Yolanda’s homeless mostly in Western – not Eastern – Visayas

Paterno Esmaquel II
Yolanda left the most families homeless in Western Visayas, which includes the badly hit provinces of Iloilo and Capiz, says the DSWD

HELP NEEDED. Members of a family sit outside their house destroyed by Super Typhoon Haiyan in Estancia in the province of Iloilo on Nov 18, 2013. File photo by Jay Directo/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – While Yolanda (Haiyan) killed the most people in Eastern Visayas (Region VIII), it destroyed the most homes not in this region, which includes worst-hit Leyte and Eastern Samar.

Yolanda left the most families homeless in Western Visayas or Region VI, according to a fact sheet prepared by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Sunday, February 16.

The killer typhoon displaced at least 515,071 families in Western Visayas, which includes the badly hit provinces of Iloilo and Capiz. These families comprise more than half (56%) of the 918,261 displaced families across the country.

In Eastern Visayas or Region VIII, the typhoon left 280,968 families homeless. These homeless survivors make up nearly a third (31%) of all the displaced.

Displaced survivors include those whose homes got totally damaged, as well as some whose houses sustained partial damage, said DSWD disaster officer Roderick Guisadio.

Yolanda totally damaged at least 518,878 houses across the country. It left 228,980 houses (44%) damaged in Western Visayas, and 219,857 (42%) in Eastern Visayas.

More than 100 days after Yolanda, is the government helping Western Visayas as much as Eastern Visayas?

In a text message to Rappler, Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo Lacson vowed to provide permanent shelters for homeless survivors “regardless of region, province, or town, be it provided by the public or private sector.”

Bunkhouses not enough

PARADISE DAMAGED. An aerial shot shows devastation in the aftermath in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan that devastated Iloilo, among others, on Nov 9, 2013. File photo by Raul Banias/AFP

Lacson on Wednesday, February 19, said the government will prioritize areas depending “on the ability of their local executives to provide the appropriate relocation sites in accordance with the no-building or -dwelling zone guidelines of the national government.”

The government will need up to two years, however, to build permanent shelters. In the meantime where can the homeless live?

In Western Visayas, the DSWD said, displaced families have been staying in bunkhouses in Estancia and Concepcion, Iloilo. The Estancia bunkhouse has 3 units with 24 rooms each, while the one in Concepcion has 4 units also with 24 rooms.

It didn’t specify the number of families there.

For the rest of the region, the DSWD said, international aid groups such as the International Organization for Migration have been distributing “tarpaulins, construction materials, and tools.”

In Eastern Visayas, on the other hand, 1,455 families have moved into bunkhouses. But these bunkhouses barely lowered the number of the homeless. (READ: Bunkhouses help less than 1% of Haiyan’s homeless)

Not my idea, Lacson says

'POORLY BUILT.' The original design of these bunkhouses failed to meet international standards. Photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

Lacson opposed the idea of building bunkhouses.

He told Rappler: “I played no part in making the decision to build bunkhouses as my appointment came one month after Yolanda struck central Philippines. If I did, I could have suggested that temporary shelters be provided to all the regions affected.” 

“I could have also voiced my objection to the idea of building bunkhouses and instead batted for distributing construction materials to rebuild their houses if the same were not in the danger zones or if the mayors were able to provide temporary sites,” the former police chief added.

His statements came after Sen Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, chair of the Senate public works committee, criticized the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the DSWD for the delay in turning over the bunkhouses.

For one, Marcos blamed the DSWD’s “bureaucratic” process. (Watch more in the video below.)

Earlier, aid groups called the bunkhouses cramped and poorly built. (READ: DPWH didn’t know standard for shelters)

The Philippines has a long way to go, the United Nations warned, as “huge needs” remain 100 days after Yolanda. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.