rehabilitation, not militarization!
November 7, 2017
Samar – People Surge Northern Samar Chapter, together with
allied groups under the #StandwithSamar campaign, joins fellow
disaster survivors in commemorating the 4th anniversary of Yolanda
with surge of protests from all over the region and with support
groups backing us up from all over the globe.
Super Typhoon Yolanda
(international name: Haiyan), the strongest typhoon to ever made
landfall, only signaled the arrival of other consecutive typhoons
which ravaged Northern Samar: Typhoon Glenda (July 2014), Super
Typhoon Ruby (December 2014), Typhoons Seniang (December 2014) and
Nona (December 2015).
The already “poor”
province of Northern Samar has become even poorer. Prior to Yolanda,
poverty incidence was nailed at 43.5 percent but in 2015, it leaped
to 56.2 percent. Northern Samar remains to be one of poorest
provinces in the country.
Nona, the typhoon which
hit strongest in Northern Samar, left 15 people dead, 1,207 wounded
and 11 people missing. It ravaged 110,427 houses and 112,655
families in Northern Samar. According to the Office of Civil Defence
(OCD), total loss in the province amounted to more than P14 billion
where P960,690,993 came from the agriculture sector.
The storms that struck,
especially Ruby and Nona, have resulted to fallen trees and severe
damage to coconut plantations. It takes almost seven years before
coconut trees fully recover from nature’s fury. Farmers either have
very low yield or farmers' planted coconut trees have yet to bear
fruit, subjecting them to the perennial debt trap of rich landowners
and exploitative merchants.
A recent report from the
Department of Agriculture (DA) also shows that rice production in
Northern Samar posed a steady drop in the past three years. In 2014,
rice production in the province was at 117,965 metric tons but in
2016, it dropped to 111,086 metric tons.
According to the
Provincial Office of the Philippine Fiber Industry Development
Authority (PhilFIDA), damaged abaca plantations after Typhoon Nona
was at 99.97% affecting thousands of farmers and fiber loss worth
more than P173 million. Abaca farms also suffered the infestation of
bunchy top virus which impeded recovery from the wrought of
We suffer multiple disasters: nature's fury, government negligence
Provincial and national
government failed to provide timely and decent help. Even during the
disaster preparation phase, the Commission on Audit (COA) 2016
report cited certain municipalities in the province which failed to
maximize and/or misuse the 70% mitigation fund under the Local
Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (LDRRMC).
The integrity of disaster
response after Nona struck Northern Samar is also put in question.
The 2016 Audit Report of COA shows municipalities in the province
which lacked transparency as to where disaster aids go such as the
case of Laoang and Palapag towns, to name a few.
Meanwhile, the Emergency
Shelter Assistance (ESA) for Typhoon Nona was given two years after
it swept through the province under a 'prorated scheme'. Instead of
receiving full amount, totally damaged households only received
P13,000 while partially damaged households only received P8,000.
People Surge chapters in Gamay and Lapinig towns reported that
distribution of said aid has not yet even begun in their
municipalities. Even the cash-for-work program of DSWD for Typhoon
Ruby has not yet been conducted in those two municipalities.
Northern Samar is also set
to receive the Presidential Financial Assistance (PFA) under the
Duterte administration. There are 22,073 beneficiaries in Northern
Samar who will receive P5,000 from the PFA. Local People Surge
chapters however said that distribution has not yet started in any
part of the province.
The Provincial Office of
Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority reported that there
is an unused fund of P12.7 million budget specifically allotted for
the rehabilitation of abaca farms in the province after Typhoon Nona
swept. Two years since the typhoon, the government has not provided
a single coin, no free insecticide or pesticide to kill bunchy top
virus, virtually no help amid the gravity of the situation.
The government provided
little to no aid for farmers in the province. While the Department
of Agriculture (DA) reported that rice seedlings and other
agricultural inputs have already been distributed in communities
affected by the typhoon, local farmers' organizations report that
most farmers did not receive any of those agricultural aids. And if
there are any agricultural inputs given, local chapters reported
that only selected families are provided with such aids. In our
local chapter in Lapinig town, members reported that rice seedlings
were not actually given for free by the DA.
