Gov’t fast-tracking relocation of Yolanda victims
Mike Frialde (The Philippine Star) - June 6, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Presidential Assistant on Rehabilitation and Recovery Panfilo Lacson bared yesterday that 4,000 hectares of government land have been identified as the administration fast tracks the relocation of at least 214,000 families displaced from areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

Lacson said the relocation of those now staying in tents is being rushed as the rainy season is approaching.

“Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary (Ramon) Paje informed me that he has identified 4,000 hectares of government land to choose from,” Lacson added.

He said communities displaced by the storm could only be relocated in government land.

The typhoon devastated Eastern Visayas and parts of Central Visayas last Nov. 8 and killed more than 6,000 people.

Lacson told reporters at the conference on land use planning and building of resilient communities hosted by the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati yesterday that Cebu, Leyte, Western Samar and Tacloban City have already submitted their respective rehabilitation plans to his office.

With the submission of the plans, Lacson said rehabilitation work on these four areas could now start.

Lacson said the Office of the Presidential Assistant on Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) gave the 171 storm-affected cities and towns until June 30 to submit their local rehabilitation plans to form the master national rehabilitation plan.

He said rehabilitation efforts would initially start in areas that have submitted their plans.

Lacson said his agency, in coordination with the various local government units and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, is fast-tracking the relocation of displaced families from tent cities to transitional shelters.

“We are talking about transitional shelter in the meantime that we are identifying for good the  safe resettlement areas,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mayor Sandy Javier of Javier town in Leyte suggested that the comprehensive land use plan (CLUP) should not be made complex as it could hinder the progress of rehabilition work in the storm-hit areas.

Javier said there are donors of land where displaced families could be relocated but were not developed for relocation as the National Housing Authority (NHA) requires that the concerned local government unit submit an updated CLUP which is already integrated with the geohazard map.

The problem, said Javier, is that most local government units (LGUs) have not updated their CLUPs to account for disasters. In addition, most LGUs, he said, received their geohazard maps from the DENR and Department of Science and Technology only recently.

Javier said the LGUs affected by Yolanda should be provided with technical assistance to work on their updated CLUPs,

“All our people are still busy with rehabilitation. We are all limited. We have to fill the gap. We need funding. We need technical assistance,” Javier added.

Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay said Wednesday evening that the government would build 214,367 permanent housing units for communities devastated by Yolanda.

During the welcome dinner for the participants of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction Management, Binay said that 120,000 housing units would be constructed this year, while the rest or 94,367 units would be built in 2015.

Binay said that the fire at a temporary shelter in Tacloban City last week showed the urgency of providing permanent shelter to the typhoon survivors.

“The tragic loss of life in last week’s fire at a temporary shelter in Tacloban City is most unfortunate and adds unjustly to the grief that haunts the survivors,” Binay said.

“The government has provided immediate assistance to the relatives of the departed, but beyond interventions such as fire safety improvements in the camps, the ultimate solution lies in permanent, disaster-resilient housing,” Binay added.

He lauded the multi-sector partnerships in the goal of providing disaster-resilient housing, saying that in Tanauan, Tacloban and Ormoc in Leyte, 6,670 families benefited from such partnership.

“This blessed beginning has fueled more vehicles of cooperation, with government identifying land for acquisition for the rollout of more housing units and the private sector stepping in for development. We continue to nurture these partnerships and provide the fullest support we can so that more of these can take off at the soonest possible time,” Binay said.

Sokor troops extend mission

The South Korean government extended for another six months the deployment of a battalion of its troops in typhoon-devastated areas in Eastern Visayas, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin announced yesterday.

In a forum after the oath-taking of the newly elected officers of the Defense Press Corps yesterday, Gazmin said a new batch of South Korean soldiers will be arriving in Leyte this month to relieve their departing colleagues that have assisted in the government’s reconstruction and rehabilitation operations in storm-ravaged Leyte since December last year.

“(South Korean government) agreed, as I requested for the extension of their troop deployment in Leyte for another six months,” Gazmin said in reference to his bilateral talks with his counterpart in Seoul where he also attended a civil-military technology exhibition last week.

South Korean troops deployed in Palo and Tanauan towns since December would be returning home on June 23 and will be replaced by a fresh contingent that will arrive in two batches.

Gazmin said the departing South Korean troops would each receive a medal from the government for their unselfish service rendered to storm survivors.

South Korea was among the first of the community of nations to respond to the Philippine call for assistance in the aftermath of the massive devastation left by Yolanda in the Visayas, with millions of people homeless, thousands dead and injured. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Jaime Laude, Rainier Allan Ronda

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