MANDAUE City’s authorities will re-block a neighborhood in two barangays where more than 2,200 families lost their homes in a fire last Saturday, to prevent similar disasters.
“Ayaw babagi ninyo ang mga bulldozer sa Lunes, ha (Promise you won’t block the bulldozers on Monday, OK)?” said Pet Juanico, chair of the City’s Housing and Urban Development Office (Hudo). He met yesterday with survivors from Barangays Guizo and Mantuyong who gathered in the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC).
One evacuee who survived a fire that hit the same area in 2007 said she had heard that plan before, and doubts if this will be realized.
“Plano ni niadtong 2007. Gi-estoryahan ang mga tao diha. Wa matuman kay nagkagubot; manukol man ang mga tao (Re-blocking was also planned in 2007 and the residents were told about it. But it didn’t get done because the people resisted),” said Roda Murillo, 38.
Fire has hit the community at least three times: in September 1992; on March 7, 2007; and last March 12.
The latest fire razed the houses of 2,255 families, according to the latest count of City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) head Violeta Cavada.
Some survivors temporarily moved inside the CICC, which the Mandaue City Government jointly owns with Cebu Province.
Some stayed under tents set up on the CICC compound, while some have nothing but a canvas sheet placed on top of some plants.
In the lull between food distributions yesterday morning, Juanico explained to evacuees who gathered on the CICC driveway that the area, which spans more than a hectare, will be developed and re-blocked.
To prevent floods, drainage pipes will also be installed.
Evacuees will remain in the CICC compound while their neighborhood is being developed, said Juanico.
Today, bulldozers will clear what remained of the concrete structures after the four-hour fire, he explained. Filling materials donated by the Cebu Contractors’ Association will then be added to the site.
This is why the City is discouraging anyone from rebuilding homes right away.
During the meeting, Saturnina Oteda, 51, appealed for Juanico’s assurance that they will be allowed to rebuild their homes after the site is developed.
“Definitely makabalik mo, human matambakan ug mapatag, apan ang mga balay nga dagko atong pagamyan (Definitely, you can return there after the site is filled up and levelled, but the large houses will have to get smaller),” said Juanico.
He also said he couldn’t offer the same assurance to those whose houses occupied private property.
Lawyer Conchito Herrero, counsel of private lot owner Richard Ng, wrote a letter asking Guizo Barangay Captain Jesus Neri to discourage informal settlers from returning to part of the site.
His client, he said, owned 691 square meters of that site. Neri showed the letter to the evacuees.
Juanico asked the two barangay captains to work with sitio leaders on dividing and assigning the lots fairly.
“Kamo ang mag-buot kung asa mo basta butangan na ug dalan (We will decide where you will be located, but we assure you that roads will be in place),” Juanico told the evacuees.
Elenita Asengjo, 47, recalled that she was a third-year high school student living with her aunt when the first fire hit the area in 1992. And they survived.
By the time another fire struck in 2007, she was married and a mother of four. She made a living by selling packed rice (“puso”).
After this third fire, she remains hopeful that her family will be allowed to stay at the site.
Elenita Cabato Bihag, 58, of Barangay Mantuyong has also survived all three fires in the area. The mother of seven recalled that after the fires in 1992 and 2007, government assistance (including plywood sheets and other construction materials) helped her family recover.
“Hasta pagkaon hinatag. Pagkahuman naglabada ko aron makakaon (We were given food. Later, I did other people’s laundry to feed my family),” she said.
Now all her children have their own lives. Bihag said she relies on the government’s conditional cash transfer program to get by.
The CICC compound, where the survivors await the go-signal to rebuild their homes, has 18 temporary bathing areas and 15 toilets.
The compound is guarded by a team from the Capitol’s Civil Security Unit, barangay tanods from different Mandaue City barangays, and police. Six medical personnel were also on the grounds, along with 10 social welfare employees who were distributing food.