The provincial government
has instead crafted the Nona Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Plan
(NRRP) 2016-2019 that brushes the agricultural sector to the margins
and has put more premium on infrastructure instead despite Northern
Samar being an agriculture-driven province.
Government intervention to
the farming sector is also notorious as scapegoats of land-grabbing.
Northern Samar Small Farmers Association (NSSFA) reported cases
where their lands are being taken from them by the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the mass reforestation
of bamboo shoots across the province particularly in Las Navas and
Catubig. Despite strong resistance from the local peasants, hundreds
of hectares are being claimed by the National Greening Program.
Meanwhile in Palapag town, farmers are asked to plant cacao instead.
One of the principal objectives of the said program is to help
reduce poverty and provide alternative livelihood to farmers in
upland areas but ironically operates in favor of landlessness,
debilitating farm production and stealing peasant livelihood.
DA's promise of free
irrigation is nowhere to be found in the province. All local
chapters present reported that no free irrigation was provided to
them by the government. In Palapag, farmers are asked to pay
P1,500-P3,000 per hectare whenever they use the irrigation facility.
Meanwhile in Catubig town the Help for Catubig Agricultural Project
(HCAAP) which aims to provide irrigation covering 700 hectares of
farmland supposed to be completed in 2007, was left unfinished by
Local chapters report that
if there are any livelihood programs given, they are mostly loans
that may potentially bring bankruptcy to farmers' organizations. In
Palapag town, the military is initiating alternative livelihood in
coordination with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as
part of their overall counter-insurgency design, Oplan Kapayapaan. A
review of the NRRP also shows provisions such as the “No Build Zone”
policy which may displace thousands of residents along the coast and
consequently displace them from their sources of income.
Militarization is government's response
In previous months since
the implementation of the bloody counter-insurgency program Oplan
Kapayapaan, the people of Northern Samar who have yet to recover
from the onslaught of successive typhoons, have been targets of
militarization and state terror.
In Barangay Sumuroy,
farmers from the barrio stood their ground against military
encampment and sought refuge at the municipal town proper of Lope de
Vega due to 43rd IBPA Bravo Company's militarization last March.
Schools are far from being zones of peace as they report soldiers
occupying schools and even constructing defense structures such as
Meanwhile in Barangay
Geparayan in Sivino Lobos, 13 families (57 individuals) evacuated to
different barrios due to harassment threats by the military. Cases
of illegal detention and strafing were also experienced by farmers
in Las Navas. Military encampment within civilian communities
continue in Barangay Mckinley in Catarman, Barangay San Isidro and
San Miguel in Las Navas, among others.
In Las Navas Elementary
School, the military has been encamping within the school vicinity
for three years now. They also camped within Las Navas National High
School from May to August this year where even teachers have been
harassed by the military. They also planted landmines surrounding
the school which sent fear among students and teachers alike.
Harassment among teachers have also been reported in Lope de Vega
and far-flung barangays in Las Navas. There are also reported
military men going inside the school in full battle gear and
enticing children to spy their targets.
In Barangay San Miguel in
Las Navas, Alyansa san mga Parag-uma kontra Gutom san Las Navasnon (APKLAS)
reported that elements of the 20th IB have been camping within the
community for three months now. Under the pretension of “peace and
development,” they have exhibited ill-respect to public facilities
such as barangay halls, barangay health centers and even the barrio
school by treating them as barracks. For one, military fatigue are
hung in the barangay health stations and they occupy the place when
barangay health workers and patients should have been occupying
As of this writing,
military troops are also in civilian communities of Barangay
Mckinley in Catarman town, in Barangays Poponton, San Miguel and San
Isidro in Las Navas town, committing various human rights abuses. We
have received reports from local chapters that state forces are
strong-arming civilians to surrender, subjecting them to psywar to
admit that they are members of the New People's Army (NPA).
We are fed up with so much
injustices and outright fascism. We join other disaster survivors in
the call for justice and accountability! Stand with us. #Stand with