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Road blockade over storm aid ends


11:08 PM January 16th, 2013

By: Karlos Manlupig, January 16th, 2013 11:08 PM

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman tries to talk to residents occupying a highway in Compostela Valley to protest what they said was the uneven distribution of relief goods to survivors of Typhoon “Pablo.” KARLOS MANLUPIG / INQUIRER MINDANAO

MONTEVISTA, Compostela Valley—Hundreds of residents complaining of the uneven distribution of relief goods ended their occupation of a highway here that blocked vehicular traffic for a few hours on Tuesday.

At least 7,000 residents of this province and Davao Oriental occupied part of the highway before noon on Tuesday complaining of the uneven distribution of relief goods to storm survivors.

They agreed to move out of the highway after government officials agreed to distribute relief goods more fairly.

The protest action rendered the highway impassable for a few hours and leaving hundreds of commuters stranded.

The residents had been demanding the release of at least 10,000 sacks of rice.

Led by Barug Katawhan, an organization of Typhoon “Pablo” survivors, the residents decried “poor and selective” government relief services.

Barug Katawhan said only residents with family cards are given access to government services.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman and Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy had tried to negotiate with the protesters.

“My only appeal is for you to let the vehicles pass through. If you want justice, okay we will talk about that,” said Soliman.

“But please also give justice to those who are stranded. They are already hungry,” she said, shouting for her to be heard by the protesters.

A protester shot back: “This is the message we are trying to deliver: We are starving!”

“If the people stranded are hungry, then we, the residents, are already dying,” said the protester.

The residents also demanded the cancellation of all Integrated Forestry Management Agreements (Ifma or logging permits) in the region devastated by Pablo.

After several failed attempts to use the sound system that the protesters were using, Soliman raised her voice challenging the protesters to voluntarily disperse to prove that they are genuine people’s organizations.

Failing to convince the protesters to leave the highway, Soliman and Uy left at around 3 p.m.

At about 9:30 p.m., a truck loaded with 1,900 bags of relief goods and 100 sacks of rice arrived at the barricade.

Soliman also sent a note, saying 10,000 sacks of rice will be released in the next two days. The protesters left the highway at this point.

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