Yolanda bunkhouse residents: ‘Give us cash’

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Yolanda bunkhouse residents: ‘Give us cash’
Palo Mayor Remedios Petilla tells Rappler the government cannot give cash to bunkhouse residents 'to be fair to everyone'

PALO, Philippines – Luzviminda Secuya, 60, continued doing her laundry in a bunkhouse community in Palo, Leyte, as activists prodded her and other Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors to join a noise barrage against the government.

The activists led a rally on Monday, November 3, against the Palo municipal government’s reported plan to demolish bunkhouses in time for the Pope’s visit in January 2015.

Secuya shrugged off the protest because the mayor assured them the demolition wouldn’t happen. In an interview with Rappler, Palo Mayor Remedios Petilla herself denied the reported plan as “a big lie.”

Secuya, a widow who heads a family of 8, had another concern in mind.

Breaking into tears, she said this is the most pressing request of Yolanda survivors here: cash assistance. The government, she explained, said it will not give cash assistance to Yolanda survivors who already stay in bunkhouses. They would soon transfer to permanent shelters anyway.

A crying Secuya said, “Kahit malipat na kami, ang inaano lang namin… meron lang minsang kaunting tulong kasi mahirap kami.” (Even if we get transferred, what we want is… to have at least some aid because we’re poor.)

‘How can you begin again?’

Other bunkhouse residents in Palo share the same concern as the Philippines marks on Saturday, November 8, the first year since Yolanda struck the country.

Arcelene Esquierdo, 26, said the bunkhouse is comfortable: There’s power and water, for one. From time to time, residents there also get relief goods. (WATCH: Tour a Yolanda bunkhouse in a minute)

Esquierdo, however, said she also needs cash from the government. “Paano ka makakapagsimula kung walang cash assistance na ibinigay?” (How can you begin again if there is no cash assistance given?)

Mary Jane Amano, 36, added that the government should continue its livelihood training for them.

She said community leaders decided to postpone it because they thought the local government will demolish their bunkhouses.

Petilla, for her part, said the local government cannot grant the bunkhouse residents’ wish for cash assistance.

‘To be fair to everyone’

Citing her town’s social welfare officials, Petilla explained that Yolanda survivors can only get one of two things when it comes to housing: cash assistance from government, or aid from private groups.

“To be fair to everyone,” a Yolanda survivor who already got aid from private groups, cannot get cash assistance from the government, Petilla said in an interview with Rappler.

“We have nothing to give because we cannot give all, and we cannot also just give a few. But they already have houses, and they will have their own permanent houses. Do you know that our permanent houses come with the land? So they will get the land, they will get the house,” she said in Filipino.

Petilla added that the livelihood training for Yolanda survivors will continue.

Up to 420 families remain in bunkhouses in Palo alone, Petilla siad. This is equivalent to 1,880 persons.

Petilla said most of these families will soon transfer to permanent shelters built by groups such as the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation and the GMA Kapuso Foundation. (Watch more in the video below.)

Palo needs to build around 900 permanent shelters, Petilla said. – Rappler.com

For Rappler’s full coverage of the 1st anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), go to this page


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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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