Residents of SM Cares Village, a resettlement site in Barangay New Kawayan, Tacloban City, complained on June 12, Tuesday, about the lack of supply of potable water in their village. A resident of SM Cares Village and Chairperson of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) Metro Tacloban Nestor Ronda claimed that the water system has been one of their main problems since their stay in the village.
According to Ronda, their only source of water is a well installed at the back of their village connected to pipes and a faucet to pump the water out to their residence. Despite the stench of the water and the diseases it might bring, residents still have to pay two pesos for every jug or 16 liters of the non-potable water. They still have to spend another thirty pesos for another jug of potable water which is good only for a one-day consumption. The village folks are even prohibited to access water from other relocation sites also due to water shortage in the areas.
Ronda questioned why the government is not exerting any effort to install water utility in their private housing site just like what it’s doing in relocation sites funded by the government. Relocatees in government-owned housing villages such as Ridgeview, however, also experience the same dilemma.
“It is clearly unfair that the government is making a blind eye on our situation here. Why can’t they give us water supply here if we, too, are Yolanda victims?” Ronda pressed.
The SM Cares housing village is one of the eighty-six relocation sites built for Yolanda survivors with 1,000 houses funded by SM Supermalls and its donors. In 2016, 400 families have acquired some of these houses.
At present, the residents of SM Cares urge the government and the corporation owning the village itself to take the necessary steps to address their problem on water supply as it has been long overdue.
Relocates push NHA for a one-month ultimatum
SM Cares is only one of the resettlement sites in Tacloban that do not have access to adequate water supply. In the last quarter of 2017, only 5 out of 86 resettlement areas have water supplied by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) and only 59 have power supplied by the National Electrification Administration (NEA), according to IBON Foundation’s research.
The LWUA and NEA work with local water districts and power distributors to provide water and electricity in the resettlement sites. The contractor and developers said that they were also asked to provide shallow wells resulting to the inadequate to almost no supply of either potable or non-potable water.
These pressing problems of the villagers have been resounding ever since their transfer to the relocation sites. On June 6, members of Kadamay Metro Tacloban confronted NHA on their inability to execute their responsibility such as providing basic utilities to the housing villages. On top of their demands are the immediate installation of water and electricity and the release of Title of Ownership.
After the series of dialogues, NHA agreed to the initial drilling and establishment of water and to download the fund for the electrification of the villages with which the NHA only has one month to finish the whole process.
Housing units and people for sale
NHA, in a dialogue with Kadamay Metro Tacloban, admitted that a Usufruct agreement exists between the government and private individuals where the former maximizes the land of the latter for the resettlement sites but private entities can freely demolish the residents installed in the specific portion of land they own as soon as they need them already. Also, NHA revealed that the relocatees will pay after five years of their stay. This brought chaos to the relocatees.
“You should provide us our right to own this land aside from our right to own our houses,” Kadamay Metro Tacloban Spokesperson Cris Durana said.
The substandard housing for Yolanda victims gained flak among folks across the region and even the whole country. During a public hearing on the Yolanda Housing Project headed by the Houses Representatives and was held at Tacloban City last September 1, Engr. Camilo Salazar of Tayag Builders, contractor of some of the resettlement sites, admitted that 505 housing units are not typhoon-resilient. He also exposed that the NHA could not manage the projects under them. The quality of these houses was tested during the series of disasters that hit the region. On June 6, 2017, in Ridgeview, the biggest relocation site in Tacloban, the walls of the houses started to break after the 6.5 magnitude earthquake hit the region. It was followed by series of typhoons like Vinta and Urduja in December 2017 and January 2018 respectively.
Based on NHA’s project proposal, P250,000.00-P300,000.00 will be spent for the construction of every unit. Kadamay Metro Tacloban later exposed that the materials used in the houses were substandard with only P100,000.00 spent on each unit as testified by the construction workers themselves. Some houses also lack door knobs, bulbs, and doors when it was granted to the beneficiaries as opposed to NHA’s project proposal where the unit should be completed and in quality condition before given to the beneficiaries.
Living in pennies to nothing
Experiencing the adverse effects of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law is the urban poor sector with the most unstable source of income yet consuming the costly basic commodities.
During the second quarter of 2017, over 2.55 billion pesos have been spent to provide a sustainable and appropriate livelihood for the victims of Yolanda. Over 113,550 million pesos has been spent for the Department of Labor and Employment’s Kabuhayan Program, or the DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP), which aims to give capital for individuals who are willing to be an entrepreneur or to open a small-scale business. Due to this projects’ framework, fisher folks who are transferred to the resettlement sites were forced to abandon their former job and to adopt the government’s livelihood package. However, despite these government data publicly released, Yolanda victims still seek for the livelihood promised to them by the government.
In the data presented by warehouse workers’ group Katirig-uban han mga Trabahador ha Hornal (KATRABAHO)—Kilusang Mayo Uno at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board last January-February 2018, it was shown that the average daily expense of a family of five is P406.75 with the increase of the prices of commodities already considered. This is almost 200% greater than their actual daily income which is P185.00-P200.00 only.
Katrabaho-KMU and Kadamay Metro Tacloban urge the government to end the implementation of TRAIN Law and to increase the standard minimum wage where Eastern Visayas has the lowest.