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More scraps over typhoon aid

PALO (UCAN) : Almost two years after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the central Philippines, survivors continue to point to government failure to deliver assistance.

“The government clearly does not have the heart for us, the children of the storm,” Dean Lacandazo, a spokesperson for People Surge, an alliance of typhoon victims, said after some 500 boats, which were supposed to be distributed to fishing communities in the area, were found rotting in a coastal village near Palo.

They were donated by a private company for distribution among people from the fishing sector who lost their boats during the typhoon that killed some 7,500 people in Leyte.

“If the government feels what the poor survivors are feeling, the loss, the hunger, the uncertainty, then surely, it would release the items immediately,” Lacandazo commented.

The controversy over the boats came on the heels of a report by the government Commission on Audit that the Philippine Social Welfare Office failed to spend about US$8 million ($62 million) in cash donated to survivors of the typhoon.

The state audit agency also noted that the Social Welfare Office still has not distributed a further US$3 million ($23.25 million) worth of food packs in disaster-affected regions.

Social welfare secretary, Corazon Soliman, denied the report, saying, “Responding to the needs of disaster victims is of primary importance to us.”

She told the media, “We ensure that goods are not wasted and that they benefit the people.” She also maintained that no relief goods are rotting in warehouses.

Father Chris Arthur Militante, a spokesperson for the archdiocese of Palo, called for shared responsibility in the recovery and rehabilitation efforts in affected communities.

“We are at the stage wherein communities are being sustained in their livelihood, in their different projects in their communities,” he said.

He refused to compare the initiatives of the archdiocese with the efforts made by the government in helping disaster victims.

“We are just here to help in whatever way we can, with the good (of all) in mind,” Father Militante said, adding that he believes the government has good intentions in its rehabilitation projects.

He urged the people not to focus on receiving help only from the government.

“We should encourage all Filipinos to be serious in extending help to others,” he added.

Margareta Wahlstrom, the United Nations special envoy on disaster risk reduction, lauded recovery efforts in the region during her visit on September 15.

“It was encouraging to see how much progress they have had in two years,” she commented.