Climate activists slam gov't over slow Yolanda rehab efforts
Alexis Romero ( - November 8, 2015 - 3:41am

MANILA, Philippines - Climate activists have assailed the Aquino administration for what it described as “snail-paced” rehabilitation of areas ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda two years ago.

In a statement, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice complained that no one has been punished for the alleged anomalies surrounding the relief efforts.

“It has been two years since Yolanda made landfall and it seems as if the administration has long moved on from the wreckage caused by the storm,” Philippine Movement for Climate Justice legal counsel Aaron Pedrosa said.

“While the Ombudsman has consistently dismissed and suspended various officials, no one has been held accountable for the anomalies surrounding the relief operations as per the findings of the Commission on Audit (CoA) and this whole failure of a rehabilitation,” he added.

The government’s relief and rehabilitation efforts in Yolanda-affected communities have been plagued with allegations of mismanagement and corruption.

Among the issues raised by critics were the supposed failure to deliver aid on time, the alleged irregularities in the awarding of contracts, food packs that were reportedly lost to spoilage, unused cash donations, and alleged anomalies in the distribution of shelters.

The movement also scored the increased corporate participation in the rehabilitation efforts, which, it claimed, allowed the proliferation of resorts and similar businesses in the typhoon-hit areas.

“Handing over the reins of the rehabilitation process to corporations who have no accountability to the Filipino people was a sign that the Aquino government was, and continues to be, more than willing to unburden itself of its obligation to the Filipino people,” said Pascualito Ilagan, a professor at the Eastern Visayas State University and Philippine Movement for Climate Justice convenor for Eastern Visayas.

“This seemingly lack of foresight from our government caused the rehabilitation efforts to become another venue for corporations to find new ways of making profit and inevitably disregards the needs of a people who are already suffering and struggling to recover,” he added.

The government has claimed gains in the rehabilitation of Yolanda-struck areas.

Close to 12,000 houses for Yolanda survivors have been completed while more than 77,000 others are undergoing construction, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). A total of 115,309 housing units are still in various stages of procurement.

NEDA said the government has provided emergency shelter assistance to more than 717,000 families.

The government also claimed to have distributed more than 47,000 boats, close to 76,000 sets of fishing gears and paraphernalia, more than 14,000 farm tools, 138 tractors and other machineries, and more than 92,000 bags of seeds.

Climate activists also demanded accountability from developed countries that contributed to climate change because of their greenhouse emissions. The use of fossil fuel has been linked to changes in the climate and extreme weather conditions.

Gerry Arances, national coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, said the developed countries should take responsibility for their actions and pay for reparations.

“At the climate change negotiations in Paris less than a month from now, world leaders and negotiators must commit to drastic and ambitious emissions cuts in order to prevent stronger and more frequent ‘Yolandas’ from happening,” Arances said.

Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will hold their 21st session in Paris from November 30 to December 11 to discuss ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

Some countries, however, are hesitant to commit to emission reduction targets, believing this could affect economies and industries that are heavily dependent on coal.

“While there is still time, developed countries must undertake concrete actions, such as the immediate phase-out of fossil fuel projects, and the removal of incentives and funding from the fossil fuel industry, so that the entire planet may stand a chance in averting catastrophic climate crisis,” Arances said.

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