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Protests mark ‘Yolanda’ anniversary in Panay

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ILOILO CITY—Even as they remain thankful for weathering the strongest typhoon to hit land, more than 8,000 survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) on Panay Island poured into the streets on Tuesday to press for long-delayed government assistance.

Thanksgiving programs were also held in towns hit by the typhoon, which ravaged mostly the Visayas areas on Nov. 8, 2013.

In Concepcion town in Iloilo province, the municipal government led a commemoration program attended by survivors and representatives of local and international nongovernment organizations and donors.

Mayor Millard Villanueva led a raffle for unit assignments for the first 400 beneficiaries of a housing project by the National Housing Authority for those needing relocation.

The Kusog sang Pumuluyo, a Panay-wide alliance of survivors and their supporters, led protest actions in Iloilo City, Estancia town in Iloilo, Roxas City in Capiz province and Kalibo town in Aklan province to press for more funds for survivors who were denied shelter assistance under the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.

Sign-up desks for those seeking assistance were also set up in provincial centers.

In Roxas City, about 6,000 survivors and protesters led by Buylog sa Pagbangon Capiznon and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) gathered at the Roxas City Plaza Bandstand to demand the release of the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) for survivors whose houses were destroyed or damaged.

In the Aklan capital of Kalibo, about 2,000 protesters, led by Rise Up Aklan, attended a commemorative Mass at the Pastrana Park before marching to the provincial capitol where a rally was held. They also organized a forum and dialogue with Social Welfare Assistant Secretary Hope Hervilla.

In Estancia, Iloilo, about 500 survivors marched to the town hall to push for the fast-tracking of housing projects for families who needed to be relocated.

The protesters also called for the resolution of a P225-million class suit against government agencies and a private contractor, in relation to a massive oil spill that hit the coastal villages during Yolanda’s onslaught.

The spill was triggered after Power Barge 103, operated by the National Power Corp., was detached from its moorings and slammed the coastline, spilling at least 900,000 liters of bunker fuel.

At least two persons died and more than 1,000 families had to evacuate and stay out of their communities for about a month due to toxic fumes.

“We cannot declare that the communities here have recovered if the oil spill survivors have not been given justice and most have not been relocated or given assistance,” said Wilson Balingit, convenor of Kusog sang Pumuluyo in northern Iloilo.

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