More storm survivors to spend Christmas in new homes

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Elena Bituon and her family, who survived Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” will spend a merrier Christmas in their new house in Tacloban City. —JOEY A. GABIETA

Elena Bituon and her family, who survived Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” will spend a merrier Christmas in their new house in Tacloban City. —JOEY A. GABIETA

TACLOBAN CITY—Fish vendor Arjun Bituon and his family have another reason to be merry and thankful this Christmas.

They will be celebrating the birth of Christ in a new house, along with 280 families who were displaced by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) and moved on Monday to permanent houses at North Harbours Village in Barangay Santo Niño, 13 kilometers away from the city center.

The transfer marked a new beginning for Bituon, his wife Elena, and two children—Jirah Faith, 8, and Jade Ivan, 1. The couple lost their house and two other children—Argel, 7 and Shaun Rinzel, 10 months—in the storm surge whipped up by Yolanda on Nov. 8, 2013.

“This is now our new home and beginning today, we will start to build our dreams and our future,” Elena said.

Though the bodies of the two children were never found, Elena said the family’s new residence had given them something to smile about. The 40-square-meter unit was bigger than the shanty they occupied in Barangay 88, San Jose District.

Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino, presidential adviser for the Visayas, said the resettlement of the families stemmed from a directive of President Duterte to relocate those still living in danger zones and temporary shelters by December. The transfer to permanent houses came 18 days after Mr. Duterte’s visit to Tacloban to commemorate the third anniversary of Yolanda.

“We still have 12,500 settlers that need to transfer to their permanent homes. We hope by 2017, all will be settled in their new homes,” Mayor Cristina Gonzales Romualdez said.

A ceremonial switch lighting by the Leyte Electric Cooperative of 48 houses was held on Sunday night. Linemen will work round-the-clock to make sure all houses will be bright this Christmas, Romualdez said.

The President sent five Ceres buses to Tacloban to help in the relocation. The buses will be used to shuttle students and workers from North Harbours to the city for the next six months until new public vehicles are deployed in the site.

Dorcas Secreto, estate specialist management of the National Housing Authority (NHA) regional office, said 14,433 houses were to be built in 11 resettlement sites, of which 4,346 were ready for occupancy. The rest were still in “various stages of construction,” she said.

Based on NHA records, 2,101 families had been resettled at RidgeView 1 and 2 in Barangay Cabalawan; 172 families at Villa Sofia in Barangay Tagpuro; 322 families at Villa Diana in Barangay New Kawayan; and 720 families at the Tacloban North Village in Barangay Cabalawan.

Romualdez said the city government, with the assistance of other government agencies, would provide livelihood assistance to the storm survivors.

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