By Argyll Cyrus Geducos and Marie Tonette Grace Marticio
PALO/TACLOBAN CITY –Five years after the destructive typhoon “Yolanda” hit several parts of the Visayas region, Malacañang is looking into the complete rehabilitation of affected areas in two years.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement on the fifth anniversary of the devastation that killed at least 6,000 people.
In a press briefing, Panelo said the rehabilitation is just taking time because of considerations.
“Hopefully within the year or two years. Depends on the situation,” he said.
“There are certain constraints like you have to look for type of lands to build houses for them, you have to look at the place where the people may need certain services that are not there. So it takes a little time. But certainly the government is doing its best,” he added.
As of December 2017, government has already released P146 billion to national agencies. Half of the funds were allotted for housing programs and ancillary basic utilities.
Administration senatorial candidates Jinggoy Estrada and Imee Marcos said if they make it to the Senate they will inquire what happened to the billions of government funds and monetary donations that were supposed to aid survivors of super typhoon Yolanda and determine accountability.
Panelo said Yolanda left a hard lesson for the government to assist those affected with more compassion and more urgency.
“As we pay tribute to the sacrifices and support of those who were on the front lines of responding to the calamity, as well as all the nations, agencies, and organizations that helped us overcome the ordeal, we commend the exemplary resilience of our own people, which in the face of adversity, have remained steadfast,”Panelo said.
A mass was celebrated in Palo Cathedral Thursday to remember those who perished from ‘Yolanda’ fury.
Over 1,000 bodies were buried in the mass grave inside the cathedral’s compound, but only 291 have been identified.
Rev. Fr. Sunny Quejada, the mass celebrant reminded the people to be thankful for a second chance at life.
“Continue your mission through serving others because you were spared from the typhoon by God,” he told those present.
Those who died, he said should not be forgotten.
“We should not forget them. Instead they should fuel us to continue with our lives. Their earthly life has ended because they are already with God,” he noted.
After the mass, the families offered flowers and blue balloons forming a rosary to their departed loved ones.
White doves were also released.
RemediosOronos, 58, from Barangay 84 Manlurip, San Jose District is among those still awaiting word from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on their missing relatives.
Remedios lost her 16-year old son and 6-year old grandson in the storm surge.
“Hindi namin naintindihan ang storm surge. Akala namin hangin lang kaya hindi kami lumikas doon lang kami sa bahay. Noong umalon ng malakas tinangay ang bahay namin nagkahiwa-hiwalay kami at sumabit sa mga puno. Nakita ko ‘yung anak at apo ko hindi nakakapit kaya naanod sila, (It was the first time we encountered a storm surge. Prior to ‘Yolanda’ we did not know about it. We thought it was just a strong wind so we just stayed in the house. When the strong waves came, it destroyed and washed away our house and we were scattered. Some family members clung on trees to be saved but my son and grandson drowned,” she recounted.
To remember a lost relative, Remedios said some families just wrote the names of the missing relative on crosses buried on the ground where they can offer candles and prayers.
She hopes the NBI can help identify the remains in the mass grave so that she can give her son and grandson a proper burial.
The Disaster Victims Identification Team of the NBI in Manila isin-charge of the cross-matching between the survivors and cadavers.
As of July 21, 2016, only 35 bone samples of the 2,284 samples from the victims were processed.
A letter signed by Demelen Dela Cruz of NBI-DNA Lab stated that they have not yet started the cross-matching since all the reference and bone samples were not processed yet. Their operation has also stopped in September 2015 due to lack of reagents and were still waiting for the delivery of all the DNA kits and consumables to finish all the examinations and identification.
Leyte Governor MicPetillasaid he has not also received updates on the DNA cross-matching from the NBI. The province reportedly lost at least 2,700 to ‘Yolanda.’
“If it takes time, let us just continue with our lives. Let us not focus on the negative, but think on how we can improve our lives because I know it’s not easy, but hopefully the results would come out in the future,” Petilla said. (With a report from Ellson A. Quismorio)