Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats president Martin Romualdez once again expressed gratitude to Filipinos, local and international donors for showing “malasakit” and compassion by helping the Tacloban City recover from the devastation of Super Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ that hit country five years ago.
“You have inspired us and lifted our spirits. As you can see we have come a long way and we will continue to work together,” Romualdez, a returning Leyte congressman, told Manila-based reporters as the nation commemorates this Thursday the fifth year of the monster storm.
“Salamat po sa inyong malasakit sa amin para muli kaming makatayo. Magpapatuloy po ang buhay at tinitingnan namin lagi sa positibong bagay ang lahat,” said Romualdez, a former House Independent Bloc Leader of the previous 16th Congress and a three-term Leyte congressman.
Citing Taclobanons’ malasakit to each other, Romualdez lauded them as restaurants and shops have bustled again in the city.
“Before, the city was nearly completely destroyed because of the typhoon that killed thousands of residents here and destroyed billions of properties, thanks for the “malasakit” of Taclobanons to one another and the city has been recovering,” Romualdez said.
Leyte Rep. Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt-Romualdez joined her husband, Martin Romualdez who vowed to continue building permanent homes, create better job opportunities and sustainable livelihood for Yolanda survivors.
“Now we have seen that so much progress has been achieved in building back our communities even better, and we have to thank the help of our Filipino and foreign friends as well as our national and local government for their continued leadership and support in the rehabilitation efforts,” said Yedda Romualdez, adding that Tacloban City has been recovering as new malls, restaurants and hotels have rose since Yolanda hit the country on Nov. 8, 2013.
Martin Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association, said local leaders are doing its best for the people of Tacloban City.
“Walang imposible basta nagmamalasakit tayo sa isat-isa. Puwede at posible ang lahat,” Martin Romualdez said.
In the Senate, Senator Sonny Angara called for the creation of one-stop-shops under a law that would help hasten the release of foreign aid as more relief goods for calamity victims end up wasted after years of being held up by red tape in ports.
He cited the need to build a one-stop-shop so that there will be a designated go-to office from foreign donations.
“The arrival of calamities in our country is year-round so there should be a permanent office that will fix and approve papers for assistance sent by other countries,” he said.
Angara said Republic Act 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), which he sponsored, sought the release of calamity aid “without tax and without delay” and, in effect, spells out the establishment of express lanes for emergency relief.
“It is clear in the law that if they are help for the victims of calamity, it should have ‘tax-free’ and ‘do not delay tags,” said Angara.
Just last month, four shipping containers full of donations for survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in northern Cebu in 2013 had to be destroyed after the items had already expired.
Lamenting the burning of relief goods almost five years after they have arrived, Angara said, “Ang dapat sunugin ay hindi ang relief goods kundi ang mga regulations na nagpapatagal sa pag-release nito. Hindi na ito dapat maulit.”
Angara also sponsored Senate Bill 1596 which seeks to declare November 8 as a special non-working public holiday in Eastern Visayas to be known as “Typhoon Yolanda Resiliency Day.”
The CMTA, which was enacted in May 2016, devoted two sections on how “food, medicine, equipment, shelter materials donated or leased to the government for free distribution to or use by calamity victims” shall be exempt from duties and taxes.
Moreover, the clearance of relief consignment shall be a matter of priority and subject to a simplified customs procedure.
To implement such provisions, the Department of Finance and the Department of Social Welfare and Development have issued a draft joint department order for the creation of a one-stop-shop facility for relief consignment.
The main one-stop-shop facility shall be located at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, while satellite facilities may also be established in the port nearest the area where the calamity occurred.
Meanwhile, Save the Children Philippines continues psychosocial counseling for child survivors in communities devastated by Yolanda five years after the storm affected some 1.5 million children.
Lawyer Albert Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines will visit Ormoc in Leyte province on November 8 to assess programs that empower child survivors to be resilient and secure their livelihood and employment opportunities.
Save the Children Philippines has shifted from relief and recovery to building the resilience of child survivors and livelihood for parents in the typhoon-hit areas.
“Our experience from Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) taught us hard lessons that children face the greatest struggle to survive and recover in times of disasters,” said Muyot in a statement.
Save the Children Philippines aims to provide a lifeline to children at risk during disasters and emergencies. These include protection from diseases and starvation to potential exploitation and abuse, said Muyot.
The group has assisted close to a million children in typhoon-hit areas in the Visayas through water sanitation and hygiene activities, establishing Child-Friendly Spaces to protect them from physical and gender-based abuses and provide Temporary Learning Spaces (TLS) that allow them to resume classes and help them recover from psychological trauma.
In 2015, Save the Children Philippines implemented the Child Sensitivity program that addresses inter-generational poverty among Haiyan affected families in Leyte. The program strengthened child protection and welfare component of the government’s conditional cash transfer known as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.
In Ormoc, the group started the Child Sensitive Social Protection (CSSP) in January 2017 that links 4Ps cash transfer programs to improving livelihood of poor families in Haiyan devastated provinces and building the resilience of child survivors. The CSSP program covers psychosocial healing of Haiyan child survivors under ages 13-17 so they can be resilient and equipped in pursuing livelihood and employment. The program allows sharing of “ups and downs” experience among child survivors of Typhoon Haiyan as part of psychosocial healing and build coping mechanism.
“Child survivors still cry when they recall their tragic experience losing loved ones and being displaced during typhoon Haiyan,” said Muyot. “The Haiyan experience has left lifelong scars among children who survived, healing takes time but it’s possible when we help improve their lives and secure a better future for them.”
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