Seven years after the destructive super typhoon Yolanda hit the country, the government has so far built more than than 135,000 houses for the storm victims and vowed to complete the remaining units before the end of President Duterte’s term.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles admitted that the construction of these permanent houses has been delayed due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic but committed to hasten the project and facilitate the turnover to the beneficiaries.
Nograles is head of the inter-agency task force assigned to ensure the completion of the permanent housing program as part of the rehabilitation program. The term of the task force was supposed to end last August but was extended by President Duterte until June 30, 2022 to facilitate the completion of the housing project.
Of the original target of 198,528 houses, Nograles, head of the inter-agency task force on the Yolanda, said 135,189 units have so been completed while 32,222 are under construction.
With the additional P7.4 billion budget to build 20,615 units, he said authorities have completed 576 units while 5,036 are being built.
“Ang total nakumpleto na is 135,765 housing units at ongoing 38,058 (In total, we have completed 135,765 housing units while 38,058 are ongoing construction),” the Palace official said during a forum on Facebook Saturday night.
"Yung ating pag-alala sa mga naging biktima nito mula sa Region 6, 7 at sa Region 8 mula sa Tacloban, Leyte, sa Samar, sa buong Kabisayaan, siyempre lagi kayong nasa isip namin. Kami sa task force Yolanda, tuloy-tuloy ang pagtatrabaho natin. Yung pagbiigay ng housing units para sa naging biktima ng typhoon Yolanda. Kung mayroon man mga delays, pinapaspasan na natin ito at tuloy-tuloy na ang mga turnovers natin para mabilisan na mabigay na, maipamahagi sa mga biktima ng typhoon Yolanda ang mga libreng pabahay na handog ng ating pamahalaan (We remember the victims of the typhoon, those from Region 6,7,8, from Tacloban, Leyte, Samar, the entire Visayas, of course you are always on our mind. We, the task force Yolanda, continue to work to turn over housing units for typhoon Yolanda victims. If there have been delays, we are hastening the process to facilitate the turnover of units, to share the government's free houses to Yolanda victims)," he said.
Nograles said while the life of the task force has been extended until June 2022, the group aims to complete the housing program before the President steps down from office.
He said task force has sought the help of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) to hasten the processing of permits and other paperwork for the housing project. He also they also closely coordinate with concerned government agencies to address any delay in the implementation of the housing program, from environmental clearance to water and power connection.
"Minsan nade-delay dahil kailangan pa ng mga environmental clearance o itong mga kinakailangan sa DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources). Minsan pinapatawag namin ang DENR paano ba natin ma-facilitate ang pagpapabilis ang mga necessary permits para mapatayuan ng bahay (Sometimes it has been delayed due to environmental clearance or other requirements from the DENR. We sometimes called the attention of DENR on how we can speed up the necessary permits for the housing construction),” he said.
Nograles said if red tape remains a problem for the Yolanda housing program, he would ask for the assistance of the President. “Hopefully kaya na ng ARTA ito (hopefully, ARTA can address this),” he said.
He said the beneficiaries of the free housing program will still be vetted by the National Housing Authority as well as the concerned local government unit
On the seventh anniversary of the Yolanda onslaught, Nograles said there would be no grand commemoration of the event due to the safety concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, he said concerned local government units urged the public to light a candle at 6 p.m. Sunday in memory of the victims of the typhoon.
The super typhoon Yolanda left a large trail of death and destruction in several areas, including Leyte, Samar, Biliran, Negros Occidental, Cebu, Capiz, Aklan, Antique, Iloilo, Masbate, Palawan and Dinagat Islands on November 8, 2013. The Category 5 typhoon was considered as one of the largest and strongest typhoon recorded at landfall.
Duterte formed the task force Yolanda in 2017 to ensure the efficient coordination among government agencies involved in the Yolanda rehabilitation program. The permanent housing program aims to "build houses and create livable, thriving and disaster-resilient communities under a township approach where resettlements shall be provided not only with the basic necessities of water and electricity but also with solid infrastructures such as daycare centers, health centers and school buildings within or nearby the housing project sites," the President's order read.