MEDIA STATEMENT: Protect the right to adequate housing, speed up post-Yolanda resettlement

August 11, 2015

Almost two years after Yolanda pounded Visayas, thousands of families still live in “unsafe zones” without shelter assistance from the government. Some of them face the threat of forced eviction, like 3,000 families in Tacloban as reported by the National Secretariat for Social Action/Caritas Philippines in June.

Meanwhile, those who relocated to permanent houses complain about the substandard quality of the houses and the lack of basic utilities. Resettlement sites are also far from the sources of livelihood for many residents. On the other hand, those who wanted to relocate do not have a suitable place to go to.

A recent report from Social Watch Philippines revealed that only 28.3 percent of the P76.678-billion funding requirement has been downloaded for implementation and only 73,000 housing units out of the 205,128-demand are currently being built.

Indeed, there has been a significant delay in the implementation of government resettlement programs. The lack of clear and concrete policy to hasten post-disaster resettlement compromises post-disaster resettlement and adequate housing.

The absence of a responsive land use plan in many disaster-risk areas, which should integrate risk analysis of natural hazards, as well as bottlenecks in identifying and acquiring land appropriate for resettlement of residents living in unsafe zones are just among the issues that need to be resolved.

The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) hence calls on the government to protect people’s right to adequate housing as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international conventions such as the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The right to adequate housing comprises the following: security of land tenure, affordability and resilience of houses, availability of services and infrastructure, accessibility and location in safe areas, and cultural adequacy. Adequate housing also relates to security and access to other basic services including health care, education, and employment.

To fulfill this, we urge the government to institutionalize the necessary measures to speed up resettlement efforts in Yolanda-stricken areas and lay out a clear and concrete plan to ensure that victims of future disasters are quickly rehabilitated to safe, secure, and sustainable housing.

The government should also pursue the enactment of a national land use law that will provide guidance and support for the adoption of hydro-meteorological maps in local zoning and land use planning.

Moreover, the government should harmonize disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) policies and strengthen coordination between local and national agencies to facilitate immediate and efficient disaster response and recovery. More importantly, the government should adopt a people-centered, multisectoral approach to DRRM, empowering and capacitating communities in the face of growing threat from disasters and climate change.

Two years have been too long. And we cannot afford to wait for another disaster to happen for us to act. We owe it to those who perished and to those they left behind to work together with a strong sense of urgency in (re)building communities for a more sustainable and resilient future.