Eastern Visayas 92% cleared of debris – NDRRMC
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - December 1, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The entire Eastern Visayas region is almost cleared of the tons of debris left in the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda starting with the ongoing cleanup, reconstruction and rehabilitation of Tacloban City.

“As of Friday, 64,792 cubic meters of debris, with 92.56 percent rate of accomplishment in Eastern Visayas,” National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Eduardo del Rosario reported yesterday.

In Tacloban City, which bore the brunt of Yolanda’s fury, the process of reconstruction and rehabilitation is now in full swing with the government providing construction materials for local residents in three barangays to repair their damaged homes.

Del Rosario said the construction materials would be distributed today. It will include GI sheets, carpenter tools and kilos of nails.

“We are talking here of 240,000 partially damaged houses,” Del Rosario said, referring to the government’s distribution of free construction materials to each family whose houses were partially destroyed by Yolanda in the entire Visayas region.

The distribution of construction materials is in line with the initial rehabilitation and recovery plans as presented by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Volunteer groups and non-government organizations are also helping typhoon victims to rebuild such as employing them through the cash-for-work program, with each getting paid P500 daily. The cash-for-work scheme mainly involves cleanup operations in the storm-ravaged region.

Del Rosario said beneficiaries of the government’s rehabilitation and reconstruction plan would be launched in the hardest hit areas.

They would be initially issued a card for them to able to redeem the construction supplies from the government-controlled distribution centers, he said.

“With regard to our shelter provision, the distribution will start (today) and will be pilot-tested in three barangays in Tacloban City. The system and procedure would be for the partially damaged houses being issued a card to their respective owners, which will serve as their passes to claim the construction materials and to avoid double issuance,” Del Rosario said.

Once this scheme is perfected, the program would be replicated in other areas hardest hit by Yolanda.

Del Rosario, however, stressed the rehabilitation and reconstruction scheme would exclude coastal areas now declared as a “no-build zone.” Most of these areas were once densely populated but were virtually wiped out by the storm surge brought by the monster storm.

The NDRRMC earlier said the residents living along the coast who survived the calamity in Tacloban would not be allowed to rebuild their homes and would instead be relocated.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has been tasked to identify and put up residential areas away from the city’s coastlines with the implementation of the 40-meter no-build zone.

The provincial government of Leyte is now being implementing the no-build zone policy of the national government.

An expert in environmental planning said there is a need to update Tacloban City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Zoning Ordinance, as well as plans for its transportation system, disaster-preparedness, housing, among others.

Architect Felino Palafox Jr., president of the Philippine Institute for Environmental Planners, said the plan should designate at least one square meter per person of evacuation space in international standards.

“Tacloban City lacked such strong, disaster-proof evacuation areas given its geography and population growth. Thus, the city should have three evacuation sites of 10 hectares each, and every evacuation area should be fitted with six facilities required by the land use policy: emergency clinics, water and food stations, emergency shelters and telecommunication centers, and an emergency helipad,” Palafox said.

He added Tacloban should also have large parks with wide roads and no intersections, as well as underground power lines.

“(Tacloban should) invest in coastal engineering so that the city can predict future storm surges and alert its citizens ahead of time,” Palafox said.


Death toll

The NDRRMC yesterday reported that 5,632 people perished in the monster storm. There are still 1,759 others still missing.

The NDRRMC also reported 26,136 people were injured.

Most of those listed as missing were caught by the storm surge or were thrown overboard from ships or bancas.

More than three weeks after Yolanda pummeled the Visayas and nearby regions, hundreds of bodies are still being retrieved by the Joint Task Force deployed to collect the cadavers.

Joint Task Force Cadaver, headed by Fire Senior Superintendent Pablito Corbeta said they have yet to clear Tacloban City of the bodies now mostly buried under tons of storm debris in coastal areas.

Since the launching of their cadaver collection operations last Nov. 15, the Joint Task Force, composed of local and foreign teams from the United States, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and South Korea, has so far collected 2,038 bodies until three days ago in Tacloban City alone.

Del Rosario, however, was quick to defend the NDRRMC’s slow count of fatalities, saying the disaster agency is just basing its figure on official and validated death count confirmed by the local government units.

The NDRRMC also reported the total amount of damage left by Yolanda to infrastructure and agriculture has been estimated at P30.6 billion, excluding the cost of partially and totally damaged houses.

“The number of damaged houses increased to 1,168,909,” Del Rosario said.

As for the total population affected by the typhoon, the NDRRMC tallied 2,335,031 families or 10,999,244 persons from 12,014 barangays in Central, Eastern, Western Visayas, Bicol region, Southern Luzon and Caraga region.

Of this number, 851,655 families or 3,887,997 individuals were directly displaced and currently either staying in or outside 1,084 evacuation centers put up by the government and non-government organizations.

The government has already provided P708.06 million in assistance to the affected families as it also continues to maintain the presence of 35,121 personnel, 1,351 vehicles, 112 seacraft and 164 aircraft at the typhoon-wrecked areas to provide continuing assistance to the victims.


Returning to normal

The situation in Tacloban City, however, is returning to normal as the Philippine National Police (PNP) said they are considering pulling out its additional forces in the region from peacekeeping missions.

PNP Deputy Director General Felipe Rojas Jr. said the pullout of police troops would start as soon as possible as the peace and order situation improves.

Policemen and the military were deployed in Tacloban and other areas following reports of looting and robbery in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda.

“The cases of looting and armed robbery were recorded during the first three days after Yolanda struck last Nov. 8. But up to now, our monitoring of the situation in the area proved negative of the two cases,” Rojas said.

“There’s a big improvement of the peace and order situation in the area as of the past few days.”

On the other hand, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has “discontinued” its operations in four relief goods repacking centers, including in Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.

The DSWD ceased the repacking of relief goods at the National Resource Operations Center (NROC), the Cargohaus in Parañaque City, and at the Mactan Airbase in Cebu City.

“The processing of evacuees arriving in Metro Manila will continue at the Villamor Airbase. Only the repacking will be stopped,” the DSWD said in a statement.

The DSWD did not elaborate on why the repacking centers were closed but said they are in the process of beefing up the repacking centers in order to speed up the dispatching and delivery of relief good to those affected by typhoon Yolanda.

Relief operations from other agencies and international groups however continued operations.

Korea Water Resources Development Corp. (K-Water) has donated a total of 100 million Korean won (KRW) or $94,000 to the typhoon victims.

“This will go a long way in the restoration efforts in various parts of the country,” Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) president and chief executive officer Emmanuel Ledesma Jr. said.

Of the total amount, KRW88 million was coursed through the Korean Red Cross, while KRW12 million was coursed through the non-government organization Korea Food for the Hungry International (KFHI) through its local counterpart Givers Funds Inc. – With Non Alquitran, Rhodina Villanueva, Aie Balagtas See, Iris Gonzales

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