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Home at Last

Yolanda survivors find a ‘roof over their heads’ in Tacloban North resettlement

By Focus FeaturesJanuary 22, 2017

Three years ago, Eriberto Basinang returned home to find his house gone. The storm surge created by Typhoon Yolanda washed out the coastal community of Alimasag where his house stood. Despite the loss of his home, Eriberto considered himself lucky and his family, who had evacuated before the storm, blessed. Alimasag was located in San Jose, a district in Tacloban that faces the Pacific Ocean where the storm came from. Sustaining thousands of casualties, San Jose was the most badly-hit area of Tacloban.

Three years later, Eriberto, now 65, returns home every day to find his house intact. His new house is located on a hillside north of the city. His family now belongs to a new community, the Pope Francis Village-SM Cares, consisting of Yolanda survivors from all over Tacloban.

Since moving into their new house in May 2016, Eriberto and his family are making a new life for themselves far from worry and disaster.

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Mas kabado kami doon [sa dati naming bahay at lugar]. Dito, yung kaba, pinansyal lang. Doon, lahat. Kakabahan ka na may malaking alon na darating kapag masama ang panahon (We were very worried before in our previous house. Here, our worry is only financial. There, we worry about everything. We were always worried about strong waves especially during bad weather),” said Eriberto’s wife, Elucia.

Their neighbor, Jobel Subito, 26, shares the Basinang family’s sentiments. He is thankful for his new home but at the same time, it is a challenge to find livelihood in the area.

Libre ang bahay dito kaysa sa doon [sa dati kong bahay] delikado pa kapag bagyo (Our house now is free compared to before, which was dangerous to live in during typhoons),” said Jobel.  “Alam mo naman kung sa tabing dagat, baka tumaas na naman. Mas mabuti na dito. Safety pa. (If near the ocean, storm surges may happen. It is better here, safer too.)”

Jobel and his family moved into their new house in April 2016. The remnants of a beached ship turned into a Yolanda monument and tourist attraction marks the location of their former house in Anibong, a seaside district located in downtown Tacloban.

Then and now, Jobel sells fishballs to earn a living. He currently sells fishballs outside his village. He earns about P100 to P200 every day. Before, he used to sell downtown. He used to earn double or triple what he earns now. But peace of mind with having a new, stable home, is more than enough to make him grateful.

Go North

The Pope Francis Village-SM Cares, the community where the Basinang and Subito families belong to, is part of the Tacloban North resettlement project for Yolanda survivors. When completed, Tacloban North will be home to more than 15,000 families.

The resettlement project, Tacloban North, is named for its location, 10 to 16 kilometers north of downtown Tacloban, near the San Juanico Bridge. According to Ted Jopson, officer-in-charge of the City Housing and Community Development Office (CHCDO) of Tacloban, the area was selected because of its protection from environmental disasters.

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“We’d rather move to the North because it’s safe. That’s the reason,” said Ted citing studies made by JAICA (Japanese Agency for International Cooperation) and other NGOs that revealed Tacloban’s vulnerability to storm surges and tsunamis.

Ted acknowledges that the resettlement process is slow because of its scale and the funds needed. “We’re talking about moving 40 percent of the population of Tacloban to the North. That’s a lot of people and money needed to make it happen,” he revealed.

To plan for the massive exodus of people, the Tacloban City government designed the Tacloban North Integrated Development Plan. The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) approved the plan in 2016.

According to the development plan, the Tacloban North project requires about P15 billion. Almost P10 billion is needed for housing and about P5 billion is for non-housing needs. Non-housing includes transferring beneficiaries to their new homes in Tacloban North. Meanwhile, non-housing includes creating livelihood opportunities for the resettled residents.

The Tacloban North project is a three-year plan from 2016 to 2018. The National Housing Authority (NHA) is responsible for building the majority of the houses for resettlement (13,165) while the private sector, composed primarily of international and local NGOs, has committed to building a significant number (2,629).

As of the end of 2016, over 4,744 families have moved into the 15,794 houses earmarked for resettlement (30.04%). Over 3,357 families have moved into houses built by the NHA (25.50%) while 1,397 families have moved into houses built by the private sector (52.76%).

Ted admits that the implementation of the Tacloban North development plan has not been according to schedule primarily because of lack of funds. As of the submission of the development plan in June 2016, P4.85 billion out of the total P15 billion needed had yet to be formally committed for the project.

Aside from building houses, Ted points out that the government needs to provide basic services such as water, utilities, wastewater treatment, schools, and livelihood.

“The city cannot have that kind of money. And if it’s a national government project, such as the NHA, it should be the national government, especially the water system,” he said.

Ted notes that water is delivered every day to Tacloban North because the area currently has no water line. “So there is a daily routine that we have to provide water through water tankers. So we deliver water although it’s very expensive on the part of the city but it’s our duty. It’s our responsibility,” he said.

Between two worlds

Jackielyn Hermano takes care of six children in her new home at the GMA-Kapuso Village in Tacloban North. Her husband is a fisherman who goes out to sea every day in their old neighborhood in San Jose, about 20 kilometers away from Tacloban North. He leaves home early every day and comes back late every night. On some nights, her husband doesn’t come home at all.

Minsan, di siya umuuwi. Makalawang araw na kasi nagtitipid sa pamasahe (Sometimes, he does not come back home. He would rather go home every other day to save fare),” Jackielyn said.

The city government provides free shuttle buses to ferry residents of Tacloban North to their places of work in downtown Tacloban and other areas. But the buses cannot accommodate everyone.

Working adults are not the only ones caught between two places. Schoolchildren are affected, too.

Ted reveals that a number of families delay their transfer to their new homes in the North because their children are still studying in the areas they are meant to leave.

“Basically when families transfer to the North, they still have children studying where they originally lived. They bring some of their things, basically clean up the place, but they still live in that area,” he noted, mentioning that these families usually move in the second quarter of the school year or by the summer.

While the government acknowledges the situation of these families, Ted points out that they will eventually have to move: “Because they cannot own two houses at the same time.”

For a number of housing beneficiaries, moving to a new home means leaving behind their former lives, including their former sources of livelihood.

Joel Aradana and Juvilyn Luaña were both widowed by Typhoon Yolanda. After the storm, they found each other and are now living together at the GMA Kapuso Village in Tacloban North.

A fisherman in his old coastal community of Alimasag in San Jose, Joel now does construction work in his new community. He says that work in Tacloban North is not regular. In fact, he admits he has been jobless for about half a month.

Noon, hindi na kailangan bumili ng ulam kasi mangingisda naman ako (Before, I don’t even have to buy food because I am a fisherman),” Joel confessed.

While they miss their former coastal neighborhood and are now facing a different kind of challenge, the couple expresses their gratitude for their new house.

Sa bahay walang problema. Sa hanapbuhay na lang. Matatag at maayos ang pagkatira namin dito. Pag nag-uulan o nag-babagyo, wala kaming proproblemahin (We have no problem in our home. Only our livelihood. We are living here very well. If it rains or storms, we don’t have any problem),” they said.