in Caluya, said the situation in these islands was already deplorable even before Yolanda struck a week ago.
"There was no fresh water supply, poor sanitation, all light houses, no land or beach area to pull up boats or seaweed," she told Rappler.
The lack of infrastructure in the islets only made them more vulnerable and helpless against Yolanda's crushing blow.
Despite being occupied for 20 years now, the islets are still considered temporary settlements by the Caluya government.
"The LGU does not even consider many people there constituents, since they are migrants. We have started to organize here, but it is a very different social situation than the other islands in the municipality and it is slow going," said Arnold.
But the most immediate need of Panagatan islets residents is water, she said. Before the storm, they would use their boats to get fresh water from Caluya town proper. But now, all their boats are gone. Caluya has not yet used their boats to deliver water to the islets.
The people's greater concern is rebuilding their livelihood. Almost all those living on the island are seaweed farmers. More than 1,000 have lost their crops. It will take them two to 6 months to rebuild their seaweed lines – that is, if they can get the funding to buy new seedlings and equipment replacements. The farmer will have to start from scratch as they have no savings to rebuild their lives. (READ: P7-B agri losses due to typhoon)
In contrast, the situation in the main islands of Caluya is much more stable with food and water coming in.
Though the situation in the Panagatan islets is alarming, its locals worry more about long-term recovery than their immediate needs.
Arnold said, "Perhaps this is a reflection of the many years of neglect by the LGU there, but they are very used to having to pick up the pieces on their own and rebuilding. At least they have fish nearby, they said. What optimism in the face of challenge." – Rappler.com