After Yolanda: Moving in the right direction?
“When we returned to our house, there was nothing left. It was like a desert. Everything had been washed away. Our boat was smashed to bits”, he recalled.
With no other land or options, Lionel was forced to fashion a temporary shelter, using corrugated iron, plastic tarpaulin and whatever else he could find. But several weeks later, he and other villagers learnt that they would have to move once again because the government had announced a 40-meter “no-build” zone policy. The idea is to move tens of thousands of people further away from the seashore to safer areas.
On paper, it makes good sense in a country which receives around 20 typhoons every year. But in reality, a blanket 40-meter "no-build” zone is impractical and unrealistic.
In March 2014, the government back-tracked and announced it would instead do local hazard mapping and analysis to identify communities that will need to be relocated from areas deemed unsafe.
Under the new guidelines, an estimated 200,000 people are now at risk of resettlement. The practicality and assurance of giving people alternative housing and consulting them in the changes that will profoundly affect their lives, however, is still fraught with difficulties.
Before the typhoon, life for Lionel was already a struggle. He used to fish with 5 others in a boat that is now completely destroyed. On good days, he could earn around P500, but on bad days, he’d come back empty handed.
Oxfam interviewed 453 individuals in typhoon-hit provinces Eastern Samar, Leyte and North Cebu. Many of the survey respondents, like Lionel, don’t object to moving – but only if they receive support from the government. (READ: Leyte fishermen say no to no-build zone)
“If the government will provide us with more assistance or help us with some business support, I’ll agree to relocate because where we are living is dangerous and we are scared of living so close to the shoreline,” he said. “I saw the big waves during the typhoon and that terrified us.”
“My biggest fear is another typhoon. I’m afraid there will be another typhoon. And because we have not been relocated and properly re-housed, I feel very unsafe. The children cry when it rains and when storms come. They hide.” (READ: How climate change affects PH cities)
Unaware of the plans
But Lionel, like thousands of other people who may be resettled, has only heard rumors and small snippets of information about what relocation might involve.
While he would like to live somewhere safer, he is also worried about where he might be re-housed. How far will it be located from the coast? How will it affect his ability to return to fishing?
“I'm worried that we will sink into poverty because our livelihoods haven’t been restored," Lionel told me at a community meeting organized by Oxfam. “I have no work right now. I’m very worried, especially for my children because I don’t know how we’ll eat.”
Many local government units are just as concerned about the relocation process. Limited budgets mean it’s hard for them to make the large-scale land purchases necessary to create permanent relocation sites.
Some aren’t willing to hold consultation meetings with communities saying that they are not fully aware of what their roles and responsibilities will be and that they don’t want to communicate incorrect information.
But that’s also causing a lot of confusion and concern among populations who are likely to be affected by the policy.
Around 81% of people interviewed by Oxfam stated that they are not aware of their rights regarding permanent relocation. Very few had received information about relocation, and only 7% of individuals interviewed said they have been consulted by a government official – at the municipal or barangay level – regarding the relocation process.
My worry is that this will not only deny people’s rights to basic information but it could also lead to failed relocations because communities have not been consulted and local authorities have not taken steps to understand and meet their expectations.
In the future, it could mean that the risks facing vulnerable populations might actually increase, rather than decrease, because of lack of political will, resources and planning.
Failing to take into account survivors' concerns – such as providing security of tenure and adequate livelihood opportunities – could actually make them more at-risk. – Rappler.com
Caroline Gluck is Oxfam's roving humanitarian press officer. She recently stayed in the Philippines for 2 months serving as the Media Manager of Oxfam in the Philippines Typhoon Haiyan Response.
For more information, you may read Oxfam's briefing paper: "The Right Move? Ensuring Durable Relocation After Haiyan"