Keep giving | Inquirer Opinion
Editorial

Keep giving

/ 09:47 PM February 01, 2014

It has been three months since Supertyphoon “Yolanda” ravaged the Visayas, and the devastation it wrought is no longer top of mind among the general public. Still, the hardships of the survivors are continuing despite their own efforts to pick up the pieces as well as the programs of the government, the private sector and the international community to help get them back on their feet.

The outpouring of aid and support immediately after the disaster was instantaneous, generous and heartwarming. But the magnitude of the devastation is such that material and financial assistance, infrastructure support, and livelihood programs are required for the long term, to enable the survivors to rebuild their lives. Livelihood programs are particularly important: Many residents of hard-hit Eastern Samar, for example, were engaged in fishing and farming before Yolanda upended their lives. Having lost not only their dwellings but also their fishing boats and their means of farming, the survivors are hard put to bounce back.

Inquirer correspondents report on the survivors’ enduring dire straits. Mayor Edgar Boco of Hernani, Eastern Samar, realizes that the help being extended to his impoverished town in terms of relief items will soon end. “That’s why we really would like our government to provide livelihood assistance to my people. They rely mainly on fishing and farming,” he said. The Senate agriculture committee and the Department of Agriculture recently sent coconut seedlings and fishing equipment to Hernani to help the townsfolk “restart their lives,” said the committee chair, Sen. Cynthia Villar. In Concepcion, Iloilo, fisherman Sonny Ciraco spoke of the crying need for him and his fellows to acquire new boats to replace those destroyed by Yolanda. “We can still live in shanties or tents but we cannot survive without boats and fishing gear,” he said. A Filipino group in South Korea called 601 Habit heard his plea and sent 73 boats. These, along with benefit concerts by local and foreign artists and operations intended to restore the agricultural capacity of the damaged areas, are meaningful occasions for gratitude and hope.

But even as the last families who had fled the devastation were airlifted from Manila back to their native towns, the situation on the ground remains difficult. Unthinkably, some people are still going hungry because aid cannot reach them. There are areas in Western Visayas that have not received aid at all, and there are areas that will need food aid for four more months at least, according to Jose Abraham Ongkiko, the regional coordinator of the United Nations Development Program’s Yolanda Response Program. “Recovery is still a long process even if the emergency situation could be declared over by early February,” Ongkiko said.

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All these mean that assistance, whether from local or international sources, is still very much needed. Most important, jobs are required as survivors cannot subsist entirely on doles. Their dignity and their very real needs will not allow it.

Employment is invaluable to rebuilding efforts. Data from the Department of Labor and Employment indicate that over 19,000 workers lost their jobs due to Yolanda. Recently, more than 3,000 people descended on the Leyte Normal University campus for a DOLE-organized job fair that gathered 17 local business and 36 recruitment agencies. The UNDP is maintaining its cash-for-work program in the provinces of Capiz, Iloilo and

Aklan, which primarily involves clearing schools and other institutional compounds, drainage canals and irrigation facilities of debris. Fallen coconut trees are also being cleared under the program, both to provide livelihood to coconut farmers and to utilize the coco lumber for rebuilding their houses.

The economic indicators are not encouraging even with the national government allocation of some P40 billion for rehabilitation. For just one indicator, only about 20 of the 15,000 businesses in Tacloban have applied for new business permits to resume operations, according to city treasurer Zosima Cordaño. Indeed, the task faced by the government is formidable. It is incumbent on everyone else to wrap their heads around the problem and pitch in. Remember the survivors of Yolanda. Let’s keep giving, keep helping.

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TAGS: Editorial, Giving, rehabilitation, typhoon `Yolanda

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