Mayor: Balangiga also hardly hit by Yolanda

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Monday, December 2, 2013

BALANGIGA, Eastern Samar -- Twenty-two days after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck central Philippines, Balangiga Mayor Viscuso de Lira felt his municipality was neglected by the government, and pointed to unfair media reporting for it.

“What we heard from the media, from other people, is disheartening… we are not hardly hit because we only have 13 casualties, and no recorded missing,” said De Lira, referring to reports.

“Because of the sensationalized media reports of the devastations in Tacloban City and Guiuan, we are left out,” he said on Saturday, adding that relief goods only arrived in Balangiga six days after Yolanda, which hit land on November 8.

“We are hungry for days,” he said.

De Lira said the damage to property is estimated to reach P1 billion, including private and public infrastructure.

The coconut industry, which the town folk primarily rely for livelihood, was destroyed, with P625 million losses. Rice and fishing were also hardly hit.

De Lira said one international Red Cross staff, whom he had a chance to talk to, commented that Balangiga was neglected, because the attention was only in Tacloban.

Balangiga has a population of 13,000.

He said the Philippine government should, instead, thank them, because the state’s risk disaster reduction program really worked. “We ordered a force evacuation on November 5. On that same day, I purchased 100 NFA sacks of rice for relief operations.”

De lira went as far as San Isidro in Northern Samar to buy additional 200 sacks of rice and 391 assorted noodles in Calbayog City after the typhoon. “The local relief goods are not enough.”

“As of November 30, relief from outside is consistent but I don’t know until when, that’s why I’m very worried,” he said.

He told Sun.Star that he does not want the people of Balangiga to depend on relief. “We need to start rebuilding.”

As of this posting, aside from help coming from non-government organizations (NGOs) and some Samar local government units (LGUs), only the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DWSD) and the military came to Balangiga for aid.

De Lira said the priority is public infrastructures, such as irrigation system, farm-to-market roads, and government centers.

“We are now starting rehabilitation. First are public infrastructures because we cannot deliver the needs of the people if these are not rebuilt,” he said, adding they are asking the national government to help normalize this historic town.

On November 29, mayors of Mercedes, Salcedo, Lawaan, Balangaiga, Giporlos, Quinapundan, General McArthur, Hernani, Balangakayan, Maydolong, San Julian, Llorente, Borongan City, and the representative of the lone district of Eastern Samar, together with government agencies discussed plans for rehabilitations. The areas are on the southern part of Eastern Samar that was hit by Yolanda.

De Lira did not go into the details of the meeting but said there were agreed actions and “hopes them to materialize” soon.

“We ask these agencies to present their plans so that we can tap or align our own plans with them,” he said.

De Lira said that 20 percent of Balangiga population already left for Manila and they “will stay in squatters areas, adding problems to the already congested Metro.”

He said the people felt helpless if they stay in the town, thus it is better to start rebuilding here. (Sunnex)

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