TACLOBAN CITY – Nearly nine months after super typhoon Yolanda ravaged central Philippines, displaced families have to face mounting concerns in rebuilding their homes.

Shirley Ann Caratay, 40, of Pericohon village in this city just watched their neighbors rebuilding houses while she’s still in a clash with the landowner over accumulated unpaid P30,000 rent.

International non-government organization (NGO) Catholic Relief Services (CRS) offers P55,000 shelter assistance and galvanized iron sheets to Caratay’s family whose semi-concrete house are categorized as totally damaged.

The basic requirement is a tenure of agreement from a landowner, a proof that that landless homeowners could stay in their new house for a minimum of two years.

“The landowner don’t sign the agreement since we still owe her P30,000, representing nearly four years of unpaid rent,” said Marilyn, who has been living in a makeshift house for more than eight months.

Her husband only earns a minimum wage as a driver of the Northern Access Mining Corporation operating in Tolosa, Leyte. Their earning is not even enough to sustain their basic needs, including sending six children to school.

Marilyn’s family, who has been living in that area for nearly four decade, shared the plight of 12 families in Pericohon village whose houses are within the 7,200-square meter property owned by Pascuala Alcantara, 81.

The old lady insisted that occupants should pay delinquent accounts or else she will not sign the tenure of agreement.

“I cannot tolerate their negligence to pay their obligation. They’ve been doing that to me even before Yolanda,” the dismayed Alcantara recalled.

Pericohon, designated as dwelling zone community is considered as one of the priority areas of CRS for shelter assistance.

Holly Fuller, CRS program manager for Tacloban integrated shelter recovery project said they have to be strict with requirements since they are accountable with their donors.

“CRS has many documents that are required from the beneficiaries before we are able to provide assistance. This is to ensure that they have at least a two year tenure agreement with the landowner if they are informal settlers or are renting,” Fuller said.

CRS targets to build 10,000 shelters in Palo, 3,000 shelters in Tacloban City, and 7,000 shelters in Samar. As of last week, CRS has completed 2,239 shelters across the three locations, according to Fuller.

In the badly-hit Anibong district, swallowed by Marilyn Abayan, 30, who lost three of her four children due to storm surge, is one of the 377 families in Barangay (village) 66-A waiting for shelter assistance from CRS.

The young mom, whose husband earns a living from driving motorcycle, is losing her patients about the shelter project, fuelled by complicated process.

The situation in the no build zone of Anibong area is more complicated. The CRS is committed to provide shelter assistance, but beneficiaries have to find new dwelling place.

“They also require us to show a proof that we are earning enough to pay P600 monthly for the proposed rent-to-own lot in the new resettlement site in New Kawayan village,” Marilyn shared.

Fuller admitted that the no-dwelling zone policy makes the shelter program more complicated in Tacloban, a city with 31 coastal villages tagged as highly susceptible to rising seas.

From the end of the local government, they’re is still on the process of acquiring more lots for permanent housing, said City Housing and Community Development Office (CHCDO) Consultant Leonard Tedence Jopson.

Seven international non-government organizations (NGOs) targeted 13,503 new permanent housing units, but no single house has been built so far in Tacloban City from these groups, according to CHCDO records.

“There are many factors that should be considered like completion of hazard assessment, site preparation cost and availability of livelihood in the resettlement area. Some land owners also refuse to sell their lands,” Jopson said.

The city government earlier enforced an expropriation of 25 hectares of private lands owned by six landowners, however, the other three owners declined to sell the property, prompting the government to bring the case to court.

Still under litigation are 12.5 hectares of proposed resettlement sites in the city’s northern villages.

With the long process of establishing permanent relocation sites, the city government acquired additional lands and negotiated to borrow lands to build temporary houses for 5,000 families in no-dwelling zones.

As of today, only 184 families have been transferred to temporary houses, built out of coconut lumber, bamboo matting and galvanized iron sheets for roofing.

Tacloban, considered as Yolanda’s ground zero has recorded 54,231 damaged houses, with 30,153 as totally damaged and 23,718 as partially destroyed.

Temporary shelters will be occupied by survivors for a minimum of two years while waiting for the completion of permanent housing units.

Reached for comment, Atty. Enrico Asis, area coordinator of the Access to Benefits and Claims after Disaster (ABCD) of the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, Inc. (IDEALS, Inc.), noted that securing documents required by NGOs is a big challenge.

“It is difficult for NGOs to provide assistance because of ownership issues. Beneficiaries are required to provide tax declaration, land title, and deed of sale for lot owners; and extrajudicial partition documents for inherited land,” Asis observed

“If the deed of sale was washed out, you have to prepare a deed of confirmation of the sale. The process is long and complicated,” he added.

The most challenging situation, according to Asis, if someone lives in a property owned by somebody, not their relative.

Citing housing projects of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in Tanauan, Leyte Asis recalled that IDEALS prepared “documents of undertaking, get the consent of real owners for families to be allowed to build their house temporarily.”

Of the 360 families targeted by UMCOR, 50 have been assisted by IDEALS, with a total monetary value of P12.5 million, at a cost of P250,000 per house.

IDEALS, an NGO that has been providing legal aid to Yolanda survivors is now conducting an assessment in Tacloban City to find out what kind of shelter-related legal assistance the NGO could provide to storm-displaced families.


Click here to download a copy of a Primer drafted by IDEALS on Housing Related Legal Concerns

Temporary is the new Permanent: Legal concerns bar rebuilding homes for Yolanda survivors

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