in early December, when i went with my friend Rambie to set-up her soup kitchen for kids in Tacloban, to feed as well in neighbouring towns, we saw what the locals called “housing” along the stretch of the highway. then, even with only skeletal frames, it already looked pretty tight, and one could imagine how congested it was to become.
but also it was clear to me that the two places where i saw these DPWH houses being built weren’t in close proximity to the spaces where people had started rebuilding their homes. even then i thought: how many will use these houses, when the cash-for-work that most everyone was doing was so far away? how many would use these houses when it seemed a long way before these were to be completed?
i also asked this question then: did DPWH hire workers from Tacloban, or any of the other nearby and affected towns? the answer of one volunteer of Kusog Tacloban was no, nagdala sila ng dayo.
which didn’t make sense really, given that work was what the people here needed. i hope this is untrue of course, and that in fact, unbeknownst to the volunteer i talked to, these were actually construction workers of affected towns, being paid by government to build their communities’ new homes.
but even the latter is already so far from being true. two months since the strongest storm to ever make landfall in the world, government still has yet to put survivors in what they call temporary bunkhouses. now revealed to have been overpriced and completed below standard, the government is also revealing how incompetent it is really — and i’m not even talking about Lacierda saying
that BUT is wonderful, because it is telling. this government thought these bunkhouses were fine, they thought these teeny tiny spaces with no ventilation were okay. at least until someone told them otherwise.
now they keep repeating the fact that these are only temporary houses, and that these will not be where people will live forever. and the truth is i understand that. but these temporary bunkhouses, substandard and cramped as they are, would only be okay if they were built quickly, say a week after the storm? two weeks at most, when people were in dire need — were desperate — for shelter. when it could still be the temporary shelter that was urgently needed and which government should have been able to provide for survivors of the typhoon right away.
but it is only at this point, two months in, that these bunkhouses are being readied for occupancy. and one really has to ask: two months after the storm, this is it? two months after the storm, we are telling survivors that these are the homes that government has built for them? for the next what, six months? one year?
it defies logic really. if temporary shelter was going to take this long to be built, why couldn’t it be made sturdier, why couldn’t they make it more livable? why can’t they make it better than what the people actually build themselves? there was also the possibility of just building sturdy well-planned evacuation centers, that could be used again and again, after the survivors are finally moved to their real permanent homes.
but no, two months after the storm, this is what PNoy’s DPWH has to show for it: shelters that didn’t follow international standards, but more importantly, shelters that are unkind and inhumane — standards be damned. over in Estancia Iloilo, it is the provincial NDRRMC itself that has declared the bunkhouses un-livable, and has recommended that people not be transferred there.
my question too is this: were the future occupants of these temporary bunkhouses members of the middle class, would government make it this way, too? it seems to me that from the beginning what has ailed this government’s response to the needs of typhoon survivors is that they think these people deserve little. they think these people should be happy with any response at all, because they are impoverished to begin with.
the other thing that bothers me is this: the corrupt practices that are intrinsic to government construction projects is nothing new. it is a systemic dysfunction that only the delusional or blind (or both) would think doesn’t exist and will not happen. as such, this bunkhouse debacle is no surprise to me. what is surprising is that this government did not guard against it from the beginning. what is surprising is that they are even surprised it happened.
the thing with matuwid na daan is that the ones walking it are wearing blinders.