Gov't starts Zamboanga rebuilding efforts
MANILA, Philippines - Three weeks since the standoff between government troops and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels, the government begins its efforts to rebuild Zamboanga City which has been massively damaged by fighting and gunfire.
On Monday, September 30, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda announced the efforts of various government agencies and the assistance they will be providing Zamboanga City.
Lacierda said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has set asia P99.5 million for "food assistance, non-food items, financial assistance, cash-for-work in the operation of community kitchen, hygiene and sanitation, and meal distribution."
The agency is currently managing evacuation centers and warehouses, and have started a computerized documentation of families displaced by the conflict.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) has set up posts and medical clinics in evacuation centers which also provide stress debriefing.
"We have also deployed personnel for the medical needs of those affected and operating rooms were established at the Western Mindanao State University," Lacierda said.
Evacuation centers have also been stocked with dental and other medical supplies by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), while the Department of Education (DepEd) has started providing teachers and students with psychosocial intervention following the trauma they may have experienced from the standoff.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is also ensuring the supply of basic goods by coordinating with private institutions.
"[The DTI] continuously monitor prices of basic commodities [and] imposed suggested retail prices for different establishments," he said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is now preoccupied with airlifting emergency supplies and equipment, along with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
The government has also granted calamity loans to conflict victims through PAG-IBIG Fund which provides housing loans, Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).
Due to the conflict, more than 10,000 homes were razed to the ground, forcing over 100,000 people or a tenth of the city's population to flee.
It is estimated that the conflict area – 30-40 hectares (74-99 acres) of densely packed communities, mangrove swamps and ponds – would take about two weeks to clear.
Lacierda gives assurances the government will do its job to rehabilitate the city as soon as possible, adding Vice President Jejomar Binay has started speaking to private realtors to reconstruct bunkhouses.
"We are doing all we can. All the agencies are exerting all their efforts to ensure the rehabilitation of Zamboanga City and like the phoenix it will rise from the ashes," he said.
Lacierda reiterated it is the safety of civilians that remains the government's priority above all, even over finding Habier Malik, the top MNLF official who led the attacks in Zamboanga.
"Our priority is the safety of the hostages which we are able to recover all the hostages, that’s one. Certainly it will be a plus to arrest Malik. But again, we are just waiting for verification [whether he is alive or dead]," he added.
Lacierda also said the government would honor the soldiers who fought in Zamboanga, especially those who died fighting.
"We certainly grieve for those who have fallen and they bravely defended this country against this reactionary forces. And we hail the men and women who chose to defend this country, who stood in the line of fire, those who have fallen and those who continue to serve and protect this country, not only the Armed Forces but also the PNP, and also those volunteers who risk life and limb to make sure that justice and peace and order is restored," he said.
Relief goods, donations
Despite the government's ongoing efforts, it is also accepting relief goods and construction materials from donors to help rehabilitate the broken barangays or villages of Zamboanga.
The Philippine Navy is in charge of collection, with the BRP Benguet loading materials starting on Tuesday, October 1, at the Naval Base in Sangley Point, Cavite City. It will depart once loading is completed.
The government encourages those who want to provide assistance to Zamboanga to contact Chester Ross Cabaltera at 0915-790-8459 and 0939-384-1279.
Netizens outside Zamboanga City are also asked to use #ayudazamboanga to coordinate relief efforts and activities, while those within Zamboanga are asked to use #ayudahanzamboanga. - Rappler.com