Batangas execs, Taal evacuees thank House; hopeful on rehab efforts
MANILA, Philippines–Local government executives and evacuees displaced by the Taal Volcano eruption have thanked the House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for holding the plenary session of the chamber in the province, which gave them the opportunity to personally air their urgent concerns and uncertainties about their plight.
The evacuees, local officials and congressional representatives from Batangas also welcomed the efforts of the House to develop a comprehensive rehabilitation plan for communities affected by the volcanic eruption.
Cayetano assured the victims in Taal that the concerns they have raised during the plenary session held on Jan. 22 in Batangas will be addressed through the support of the concerned government agencies and the swift passage by the House of the supplemental budget to fund the rehabilitation plan.
“Babaunin po natin pag-uwi ang mga bilin ng ating mga evacuees, barangay captains, at mayors today,” said Cayetano who presided over the first ever out-of-town session of the House since 1978. “The best way na kami ay magpasalamat sa inyo is through concrete actions.”
(We will bring with us the recommendations of the evacuees, village chairmen and mayors today.)
On top of developing a rehabilitation plan, Cayetano said among these concrete actions is the swift approval by the House of the bill creating the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR), which has now become even more urgent given the recent volcanic eruption and last year’s earthquakes in Mindanao.
“Ang iniiwasan ng lahat ay ang kapag may dumating na bagong kalamidad, makalimutan na ang mga pangangailangan ng mga biktima ng Taal. Kaya mahalaga ang DDR, para ma-institutionalize na ang rehabilitation plans,” Cayetano said.
(What we are trying to avoid is that when the calamity hit us, the needs of the victims in Taal are forgotten. That is why DDR is very important, to institutionalize the rehabilitation plans.)
Earlier, the House Committee on Appropriations approved the funding provisions required under the still-unnumbered substitute bill creating the DDR.
Cayetano said that “in times of calamities, the people need to know that we are here and that we are here to listen to them.”
He called on the local officials to help the House gather the necessary data, such as the quantity of assistance and location of areas were help is needed, along with their specific requirements for the “faster delivery of assistance and a more efficient utilization of the Calamity Fund.”
Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, who represents the 2nd District of Batangas said: “I am heartened to learn that even with urgent personal matters to attend to, some of my colleagues chose to attend the session to show their support for the people of Batangas and find ways to ensure that the assistance they seek would be delivered to them as soon as possible.”
Abu noted, for instance, that Anakalusugan partylist Rep. Michael Defensor was present at the session, even though his father at that time was set to undergo a heart bypass operation.
Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas thanked the House for holding its session in Batangas. “Nagpapasalamat kami sa House of Representatives na dito ginawa. Ipinakikita lamang na gusto talaga nilang malaman ang kalagayan namin. At gusto talagang ipakita na haharapin agad,” he said.
(We thank the House of Representatives for holding the session here. This proves that they really want to know our situation here. And they want to show that problems will be addressed immediately.)
Batangas 5th District Representative Mario Vittorio Mariño, who is also the chairperson of House Committee on Government Reorganization, said he was “happy” that his fellow lawmakers trooped all the way to his home province to consult the people in crafting the rehabilitation plan of the House for Taal-affected communities.
Rep. Theresa Collantes, of Batangas’ 3rd District, thanked her fellow House members “for their presence here in our province to personally show their support and to pledge their assistance to my kababayans.”
A total of 204 House members were in attendance during the plenary session held at the Batangas Convention Center.
Among the resource persons who spoke on behalf of the Taal victims during the Batangas plenary session were Mayor Daniel Reyes of Agoncillo, Batangas; Mayor Lester De Sagun of San Nicolas, Batangas; Karen Olvina of Agoncillo, Batangas; Barangay Chairperson Jocelyn Bayanay of Alas-as, San Nicolas, Batangas; and Barangay Captain Ramon Gamo of Pulang Bato, San Nicolas, Batangas.
Edwina Bilog, a tour guide from San Nicolas Batangas; Merthel Evardome, Schools Division Superintendent of Batangas; ABC President Aileen Ocampo; Ramil Alcazar, an evacuee from Molinete, Laurel, Batangas; Julie Ann Betita from the Magallanes Square Hotel in Tagaytay City; and Pastors Caesar Hernandez and Adiel de Torres from the Good Shepherd Baptist Church also spoke during the session.
Most of the victims expressed their apprehensions over their future, given that many of them lost their means of livelihood following the eruption. Local officials also underscored the need for shelter assistance, as well as medical and psychological interventions to help their constituents recover from the calamity.
The evacuees also appealed for more food donations and school supplies for the students as they foresee a longer period of stay in the evacuation centers.
Bayanay recalled the hardships that she and her fellow residents in Alas-as underwent in the past week because of the loss of their homes and their sources of livelihood.
“Sana po ay maparating niyo ang aking kahilingan sa ating Presidente at nagpapasalamat po ko at nandito po kayong lahat at damang dama ko po kayo ngayon,” Bayanay said as she expressed her fears about the future of the people in her barangay.
(We hope that you relay our needs to our President, and I am very thankful that you are all here, I really feel your presence here.)
Mayor Reyes commended the House for their “ears that listen and hearts that care.” Mayor Reyes asked the House members to help provide support to fund the retrieval of their animals.
“We cannot live on donations for a long time because we need to provide for our families; sustain the education of our students. We beg you to help rebuild a fortified and a more resilient community for our people,” said Mayor Reyes.
Mayor De Sagun proposed that the government buy the livestock of the victims to sustain them while they recover from the calamity.
“Locked down ang aming lugar pero bumabalik ang aking mga kababayan sapagkat nagbabakasakali silang mapakain ang kanilang mga hayop. Wala naman po akong kababayan na gustong bumalik sa delikadong lugar. Pero pag di sila bumalik doon, paano sila magsisimula?” said De Sagun.
(Despite the lockdown, our fellow countrymen go back to their place because they want to feed their animals. No one intends to go back to a dangerous place, but if they do not go back, how can they start to pick up where they left off?)
Batangas City Mayor Beverly Dimalucha, meanwhile, lauded the volunteers, teachers, barangay officials, and rescuers for their continuous efforts to help the Taal victims. She expressed confidence that with a strong bayanihan spirit, the people of the entire province can overcome the challenges facing them.
Edited by JPV
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