CATEEL, Davao Oriental (Mabuhay) – For mobilizing the entire national government machinery to address their urgent concerns following the onslaught of super typhoon “Pablo” (Bopha), the people of Davao Oriental thanked President Benigno S. Aquino III during the “Pulong Bayan sa Cateel” program held Monday morning in this town’s municipal plaza.
Speaking on behalf of her constituents, Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon said they consider it as a ‘great honor and privilege’ to have Cateel chosen as one of the venues for this year’s commemorative celebration of EDSA, graced by President Aquino and some members of his Cabinet.
“The historical incident of EDSA was triggered by political upheavals, yet it has a striking similarity to the climate-related ‘Pablo’ incident our province had just experienced. EDSA Revolution was a story of resiliency, of faith and hope, of rising from the rubbles; our ‘Building Back Better Davao Oriental’ is also a story of resilience, of faith and hope that we shall overcome, and of rising from the devastation of typhoon ‘Pablo’,” Malanyaon said.
Malanyaon reported to the President various forms of aid gained by her province from different national government agencies that helped them get back on their feet after being hit by the monstrous storm in December 2012.
Super typhoon ‘Pablo’ claimed hundreds of lives, displaced thousands of families, and destroyed billions worth of infrastructures, private structures, and properties in Davao Oriental alone, which prompted President Aquino to create a special task force led by Secretary Rene Almendras to facilitate a smooth disaster response mechanism for all the affected areas.
“A one-year period with some disruptions seemed too short to regain some semblance of normalcy, and to heal from our painful ‘Pablo’ experience, yet we have done and achieved so much. But all these would not have been possible without the support of the national government under the present leadership,” Malanyaon said.
In terms of housing, Malanyaon said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) managed to immediately construct temporary shelters for homeless families and distributed cash assistance to those whose houses were partially damaged by the storm.
The DSWD also already provided Davao Oriental initial funds to be used in the construction of permanent shelters pegged at P70,000 per unit. In addition, the National Housing Authority acquired lands as well for its own housing projects for the province, which could provide shelter for 3,391 families.
Meanwhile, two significant bridges destroyed by ‘Pablo’—the San Jose and Mandurigao bridges in Caraga—were immediately repaired through the quick response teams sent by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), restoring access to the towns of Cateel, Boston, and Baganga, which were left isolated by ‘Pablo’ at the time.
The same bridges plus three others were also damaged by last month’s low pressure area caused by ‘Agaton’, but have since been fixed by the DPWH, including the Presidential Bridge of Lumao, Alegria of this municipality.
In terms of public health, Department of Health (DOH) augmented the support received by Davao Oriental from international non-government organizations and other healthcare-related groups as it helped repair a number of barangay health stations, including the Cateel District Hospital.
Students in the affected towns are currently occupying new school buildings donated by the charity wings of different media networks such as ABS-CBN, GMA-7, TV-5 and other donors from the private sector as both the Department of Education and the DPWH will still complete the construction of 570 new classrooms.
While over a year has passed since ‘Pablo’ swept Davao Oriental, debris clearing activities still continue in the province, hence Malanyaon is grateful for the Debris Management Fund assistance provided by President Aquino through the Department of Interior and Local Government.
The Department of Agriculture also remains consistent with its support by distributing rice, corn, and vegetable seeds, and cacao and cassava seedlings to over 8,000 farmers for their livelihood. Livestock, draft animals, and poultry were also distributed.
Davao Oriental was also declared insurgency-free by the Philippine Army four months after ‘Pablo’ hit the municipalities of Cateel, Baganga, and Boston, making it easier for both the local and national government to deliver basic services to affected residents.
As regards to their climate change adaptation and disaster risk management, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, together with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology under the Department of Science and Technology, assisted Davao Oriental in determining geohazard areas, which are now strongly observed in the establishment of resettlements, and in the updating of the local land use plans.
If there is one area that remains to be a concern for Davao Oriental until now, that would be power supply, as Malanyaon reported that 24 barangays or 57 percent of their province are still not re-energized.
In line with this, she is hoping that the fund requested by the Davao Oriental Electric Cooperative from the National Electrification Administration and the Department of Energy would be granted soon to restore energy in all the affected villages.
Malanyaon acknowledged the fact that more has to be done in order to translate the ‘build-back-better’ principle into concrete reality, but having a solid support from the national government and other development collaborators enables them to go a step further towards reaching that goal.
“And so, in behalf of the people of Davao Oriental, let me acknowledge and extend our wholehearted thanks and appreciation to His Excellency, President Benigno S. Aquino III, for mobilizing the whole national government machinery to address our urgent concerns… We can do more and we can do better in the coming years… Always with that undaunted spirit ‘to move on and to move up’ as our mantra goes,” Malanyaon said. (MNS)