Government funds power supply for 'Yolanda' houses

CARIGARA, Leyte -- The National Government will shoulder the cost of setting up electricity connections to houses built for Super Typhoon Yolanda survivors, the National Housing Authority (NHA) said on April 11.

During the grassroots consultation here, NHA-Eastern Visayas Regional Manager Rizalde Mediavillo said the National Electrification Administration (NEA) will download funds to electric cooperatives for the free electricity connection.

“We already forwarded the list of beneficiaries with awarded permanent housing units to NEA. This is the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to encourage beneficiaries to move to their new homes,” Mediavillo said.

The official did not cite the total budget for individual power connection, but said each housing unit would need an average of P5,000.

He admitted that many beneficiaries have refused to leave unsafe zones and transfer to resettlement sites because the houses are not yet ready for occupancy.

“We don’t want to see families returning to their old places near the shore because their new houses have no electricity and water,” Mediavillo added.

As for water, there are stopgap measures to address the immediate needs of families pending the completion of permanent water supply projects by the Local Water Utilities Authority.

However, Jojo Carlos, 50, a fisherman from this town’s coastal village of San Mateo, said they do not just need power in their new homes, but source of livelihood as well.

“What’s the point of having a new house if we have no money to buy food for our family? Fishing is my only source of livelihood,” Carlos told reporters.

The Community of Yolanda Survivors and Partners (CYSP), which was barred from joining the consultation at the Holy Cross College here, opposes the demolition of all structures occupying public land along the coastal area.

CYSP co-coordinator Rina Reyes said fishermen need their old houses to keep their fishing paraphernalia.

“They were promised a storage for their gears, but this too seemed to have been forgotten. In the meantime that they have no place to store their equipment, they are holding on to their old homes to hold their equipment and few prized possessions,” Reyes said.

The NHA has completed about half of the 56,000 targeted permanent houses in Eastern Visayas as of this month, according to Mediavillo.

In Leyte alone, the NHA conveyed during the consultation that P1.94 billion of the P4.5-billion budget for the province had already been disbursed for the construction of permanent houses. The government aims to complete all projects by 2019.

Presidential Adviser on Special Concerns Undersecretary Wendel Avisado has called for stronger coordination, consultation, and cooperation to complete all post-Yolanda projects.

“Consultations are very important if we want the national government to succeed in implementing programs, projects and activities, especially after disaster,” Avisado said.

The Palace official vowed to report to President Ropdrigo Duterte all concerns of survivors, local government units, and implementers from the national government.

The first leg of the series of consultations was held in relocation sites in Tacloban City on March 19-20. It was followed by dialogues in Basey, Samar (April 10); and Carigara, Leyte (April 11).

Upcoming consultations are to be held in Isabel, Leyte (April 12); Naval, Biliran (April 17); Silago, Southern Leyte; Guiuan, Eastern Samar (April 26); and Balangiga, Eastern Samar (April 27).

The activity gathers issues and concerns encountered by survivors in resettlement sites and convene concerned government agencies to identify interventions that would ensure sustainability of resettlement projects and improve their quality of life.

After the consultation, the Office of the President expects to formulate the multi-year post-resettlement program for submission and approval of the President and the inter-agency task force.

The consultation includes reporting of the status of projects for every cluster, open forum, and ocular inspection of resettlement sites.

The National Government has already released P146.15 billion for areas ravaged by the 2013 monster typhoon as of end of last year. (PNA)