MANILA — Rehabilitation czar Sec. Panfilo Lacson assured victims of super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ (international name ‘Haiyan’) that the government would not demolish bunkhouses they’re temporarily occupying at present.
“There’s no basis for evicting them from those bunkhouses if there are no relocation sites where they can transfer to already,” he said.
He gave the assurance as allegations surfaced that the government might demolish the bunkhouses in preparation for Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines next year.
“People must beware of wrong information,” Lacson warned.
‘Yolanda’ plowed through Central Philippines on Nov. 8 last year, killing over 6,000 people and nearly destroying everything in its path.
Experts cited ‘Yolanda’ as the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall so far in the world’s recorded history.
Destruction from ‘Yolanda’ covered a total 171 cities andmunicipalities in 14 provinces across six regions, noted Lacson.
In its latest available update on the calamity, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said a total 6,293 people were reported dead from ‘Yolanda’ as of April 3 this year.
NDRRMC said ‘Yolanda’ also left 28,689 people injured and 1,061 others missing.
‘Yolanda’ likewise totally damaged 550,928 houses and partially destructed 589,404 dwellings.
Following such devastation, government and its partners provided bunkhouses and tents to ‘Yolanda’ victims so they can temporarily shelter there.
Citing international standards, Lacson said the bunkhouses could serve as temporary shelter for two years.
“Occupants of bunkhouses must transfer to their permanent housing after that period,” he said.
He also said people must occupy tents for up to two months only.
Such hasn’t happened yet in Leyte province’s capital Tacloban City and Eastern Samar province’s Guiuan municipality, he said.
The social welfare department promised zero occupancy in tents by the end of this year, however, he said.
Authorities said Pope Francis is scheduled to be in the Philippines from Jan. 15 to 19 next year.
They noted during such visit, the spotlight won’t be on Pope Francis but on communities ‘Yolanda’ devastated.
The Pope will be with people of Leyte province’s Tacloban City and Palo municipality as they recount their stories of survival, pray for their dead and continue rebuilding their lives, authorities said.
Pope Francis’ forthcoming visit is also in response to civil authorities’ invitation so he can meet the faithful in Manila, they said.
Lacson said in July, work in the ‘Yolanda’ areas alreadytransitioned from relief and humanitarian aid to rehabilitation and recovery.
“We’re fast-tracking the work to help the ‘Yolanda’ victims and not because of the forthcoming papal visit,” he said.
Earlier, government prioritized for permanent housing development some 60,000 families in six regions ‘Yolanda’ ravaged.
Government’s shelter production arm National Housing Authority (NHA) spearheads efforts to build housing units for people affected by ‘Yolanda.’
NHA general manager Chito Cruz earlier said the agency targets commencing in 2015 its relocation of people.
He said the agency is looking at such timetable, expecting to deliver beginning June 2015 the bulk of the partial 46,000 housing units that will be turned over to people concerned.
“Between June and November, we’ll start relocating most of the affected people to their respective units,” he said.
Government already released to NHA PHP 13.5 billion for the units’ construction, he continued.
He said government also approved an additional PHP9 billion budget for ‘Yolanda’ housing.
If government releases such additional budget, he added NHA can increase its output to some 76,000 units.