Typhoon ‘Pablo’ survivors in Davao Oriental to get housing units
CATEEL, Davao Oriental, Philippines — “Those should be painted yellow,” Governor Corazon Malanyaon told the field engineer as she pointed to a row of still-being-finished houses.
On the other side is a row of houses painted red and white.
“This is a better site for the turn-over because wherever you look you see houses. And in the middle is the community hall,” Prescilla Razon, regional director of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, said.
The construction workers did not mind the presence of the government officials. They were busy beating the Dec. 4 deadline. On that day, President Aquino is scheduled to visit this town to turn over the housing units to those who lost their homes to typhoon “Pablo” in 2012. This could also be the reason for the last-minute decision for yellow houses.
Most of the beneficiaries are just across the street, living in bunkhouses and makeshift huts.
The government plans to build thousands of 5.10 x 4.3 square-meter box-type permanent shelters all over the towns of Cateel, Baganga and Boston. Traversing the highway from Baganga town to Cateel, one could see workers also rushing to finish the houses.
Engr. Client Nikko Morales, field engineer of the provincial government, said the construction was delayed because contractors considered the budget of P100,000 per unit too low.
“They do not see earning profit from the project,” Morales said, adding that it was only recently that they were able to convince contractors to do it as their share for helping the towns that were devastated by typhoon “Pablo” on Dec. 4, 2012.
At least 42,900 houses were either destroyed or damaged by the typhoon in the three towns. Some of the survivors rebuilt their homes, using whatever they were able to salvage from the debris and tents provided by international non-government organizations.
A year after Typhoon Pablo, which left 457 people dead in Davao Oriental, people have somehow moved on.
The town centers are again booming with business establishments. Churches have been repaired. Schools have reopened. Government offices are undergoing rehabilitation.
James Mandawe, 31, now lives with his wife and three children in a transitional shelter provided by the Philippine Red Cross, nine months in a tent city managed by the Balay Mindanaw Foundation Inc. in the village of Ban-ao in Baganga town. He transferred to his new home in October.
Mandawe’s brother, Jessie, and 10 others, died when the daycare center where they evacuated collapsed at the height of the typhoon.
At least 17 people were killed in Ban-ao.
Mandawe said he cried upon seeing on television supertyphoon Yolanda’s devastation of Eastern Visayas. “It brought back memories of what we went through,” he said.
But unlike in some areas hit by Yolanda (Haiyan) where local officials were nowhere to be found, Mandawe said their barangay captain, Mira Ching, was there to help the residents.
“The residents also helped the barangay captain,” he said.
He said village councilman Palong Cabrera, a small store owner, distributed canned goods and rice to those who were affected some five hours after the typhoon.
“We did not have looting here,” he said.
Residents of Barangay Kinablangan, also in Baganga, said local businessman Edgar Lao distributed at least 300 sacks of rice to the affected villagers.
In the village of Lambajon, owners of small retail stores had people line up for rice, eggs and canned goods.
“There was no need to loot because residents saw store owners were willing to give,” Father Darwey Clark, parish priest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus church in the village of Lambajon, said.
Clark said the only reported looting happened in Cateel town where people took away rain-soaked rice from the damaged National Food Authority warehouse.
“They took away rice, not freezer or television like what happened in Tacloban,” he added.
The three towns were isolated for at least three days after the typhoon. The Baogo Bridge, which connected the three towns to the municipality of Caraga, was destroyed by rampaging the Manurigao river, which carried with it uprooted trees and logs. The other route, which is from Surigao del Sur, was also impassable due to fallen trees and landslides.
When relief goods finally came, it was not enough to feed at least 274,000 people displaced by the typhoon. The provincial government even resorted to transporting relief goods on a Philippine Navy boat from the city of Mati. Still, this was not enough.
There were also complaints of relief goods reaching only those who were political allies of the governor. Malanyaon, however, denied this, saying: “It was no time for politics.”
After being isolated for three days, local groups and international organizations came to help — setting up medical stations and relief hubs.
Building materials were also distributed, helping people rebuild their homes. Some, however, ended up living in government-funded bunkhouses or tents.
In the village of Kinablangan, at least 10 families, whose homes were destroyed by the typhoon, are still living in shelter box tents as they wait for the government-funded housing units being built.
Most of those who were rendered homeless by the typhoon have also received new shelters courtesy of the non-government organizations.
Mandawe, who received a transitional house from the Philippine Red Cross, said he was still waiting for the housing unit in a relocation site.
With the slow-paced construction of government housing units, some of those who are now in transitional houses are expecting to live there for more months or for good. Some even availed of government’s P10,000 assistance for survivors whose houses were only damaged.
“They’d rather have P10,000 to buy building materials, than wait for government’s housing project,” Clark said, adding that many have yet to receive the amount for those whose houses were damaged.
For Clark, the Typhoon Pablo’s survivors have started to move on but would be needing more help from government.
“They don’t have jobs,” he said.
Most of the survivors worked on coconut farms. The typhoon destroyed some six million coconut trees on its path.
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