PCGG: Transfer survivors from Tacloban center

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TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines—A government agency tasked with pursuing ill-gotten wealth cases against the Marcos family has called for the transfer of more than 100 families staying at the People’s Center and Library after losing their homes to Super Typhoon “Yolanda,” as they have reportedly used books with historic value to start a fire or as toilet paper.

The evacuees had forced open the two-story building put up by former first lady and now Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos in 1979 on a 1-hectare lot on Real Street, said Renoir Dauag, regional representative of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).

The building contains more than 54,000 books, journals and other reading materials.

Rows of makeshift shelters made of woods and tarpaulins are inside the building and are occupied by 105 families, or 448 persons from the villages of Real, Pampango and Magallanes.

Several retail outlets have also sprouted while another charges mobile phones and flashlights for a fee using a generator set. Much of Tacloban remains without electricity.

Relocating the families should be given focus, considering that they have been staying there for almost three months now, Dauag said. “It was just disappointing that they did not take care of the properties and books inside the building,” he pointed out.

Dauag said some books in the 24 rooms on the second floor were destroyed by some of the evacuees, using the paper for cooking fuel or toiletry. “The entire place is stinky. Some of them play mahjong inside the People’s Center,” he said.

He claimed that the wood floorings were destroyed while some library equipment, like DVD players, were lost.

According to Dauag, the place generates an income of P2 million each year out of rentals for the use of the first level for social events, such as school proms, gatherings and bazaars.

“We don’t get any financial help from the [national government]. We are self-liquidating. The money that we raised is used to defray the salaries of our 23 employees and other expenses,” Dauag said.

He warned that the loss of income could result in the retrenchment of the agency’s 23 personnel.

The building was supposed to be rented out to a bazaar last Christmas but the PCGG had to refund the amount of P460,000 in rental to the organizers, he said.

Dauag said he was seeking help from the Department of Social Welfare and Development to relocate the families.

Lawyer Jenny Chiu, executive officer of Mayor Alfred Romualdez, said she would bring up the issue to the Tacloban City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Jerome Espinosa, who acts as the leader of the families, said they were willing to move out if they were given relocation sites. He acknowledged that “some” evacuees had destroyed books on the second floor.

“But I already advised them not to touch or destroy anything inside the building. We are also now strictly observing health and sanitation for our own good,” Espinosa said.

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