June 10, 2015
The Catholic Church through its social action arm has expressed alarm over reports of a so-called forced eviction of about 3,000 Typhoon Yolanda-affected families living in the danger zones of Tacloban City on July 1.
Citing reports, National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines Executive Secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez said the temporary shelters will be occupied by families for a minimum of two years while waiting for the completion of permanent houses by the National Housing Authority and non-government organizations.
“While the city government is denying that it is not forced eviction and is just a transfer option, this doesn’t seem the case. Why, in the first place, would they set a deadline for the people to vacate the area if it’s an option?” Gariguez said.
Most of these families are living at the communities along Old Road Sagkahan, which were among those badly hit by the storm surge when Super Typhoon Yolanda hit the city in 2013.
The city government of Tacloban initially planned to transfer the affected families on the first week of May but it was deferred due to the people’s request to celebrate first the Tacloban feast on June 30. There are 14,000 families living in the so-called danger zones of the city.
Gariguez said the affected families are opposing the local government’s proposal to transfer them from danger zones to temporary shelters in the northern villages of the city because of the grim situation there.
“There is no provision of electricity and water in the said relocation areas. This is aside from the fact that it is far from their sources of livelihood. We are therefore appealing to the city government of Tacloban to heed to our people’s call not to push through with the forced eviction or so-called transfer option until permanent shelters are available,” Gariguez stressed.
This was also supported by the leader of Barangay 31, Bong Iglesias, who is among those affected by the imminent eviction.
“I know how difficult the situation in the relocation areas because our family lived in the bunkhouses of the government for nine months after Yolanda hit. The houses here are even stronger and sturdier than the bunkhouses there. The relocation site is also a farmland when most of us are fishermen,” Iglesias lamented.
Urban Poor Associates Executive Director Denis Murphy, who is part of the group helping the displaced families in Tacloban, also cited the lack of due process in the planned eviction.
“The law requires that there should be an adequate notice and dialogue with the people. Apparently, there was no formal notice of eviction or transfer. The local city housing relayed the planned eviction verbally to the people. This is apart from the fact that the people have the right to relocation with adequate services and access to jobs,” Murphy explained.
‘Pope Francis Village’
Currently, a consortium is working on the development of the “Pope Francis Village”, a permanent in-city relocation site in Barangay Diit in Tacloban City which would accommodate at least 550 displaced families in the city. It is expected to be completed by next year. NASSA/Caritas Philippines has been providing technical expertise on the project.
“This model project only shows that in-city housing is possible. We can provide permanent housing to the people of Tacloban without taking them away from their livelihood,” Gariguez added.
The project is led by the Urban Poor Associates, Canadian Catholic for Development and Peace, NASSA/Caritas Philippines, the Archdiocese of Palo, and the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.
Aside from this, NASSA/Caritas Philippines in partnership with the Archdiocese of Palo-Relief and Rehabilitation Unit has been providing shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, livelihood and food security, and ecosystem recovery interventions in other parts of Leyte province for the second year now.
JING REY HENDERSON
Senior Communications Officer
(0905) 546-9977 / 525-1924