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corporate dominance | homelessness

Philippines: Shield Yolanda rehab efforts from 'disaster capitalism'

Amid allegations of overpriced and substandard temporary shelters constructed for survivors of Typhoon Yolanda, Akbayan Partylist urged the government to shield the rehabilitation efforts from possible "disaster capitalism."
According to Akbayan Representatives Walden Bello and Barry Gutierrez, the huge amount of funds used in the rehab efforts should be secured from being cornered by a few individuals and groups and ensure that it will be coursed through much needed projects and services targeted at the survivors.

"Profiteering is always a danger with massive reconstruction efforts such as this. It's not far-fetched that some contractors or officials will collude to jack up prices of materials for reconstruction, bloat project budgets in their pursuit of profit, and build substandard infrastructure. This will surely happen if rehabilitation and reconstruction are hinged on the interest of big business," Bello said.

"As such, the government, together with an active citizenry, must be extremely vigilant against individuals and groups that circle over these projects like vultures in order to earn easy money," Bello added.

Akbayan proposed conducting a real-time reporting of the reconstruction and quarterly status reports to complement the auditing done by government and civil society groups. The group also said that the government must demonstrate its resolve to punish would-be profiteers.

"The reconstruction and rehabilitation effort must be free from public or private sector corruption. Government must run after all those who will be proven guilty of creating profit from other people's misery," Bello said.

Disaster capitalism

American author and social activist Naomi Klein coined the term disaster capitalism to describe the practice conducted by private contractors and corporations to exploit disasters to create super profits. The term described the relief efforts conducted after Hurricane Katrina hit the southern part of the United States in 2005.

Human Rights compliant housing needed

Akbayan also pointed out that the housing projects for Yolanda survivors should be compliant with their human right to decent housing.

"Housing should be treated as a human right and therefore human dignity should be the main guidepost of government in building temporary shelters as well as more permanent housing," according to Gutierrez.

"Specifications for housing design should be strictly followed. Likewise, there has to be provision for proper waste disposal, access to clean and safe water, reliable source of power, livelihood, education and space for leisure. "Provision of these basic rights and services should be a cornerstone of the reconstruction effort," Gutierrez said.

Make Post-Yolanda reconstruction benchmark for ideal communities, cities

Akbayan also called on the government to treat the rehabilitation as an opportunity for building better communities with land use planning, proper drainage facilities, better infrastructure, and new and progressive forms of social relations.

"Reconstruction should be viewed as an opportunity to build better lives for our fellow Filipinos affected by Yolanda. If the government is serious in its 'building back better' strategy then it has to make the reconstructed communities a showcase of better urban and community planning. This would entail ensuring that the communities have a comprehensive land use plan which would include proper drainage facilities, better road designs, socialized housing, stronger buildings, regular employment for the people and even integration of green architecture principles and renewable energy," Gutierrez said.

"On top of altering the physical landscape of these communities, the rehab efforts should also result in creating new forms of social relationships. Ideally, once these areas are fully rebuilt, the residents should be empowered to participate in the affairs of their local government and community," Gutierrez concluded.