What you are seeing are 12,000 survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hailing from across the islands of Leyte and Samar that have gathered last January 25 in a massive protest action—the biggest, they say, that the Eastern Visayas region has ever seen in recent years—demanding compensation and justice in response to the criminal negligence and utter incompetence of the national government under President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in preparing and responding to the impacts of Haiyan.
The enormous mobilization was the culmination of a series of activities that launched the “People Surge,” a broad alliance of victims of Typhoon Yolanda based in the Eastern Visayas region seeking to claim social, environmental and climate justice.
Haiyan survivors have much to be incensed about – the Aquino administration has cut off relief delivery by the end of December 2013 and announced that it is already proceeding to recovery and reconstruction. To this, Rowena Berio, a 36 year-old mother of five and Haiyan survivor from Tacloban City who was rendered homeless and jobless by the disaster, said: “Help from government? What government? The only help we get is from the international organizations. Instead of helping us, they (the government) want to evict us from our homes and livelihood.”
Rowena is just one of the countless survivors hailing from interior villages and dislocated coastal communities who have received little or no assistance from the government’s relief efforts almost three months after Haiyan made its landfall. Compounding the survivors’ woes is the no-build zone policy that government imposed over the devastated coastal areas, which supposedly removed settlements away from the hazards presented by storm surges, but divorced the fisher folk and other coastal communities from shelter and livelihoods in the process.
We learned earlier this month how the bunkhouses constructed by the government as temporary shelter of survivors were grossly substandard and overpriced. Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo Lacson has also pronounced that government will leave majority of the reconstruction and recovery efforts to 9 giant corporations, most of which have track records in demolishing urban poor communities and green spaces (such as SM and Ayala Corporations), and promoting coal and other dirty or destructive energy projects (such as Aboitiz Foundation and the Lopez Group of Companies).
The survivors and advocates under People Surge are bravely making a stand against this mounting crisis of climate injustice. We linked up to this historic action through the second national relief caravan mounted by BALSA and supported by Brigada Kalikasan, where our volunteers delivered sustained relief aid to at least 6,000 families across Eastern Visayas and joined the mobilization. But this is only the beginning. Sr. Edita Eslopor, a Benedictine sister and chairperson of People Surge, said that “this is just the first of a series of protests that will fill the streets of major cities across the country in indignation of the Aquino administration.”
These are truly exciting times for the Philippine climate movement. We are closely following the developments of this movement for justice, and hope for solidarity and support from everyone who continue to stand with us in this struggle!
Reference: Leon Dulce, 350 Pilipinas Volunteer