Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tanay folk stuck in calvary 6 months after ‘Ondoy’

TANAY, RIZAL—For Elmer Dimarukot, Tanay is a forgotten town in Rizal province. He and other victims of Tropical Storm “Ondoy” have not received any help from the government six months after it struck.
In order for his family to survive, he said, he digs up pieces of wood buried in mud and turns them into charcoal to sell. Many do this to earn a living.
“It has been six months since the disaster,” is the Tanay folks’ constant refrain that evokes memories of the great disaster last September that killed hundreds of people and destroyed many parts of the National Capital Region and neighboring provinces.

About 100 residents of several barangays (villages) in Tanay recently met with local representatives of government agencies to present their needs.

At the Wawa gym were representatives of the local government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, National Irrigation Authority, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Department of Agriculture.

The people were not asking for relief goods or dole-outs. They wanted government help so that that their lives could go back to normal, and more importantly, so that they could earn a living. They said their means of livelihood had been destroyed.

Many women who earn by sewing at home said their sewing machines were damaged by flood waters and were beyond repair. Fishermen said their fishing boats were either washed away or destroyed. Farmers said their farms needed repair and the water sources needed to be tapped.

To add to their woes, microfinance groups that have been operating in their area long before Ondoy struck have squeezed them to pay their loans even though it was clear that Ondoy had all but wiped out everything they had.

“They told us not to blame the typhoon,” a woman complained.

Relocation sites
Some 360 families are still living in a temporary relocation area in Tanay. In all, more than 1,000 families have been affected and continue to suffer, said Cope (Community Organizing of the Philippines Enterprises) Foundation community worker Hervy Beran.

Among the places in Tanay that need attention are Sitio Gabihan and Sitio Bayuo 1 and 2 in Barangay Kutyo, Ausmolo, Inarda, Riverside, Barangays Wawa and Kay Buto.

In Sitio Gabihan, 31 of the original 230 families are still living in tents. Two to seven families live in one tent. There is no electricity. Many children are getting sick. Families worry that there is no assurance as to where they will be moved and how the Balik Probinsiya program will proceed.

Filemon Buena, 47, of the 1,000-strong Kapatirang ng Malayang Maliliit na Mangingisda sa Pilipinas (Kampi), said many fishermen lost their fishing boats. He said rampaging waters brought with them big rocks and logs that destroyed the fishing boats.

Laguna de Bay is the fishermen’s main source of livelihood.

Washed away
Carmen Pineda, 58, a seamstress, said she lost her two sewing machines. “They were washed away with our house and little store.” Right now her family is living with a neighbor for whom she does odd jobs. She also wants to know what areas are covered by the so-called danger zone and what it means for them whose homes are in those zones.

Victims of Ondoy have listed their needs for government agencies to address. Among them are livelihood projects, house repair, road repair, river dike, irrigation for farms, electricity, deep wells, irrigation and seed capital.

According to Cope, Oxfam and Handicap International have helped in providing temporary shelters, toilets and other hygiene needs.

“Bear it a little more,” was the response of the local administrator who said the mayor was trying to address the problem but added that the municipal government cannot do it alone.

Danger zones
The project coordinator of the relocation site also said that there were strict guidelines on granting residential lots. Families that are not on the list were urged to register with the help of Cope and offer proof that they are indeed in need of aid.

The issue regarding the danger zones has yet to be resolved because of budget problems while the problem of damaged fishing boats and fishermen’s livelihood is considered difficult, but BFAR promised to provide fingerlings.

Beran of Cope said community leaders will go to the office of the mayor to formally present their detailed request.

Amador Villar, a fisherman leader, said of the help they are hoping for: “I hope it does not take long. We might just be forgotten.”