THE Lapu-Lapu City Government plans to provide vouchers, instead of cash, to Sitio Sta. Maria fire victims, particularly the house owners, for use in buying construction materials to rebuild their houses.
Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan said Friday, Dec. 22, 2023, the initiative would ensure that victims would utilize their money for building materials and not for other things.
This comes after more than 2,000 families who were victims of the massive fire in the coastal village of Pusok in Lapu-Lapu City last Dec. 12 received on Friday nearly P30 million worth of assistance in cash, food and non-food items from the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Central Visayas (DSWD 7) and the local government, of which the Lapu-Lapu City Government gave more than P18 million in cash and the DSWD gave some P11.6 million.
The DSWD 7 has now provided more than P15.9 million in cash, food, and non-food items such as sleeping kits and wrap-around garments or malong to these fire victims since the fire broke out.
Chan explained that the vouchers would prevent victims from stalling in rebuilding their houses as they might become complacent, especially as he emphasized that they will receive plenty of cash assistance.
He said the money for the vouchers would come from all the donations the City has received for the fire victims, including if there is excess money from the cash assistance given by the City.
Chan said they had yet to produce the total amount from all the cash donations.
He assured that cash donations are accounted for with receipts and will be summed up by the Lapu-Lapu City Treasurer’s Office.
“Buot pasabot gyud tagaan kag coupon para ani nga number sa hardware… So ikaw ang mag identify para imong paliton kaysa imo silang tagaan og kwarta nya matintal unya nga di ipalit og materiales… especially nga ato gi-announce naa pay ihatag (cash assistance). Magsalig unya na… Gusto gyud nato nga walay problema, unya gusto nato magpalit gyud og materials kay ang problema mabalik sa gobyerno,” said Chan.
(You will get a coupon for this particular hardware number. So, you are the ones who will identify what construction materials to buy instead of giving them money because they might be tempted not to buy materials, especially since we announced that we still have cash assistance to give them. They might be relying on that. We don’t want there to be any problems. We want them to really buy materials; otherwise, the problem will go back to the government.)
According to the City Social Welfare Development Office (CSWDO), there are 1,783 fire victims in Sitio Sta. Maria, of which 465 were lot and house owners and 1,318 were renter families.
The fire broke out in Sitio Sta. Maria, then crossed over to the neighboring Sitio Seaside.
Chan reaffirmed the City would do a reblocking in the area of the fire incident in Barangay Pusok and permit only house owners to reoccupy the land, adding they would conduct road widening to prevent a similar incident from happening.
The Bureau of Fire Protection Lapu-Lapu had assessed the area as being heavily congested with houses. Its narrow roads had prevented first responders from putting out the fire immediately, resulting in the almost wiping out of the entire Sitio Sta. Maria.
Chan said the remaining house owners who may not get accommodated after the reblocking will get relocated to a nearby one-hectare land owned by General Milling Corp., which the company has donated to the fire victims.
Meanwhile, it would be the house owner’s discretion to provide living spaces to renters, granted that the owner also lives with them.
On Friday, the City and the DSWD 7 conducted payouts for cash assistance to the fire victims at Hoops Dome in Barangay Gun-ob.
DSWD 7 Director Shalaine Marie Lucero said the agency disbursed P11.6 million in cash assistance under its Emergency Cash Transfer (ECT) program and P2.9 million for food and non-food items to the victims.
The ECT is an adaptive strategy for bridging the gaps between immediate disaster relief, humanitarian response, and early recovery support through providing unconditional cash to victims of disasters and emergencies requiring interventions.
From the Lapu-Lapu City Government, the CSWDO facilitated the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) distribution, which totals around P11.3 million, and the rental subsidy provided by the Quick Response Fund from the Lapu-Lapu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, which amounts to P6.98 million.
Chan also announced Friday the fire victims will get additional cash assistance from the DSWD through its Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations or AICS in January 2024.
Present at Friday’s distribution activity at the Hoops Dome were Chan, Vice Mayor Celedonio Sitoy, members of the City Council and Lapu-Lapu Lone District Rep. Cindi King-Chan.
Around 1,759 families affected by the fire incident were beneficiaries of the ECT assistance, amounting to P11.6 million last Friday.
According to DSWD 7 data, the number of affected families reached 2,202 or 5,151 individuals who were temporarily using the Pusok Elementary School and Pusok Recreation Center as evacuation centers.
Family food packs, bottled water, and non-food items such as sleeping kits, and blankets were also distributed to the fire victims on Friday.
In a statement, DSWD 7’s Lucero reminded the recipients that the financial assistance they had received had to be used to rebuild their homes, for rental payments, or to buy necessities.
Families with houses that were totally damaged (destroyed) received P10,530 for each owner, while owners or families with partially damaged houses received P5,265 each.
A total of 581 houses were damaged during the fire incident, of which 577 were totally damaged and four were partially damaged, according to DSWD 7 data.
The cash assistance disbursed on Friday to the fire victims were the following: ECT for owners of totally damaged houses, P10,530; ECT for renters and sharers, P5,265; Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) for owners of totally damaged houses, P15,000; ESA for sharers, P5,000; ESA for renters, P3,000; and rental subsidy for owners of totally damaged houses, P15,000.
The DSWD defines a sharer as one who partakes in accommodation and properties with other people that live in a single house and uses communal areas such as kitchen, living and dining areas, while a renter is a family who pays rent to use a room or house from a house owner.