The 20,000-strong disaster survivors’ group People Surge in Northern Samar echoed the long-running calls for pro-people rehabilitation after four years of neglect by the government in a conference held in Catarman, Northern Samar last November 3. Jemmar Tenedero, the newly-elected People Surge Provincial Chairperson, also slammed the government’s anti-people agenda resulting in the crippled recovery of the 11 million disaster victims.
Disaster after disaster
Completely ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda, the province also suffered from four other typhoons of almost similar intensity, which further aggravated the deterioration of quality in Northern Samar’s livelihoods.
“Prior to Yolanda, we were already poor. After these typhoons, we got even poorer,” Tenedero said. He also added that the arrival of these typhoons brought them nothing but increasing rate of hunger and intensifying poverty.
Northern Samar, a primarily agriculture-based province, has been unstable since the onset of the powerful typhoons. “Numerous coconut trees fell during the devastation of these disastrous typhoons. This resulted in a low production of coconuts and the trees that we planted have yet to grow,” added Tenedero.
According to a statement released by People Surge, data from the Department of Agriculture showed that there has been a steady drop in rice production in Northern Samar in the past three years. “In 2014, rice production in the province was at 117,965 metric tons but in 2016, it dropped to 111,086 metric ton,” the article reads. There has also been a drop in the production of abaca fibers, coconuts and other local produce for the past four years.
Call for response
People Surge condemns the lack of response from the Aquino and Duterte administrations over the course of the post-Haiyan recovery. The Aquino administration’s refusal to conduct on-the-ground investigations on disaster-struck areas, paired with the continuous denial of criminal neglect has rendered the disaster victims extreme poverty.
“The Nona Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Plan (NRRP) 2016-2019 brushes the agricultural sector in the margins and contains provisions such as the ‘No Build Zone’ policy that opens the floodgates for demolitions in the name of rehabilitation. Private businesses will surely seize the rehabilitation phase as the opportunity to amass profit,” Tenedero added.
People Surge spokesperson Marissa Cabaljao also reiterated that the No Build Zone Policy would only result in the displacement and relocation of numerous families to underdeveloped relocation sites. She also added that this would result in poverty increase that the region has long been suffering from. The alliance then strongly criticized the slow distribution of financial assistance for the livelihood of the survivors.
Militarization instead of Rehabilitation
The alliance also reported cases of human rights violations perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
According to Tenedero, numerous military groups are building a camp in multiple towns in Northern Samar. Reports of threats, harassments, red tagging, surveillance, and intimidation have been recorded, most of which are directed to farmers.
Katungod – Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights also received reports of military occupation of town centers and establishments such as schools and barangay halls. Armed forces continue to harass the local civilians through illegal detention and military activities like strafing.
In Northern Samar, barrio folks of Sumuroy in Lope de Vega and Geparayan in Silvino Lobos were forced to evacuate to their town proper due to intensifying militarization.
People Surge is set to stage a large protest rally on November 8, as it has done for three consecutive years. The chapter in Northern Samar is also set to stage a local mobilization on the same day in commemoration of the 4th anniversary of supertyphoon Yolanda.