DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Laughter could be heard as representatives of a typhoon survivors movement and the DSWD met behind closed doors to find a solution to relief distribution in Mindanao on Wednesday, February 27.
“It’s a happy ending,” Department of Social Welfare and Development official Cezario Joel Espejo announced as he opened the door after more than 3 hours of discussions and 2 very tense days at the department’s regional office in Davao.
DSWD Assistant Secretary Camilo Gudmalin said the government and Barug Katawhan had agreed on 7 points:
- Strict validation to be implemented in case of inadequate supplies received through a partnership between Barug Katawhan, Balsa Mindanao, local government units and the DSWD
- Quantities must be identified immediately as they are the basis for releasing relief goods
- Relief operations to continue until June 2013
- Hasten validation of the quantities of relief goods needed and areas where insufficient or no supplies have been received, according to a list to be compiled by Barug Katawhan
- 100 sacks of rice to be given to protestors when they return to their villages
- No retaliation between Barug Katawhan, the local police and DSWD
- If there are any problems in implementing the agreement, representatives from Barug Katawhan, Balsa Mindanao, DSWD and an environmentalist group will immediately meet to discuss the issues
‘Victory for our people’ – Barug Katawhan
Barug Katawhan spokesman Karlos Trangia expressed his gratitude that they have finally achieved what they need in their villages.
The dialogue came after violence broke out again between the police and the residents, causing injuries on both sides.
(Read: Cops manhandle Davao-based journalist)
The protesters also confiscated a handgun from a suspected intelligence operative.
“After three days of intense protest, which resulted in several confrontations, we have finally achieved what we came for. This is a victory for the people,” said Trangia.
“I am also thankful to DSWD for listening and satisfying our demands,” he added.
Gudmalin explained that the 100 sacks of rice that would be given to the protesters will be deducted from the 10,000 sacks of rice committed by DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman.
He stressed that it is important to validate the list immediately to also clarify the accusations that there are areas not reached by the government services.
“There is no timeframe. But this must be done immediately,” Gudmalin said.
Both parties also committed to not file cases against each other.
DSWD-OIC Regional Director Priscilla Razon said they have undergone a healing process during the dialogue with the help of Sister Noemi Degala of Balsa Mindanao.
“We now have new found friends and partners,” she said while hugging Barug Katawhan leader Cerila Anding.
Razon said they vented out their feelings to finally move forward in this new partnership.
“If not for Pablo we all have not met,” Anding remarked.
Both parties agreed that they would work together in future projects, not just in the distribution of relief goods.
Three days after the occupation of the DSWD regional office in Davao, the protesters will be taking the long journey back to their villages.
After violent confrontations and heated verbal tussles, everyone agreed that it is time to learn from the experience and move towards a strong partnership and the delivery of genuine social services.
Upon hearing about the good news, a father from the Matigsalug tribe danced and played using their traditional musical instrument, cheered on by the protesters.
He said that the song and the dance are about gratitude and prosperity. – Rappler.com
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