Workers hang wet original copies of land titles up to dry in the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) office in Tacloban city after it was flooded due to super typhoon Yolanda. Photo by Romeo Ranoco, Reuters
LEYTE - The office of Leyte province's Registry of Deeds faces the ocean, and it was pounded by seawater when Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck last month.
More than a month after, the registry is busy drying land titles on clothes lines, saving the precious proofs of ownership essential to land transactions.
Leyte province's registrar of deeds, lawyer Emeterio Villanoza, said nearly 2,000 land titles could have been lost in the floods from Haiyan, likely washed away in a nearby creek.
This poses a problem for property owners who may need to spend between 40,000 to 80,000 pesos (USD 900 to 1,800) to have the titles reconstituted. If owners decide to sell their properties, the value is reduced without an original land title.
Tens of thousands of other titles which were in the registry's safekeeping, are being air-dried and salvaged.
"In our estimate, there are at least 40,000 titles which got flooded. So what we're doing is, we're taking them out from the vault and drying them, so they can be saved," Villanoza said.
Drying the land titles is already a gargantuan task for the land registration agency. Rebuilding their office, whose computers, desks and tables were all damaged or washed away, is another story.
Super typhoon Haiyan wiped out or damaged practically everything in its path as it swept ashore on November 8, with seven-metre storm surges destroying around 90 percent of the city of Tacloban in Leyte province alone.
The enormity of the disaster is unprecedented in the Asia-Pacific region in terms of geography, the United National Development Programme (UNDP) has said.
Aid workers said the Philippines' post-typhoon reconstruction could take as long as 10 years.
Aside from the Registry of Deeds, several other government offices including those of the health, public works, environment, tax and economic development agencies were reduced to rubble.
A disaster expert from Japan, Isamu Sakamoto, said freezers could help to dry soaked documents.
"Here in Tacloban and Palo, many offices have the same problem of having wet documents. So one suggestion is to bring in a 10 or 20-foot freezer that has a vacuum chamber. We used that in our experience in Banda Aceh in Indonesia and in Japan," Sakamoto said.
The task of rebuilding after Haiyan will likely take longer and cost more than the rebuilding of Indonesia's Aceh province after the 2004 tsunami, experts have said.
Haiyan killed 6,109 people, left nearly 1,800 missing, and 4 million with either damaged or totally destroyed homes. It wrecked crops and infrastructure worth around $563 million.
Last week, President Benigno Aquino unveiled the government's P361 billion ($8.2 billion) reconstruction plan, appealing for help from donor agencies and the international humanitarian community as he promised corruption-free use of aid.