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Legislators launch ‘Project Yakap’

/ 02:25 AM November 19, 2013

After some legislators were accused of enriching themselves by pocketing money intended for the poor, several Metro Manila lawmakers have opened their arms to victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

The Metro congressmen have agreed to provide food and shelter to Yolanda’s survivors who are arriving in the capital by the hundreds every day, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said on Monday.

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The plan is called “Project Yakap (Embrace),” the chair of the Metro Manila Development Committee in the House of Representatives said.

Under the project, Castelo said the lawmakers would identify areas such as covered courts, barangay (village) halls or spacious vacant lots for tent cities to serve as the survivors’ temporary shelter while their hometowns are being rebuilt.

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Some have relatives in Metro Manila whom they could stay with but others have no one to turn to, he said.

“The idea is to help them recover until they go back to the provinces,” Castelo said in a phone interview.

DWSD endorsement

The Castelo proposal coincided with a Senate investigation of the so-called “pork barrel” controversy.

This involves alleged misuse by some senators, former congressmen and government officials of hundreds of millions of pesos of state funds intended for the country’s poor.

Castelo said only the evacuees endorsed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) would be included in the project.

According to Castelo, some relief stocks that have not yet been sent to the devastated Visayas provinces and goods that would come in would be given to the evacuees arriving in Metro Manila.

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Livelihood for survivors

“The good thing about Project Yakap is that we would not need to physically send the relief goods to the Visayas,” he said.

“Donors want to be guaranteed that the items would reach those affected by Yolanda,” he added. “Giving these to the survivors here would (make sure) they would get the goods.”

Castelo also said the congressmen would try to provide livelihood for the typhoon survivors.

But he said he hoped the evacuees would return to their provinces once they have recovered from the calamity as Metro Manila cities might not accommodate all of them for an extended period.

Castelo said one reason for designating areas to serve as the survivors’ temporary shelters was to prevent the worsening of the urban blight problem.

If the survivors would not be provided food and shelter, they might start roaming the streets to beg or join the ranks of informal settlers, or squatters, he said.

Castelo said that in his own district, he had identified a basketball court to serve as temporary shelter.

The other lawmakers supporting Castelo’s plan were Emi Calixto Rubiano, Sherwin Gatchalian, Gus Tambunting, Jose Christopher Belmonte and Jorge Banal.

4,000 evacuees

About 4,000 evacuees have arrived at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City and have been served by thousands of volunteers, said DWSD director Alicia Bonoan.

On Sunday, dazed arrivals were given ready meals, medicine, counseling or plain company.

They were also allowed free calls and provided with transportation by businesses and nongovernment organizations.

At the parking lot behind the Villamor grandstand, tents have been set up. In most tents were packs of food and water.

One tent had volunteers sifting through clothes and toys for donations.

Another tent was for mothers and their young children. At the tent, infants and toddlers could sleep on pillows and mats. They were also provided with diapers and breastmilk, with volunteer-mothers acting as wet nurses.

Another service was “Oplan Hatid” with hundreds of volunteer drivers offering to drive the survivors to their relatives in Metro Manila, or to bus stations.

On Sunday, around 200 drivers signed up to chauffeur around 800 evacuees.

Earlier, one man even agreed to drive a family to Baguio City, said volunteer Leah Lagmay. Another volunteer gave him a gas coupon for P5,000.

“Until now, it’s giving me goosebumps. It has restored my faith in humanity!” Lagmay said.

Bonoan said the Pasay City government planned to put up a nearby tent city for other evacuees.

“We are preparing long term for those without relatives here,” Bonoan said. “We will assess their capabilities for employment. Many people have come forward offering job opportunities.”

Pasay City Administrator Dennis Acorda said a tent city was being set up at Villamor Air Base Elementary School. He said the site hopefully could accommodate a maximum of 400 evacuees.

Originally posted: 8:06 pm | Monday, November 18th, 2013

RELATED STORY:

4,000 ‘Yolanda’ survivors arrive in Metro

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