December 9, 2013
The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today called on typhoon Yolanda victims to press for a pro-people rehabilitation framework for affected provinces and comminites. The call came one month after the storm destroyed significant areas of Eastern Visayas and some areas of Panay Island, Palawan and Mindoro.
“The rehabilitation framework of the government should consider the fact that Eastern Visayas is a very underdeveloped economy, and is the third poorest region in the country. It is a region that has registered the highest incidence of hunger. It depends greatly on agriculture and fisheries. Government must ensure that the socio-economic rights of the people are upheld,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“We are gravely concerned with the pronouncement of so-called rehabilitation czar, incoming secretary Panfilo Lacson, that the rehab program would be led by the private sector with government taking only the role of ‘enabler’. The rights and interests of the people, especially of the poor, will not necessarily be a priority under such a regime,” Reyes said.
Bayan said that if big business take the lead in rehab efforts, marginalized sectors may not be assured that their interests will also be at the forefront. It cited an example the relocation of the urban poor who are said to live in so-called danger areas. “Is the government preparing a housing program for the poor residents it plans to displace in the name of safety? Will there be livelihood programs in the areas where they will be relocated?” Reyes asked.
The group said that reconstruction in affected areas should be geared towards the building of public infrastructure which should include mass housing, schools, hospitals, water and power facilities. Government should have a program for mass employment geared towards rebuillding these public infrastructure.
Bayan also said that the needs of the farmers and fisherfolk should be immediately addressed. This includes genuine land reform in the countryside along with government support services. Government should also help in providing motorized bancas for the coastal communities ravaged by the storm.
International probe of government response
The umbrella goup also pressed the Philippine government to subject itself to international scrutiny over the way it prepared for the calamity and how it responded to the humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of Yolanda/Haiyan. This would be more objective than the probe being proposed by Aquino, the group said.
The Philippine government should issue a standing invitation to all relevant UN mechanisms, monitors, rapporteurs or panels who may have an interest in looking at the record of the Philippine government in relation to Yolanda/Haiyan. These may include the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, the Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights and the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.
“The independent international probe is necessary to draw lessons from what happened before and after Yolanda. The Philippine government must be held to account and must be pressed to undertake necessary steps towards effective disaster preparedness for the future,” Reyes said.