Slow Build

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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Families from Guinsaugon were still living in cramped, makeshift evacuation centers 6 months after a landslide hit the town and destroyed residences

(Editor’s Note: This story is first published by Newsbreak)

MANILA, Philippines – It’s been a long wait for the 330 survivor-families of the rain-induced landslide in Guinsaugon, Southern Leyte. When NEWSBREAK visited the permanent resettlement site in the village of Magbagacay in mid-August, 230 families from Guinsaugon were still living in cramped, makeshift evacuation centers. Around 1,000 more from other high-risk villages are still camped in temporary shelters.

A community organizer says local government officials were slow in buying the land for the permanent resettlement sites. The lack of a focal person “who will take charge and see that everything is going smoothly” also causes delays, he says.

Gawad Kalinga (GK) was the first to provide relief for survivors. Volunteers from big companies such as Smart, Petron, AIG, and Hong Kong Shanghai Bank worked with survivors to complete 100 units in only two months instead of the usual six months. “You have to build fast in disaster conditions,” says Jose Montelibano of GK’s special projects unit.

The 20-square meter, concrete houses, which cost P60,000 each, was funded by the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and was completed in June 2006, or four months after the disaster.

Habitat for Humanity-Philippines, an NGO with a track record in building shelter for the poor, is scheduled to complete an additional 230 houses—100 funded by the Japanese government and 130 by the Australian Agency for International Development—by end of October 2006, also in Magbagacay. Habitat for Humanity volunteers from South Korea and Japan helped build the steel-framed houses.

The Feb. 17, 2006 landslide, which killed more than 1,000 people, generated a global humanitarian response; Southern Leyte Governor Rosette Lerias says P29 million was raised.

With the consent of donors, Lerias says they decided to spread the humanitarian aid not only to the survivor-families of Guinsaugon but to around 1,000 other families living in high-risk areas of Southern Leyte. An additional 900 low-cost houses are being built for families living in landslide-prone areas.

While this may be the best policy for the whole province, it has generated a feeling of resentment among the survivor-families who feel they should have gotten more. In June 2006, some survivors posted banners outside evacuation sites asking local officials where the reported “millions” of cash donations are.

“We only received a few of the cash donations,” complain Florenda Egido and Fely Ichon. They say each family got only about P6,000 in cash donations from various individuals and groups. –

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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.