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‘Yolanda’ tragedy continues to this day

It was four years and eight months ago that super-typhoon “Yolanda” struck Eastern Visayas on November 8, 2013, killing over 6,300 people, causing damage to houses, roads and bridges, and other infrastructure estimated at R95.5 billion, and leaving 5.13 million homeless.

For months afterwards, there were reports of people still homeless, despite R160 billion appropriated by the government for a recovery master plan. But by March, 2016, over two years after “Yolanda,” only 10 percent of the planned 20,893 homes had been built, according to an alliance of community and government organizations called Community of Yolanda Survivors.

On the third anniversary of the super-typhoon in November, 2016, newly elected President Duterte led a remembrance ceremony in Tacloban City. The government had now increased its housing goal to 205,128 resettlement units, but according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), only 14 percent had been finished.

“Yolanda” has now been largely forgotten by the nation. But last week, “Yolanda” was remembered once again as Otis Bridge in Paco, Manila, was closed to traffic due to a 10-meter crack that caused a part of the concrete span to collapse. Found living below the bridge were three families, one of which had come from Eastern Samar. They were among the millions who had lost their homes to typhoon “Yolanda” and they had decided to seek a new life in Metro Manila.

In the last four years, Len Calago said she, her husband, and their two children had lived under the Otis Bridge, as the husband worked as a jeepney driver. She said their home in Samar had been destroyed in a landslide caused by “Yolanda” and a friend had offered the husband a job as jeepney driver in Manila. With a piece of tarpaulin to provide a little privacy and some protection from the weather, they had lived under Otis Bridge since 2014. But now, with Otis Bridge about to undergo repair, they will again be homeless.

The tragedy of “Yolanda” thus continues to this day in the lives of its victims like Len Calago and her family. The government might want to update its report on “Yolanda” and the plans it laid to help its victims. Have all the resettlement homes been completed by now? What can be done to help its victims who, like Calago and her family, continue to suffer homelessness and such great uncertainty in their lives?

And the Otis Bridge people are only part of the thousands of families without homes and without steady income. The administration’s “Build, Build, Build” spending program will somehow benefit them as its many projects will be creating construction jobs and spur economic activity that will provide other employment.

The government might also want to craft a plan, together with the private sector, focusing on creating jobs to help people like the people now living under Otis Bridge.