Church, group help survivors

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014


ORMOC CITY—Thousands of people flocked to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints last Friday, eager to get materials to fix their homes, not minding the scorching early afternoon sun.

A few days earlier, Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez (Leyte, fourth district) ran into Benson Misalucha, the church’s area welfare services manager, in an airport. Their short conversation while going through security checks led to the church official pledging help for Gomez’s constituents.

The church distributed shelter kits to some 2,000 families in Ormoc, one of the hardest hit cities when typhoon Yolanda struck last Nov. 8.

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In the wake of Yolanda, Gomez said 77,000 families needed shelter aid in her district, which covers Ormoc and the towns of Albuera, Isabel, Kananga, Matag-ob, Merida and Palompon.

“I sent letters to Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Oprah and many others just to get help,” Gomez told reporters in a press conference arranged by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. and local civic groups in Ormoc.

The big personalities have yet to write back, but the district received housing aid from various donors nonetheless, including 5,000 shelter kits sent by the Sultanate of Oman.

Need

Nearly eight months have passed since Yolanda, but the need for housing assistance in the affected communities remains.

In Ormoc, almost 800 families still live in bunkhouses provided by the National Government.

The Tzu Chi Foundation is developing a relocation site on a 50-hectare lot donated by Mayor Edward Codilla’s family. The Taiwan-based Buddhist foundation is building 4,000 houses there.

Codilla, in an interview with reporters, said typhoon survivors who lost their homes and those who live in areas vulnerable to disasters will benefit from the relocation project.

In Barangay Donghol, heavy duty tents equipped with solar panels were put up for 50 families.

Temporary shelter

Businessman Iñigo Larrazabal, former president of the Ormoc Chamber of Commerce and Industry and of the Rotary Club of Ormoc Bay, is helping identify occupants for the transitional houses, which were donated by American companies Barebones and Goal Zero.

His family provided the relocation site.

Aside from housing, much work still needs to be done, like rehabilitating classrooms and other government-owned buildings.

The damage Yolanda caused on public infrastructure and agriculture in Ormoc was pegged at P4 billion.

Codilla said the National Government, through the Department of Interior and Local Government, has allocated P91 million to rehabilitate the City Public Market, the Superdome, and City Food Park.

The Department of Education has also set aside P70 million for the rehabilitation of classrooms in the fourth district.

As the typhoon also destroyed learning materials, the City is set to release P8 million to buy textbooks.

Farming

On agriculture, the Ormoc-Kananga Mill District Development Council Foundation Inc. (MDDC) has asked the National Government to help repair damaged farm facilities and provide loans or financial grants to affected farmers, many of whom lost their homes.

According to a report the MDCC submitted to concerned National Government agencies, the damage Yolanda caused on Ormoc’s sugarcane industry amounted to P973.5 million.

Of the amount, P513.1 million accounted for the damage on sugarcane crops.

Compounding the problem is the ongoing shortage of sugarcane workers, said lawyer and MDDC chairman Roy Bernard Fiel. Many sugarcane workers, he said, opted to offer their services as construction workers after the typhoon.

Like sugarcane workers, fishermen were also badly affected after the typhoon destroyed their boats.

Gomez has been tapping the private sector to provide boats to 6,200 fishermen. She received pledges for 2,000 boats, so far.

About 50 farmers received wooden boats while 200 have been given boats made of fiber glass.

She put up the website rebuildormoc.com to attract donors and post updates on efforts to rebuild the houses and restore the livelihood of her constituents.

Gomez said she wants to focus her effort on restoring people’s livelihood to keep them from getting dependent on donations. “I don’t want the people to get used to dole-outs,” she said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 02, 2014.

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