Survivors of super typhoon Haiyan (local Yolanda) in Samar and Leyte who were left homeless and have no place to stay are accepted with pleasure in the province of Albay.
They can permanently resettle in the province and start a new life of their own or stay for a year, provided with help like temporary dwelling place and all other basic human amenities and social services that the provincial government under Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda is offering.
These amenities and services include education, health, shelter, livelihood opportunities and security, among others that the province can afford.
In education, members of these displaced families who are elementary grade pupils and high school students will also be accommodated in local public schools as soon as they are here, according to Salceda.
For their health services, the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital being run by the Department of Health and all public health institutions operated by the province and local government units will take care of these needs, he said.
For their shelter, the newly constructed evacuation camps in this city and the municipalities of Polangui, Libon, Oas, Sto. Domingo and Manito will be made available to them.
“These evacuation camps, constructed under Japanese standards by the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office as well as those provided by the Spanish government’s Española de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarollo (AECID) are certainly the best accommodation the country can ever provide to internally displaced persons (IDPs),” the governor said.
The facilities that for now can accommodate at least 10,000 persons or 2,000 families are provided with electricity, water, gender-sensitive toilets and baths, kitchens and safety installations like fire exits and extinguishers.
“We are willing and ready to adopt this number of families for a period of 12 months but the number does not stop there as beyond that, the province has its new family fostering program called “Albay Hero-Hiro (Albay Hero-Move) to take the others in,” Salceda said.
He said the 12-month period is APSEMO’s best estimate for the government to build decent shelter for those left homeless in Tacloban city and other localities that were ravaged by Yolanda.
The fostering program is a ‘big brother’-style of accommodation that the APSEMO has conceptualized. “Albay Hero-Hiro” in coined from the phrase “Albay, Hiro-Hiro”, a generic battle cry of the provincial government towards resilience against natural disasters and economic development, which means “Keep Moving, Albay.”
It is being undertaken for calamity-displaced families in collaboration with the regional office for Bicol of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office and Municipal and City Social Welfare and Development Office.
These offices will accredit them and attend to their needs during this 12-month period, according to the governor, whose administration has been in the forefront of attending to the needs of the survivors in Tacloban and neighboring municipalities that were badly devastated by the super typhoon.
Without waiting for a distress call, Albay has made its presence in the calamity-torn areas of the Visayas region, particularly Tacloban, since day one of the relief and rescue operations by dispatching its 179-man team of emergency response operators under the APSEMO bringing along with them food, water and medical supplies for the victims.
“We don’t stop after responding to the emergency needs of these victims. We will continue offering and providing help until they are able to stand up again. It may be a long process as long-term planning is required to ensure that these people, mostly farmers and fishermen, can resume their livelihoods,” Salceda said.
“While we were able to provide relief to the people as fast as we could, rebuilding a community will surely take time and funds. However, starting early with the victims can go a long way. Instead of giving them food at this point and time that relief has been delivered, give them money,” Salceda said.
Commerce is set to follow once there is money being circulated in the region. This also gives them the option to choose what to eat and the power to spend, he explained.
On their shelter, the government should not prolong their stay in tent cities – they can be dehumanizing. Instead, invest on better-constructed housing units.
Tents or bunkhouses are second only to homelessness in degrading the dignity of victims, Salceda said.
“On the other hand, rebuilding what was lost is also not enough. We should be building back better elsewhere and now is the perfect opportunity to build a resilient society in one of the country’s poorest regions,” he stressed.
To sustain the needs of the survivors from the Visayas who would be coming as IDPs to Albay, Salceda said, the province will seek national government funding.
“We will also tap volunteer families, private organizations and humanitarian institutions into these fostering contracts,” he added.
Concerned agencies like the Departments of Labor and Employment, Agriculture, Trade and Industry and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, among others will also be tapped in helping these refugees with livelihood options to help them pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
Salceda said this undertaking of the Albay provincial government is in support to the disaster risk reduction strategy which he pioneered, bannered by its “zero casualty” goal through preemptive evacuations during impending calamity situations.
“The fundamental response of Albay to climate change, disaster risk and poverty is the radical transformation of its people into communities with a total culture of giving and the development of responsive institutions like the APSEMO, Albay Millennium Development Goals Office and Climate Change Academy Albay,” he added. (PNA story by Danny O. Calleja)