MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III hailed the progress and development in rebuilding calamity-hit areas but was surprised to know that many barangays in Davao Oriental – over a year since Typhoon Pablo struck – are still without power.
The President visited Cateel, Davao Oriental on Monday, February 24, as part of his tour of calamity-hit areas to mark the 28th celebration of the EDSA People Power Revolution.
During his visit, Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon thanked the national government for its assistance after Pablo ravaged the province in December 2012, but pointed out that 24 barangays or 57% remain unenergized after the storm.
She said she hopes the fund requested by the Davao Oriental Electric Cooperative from the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) will soon be granted, so affected communities can enjoy power again.
A few minutes later, Aquino took the podium for his speech and responded to Malanyaon’s plea. He admitted he was surprised by what he learned and said he immediately contacted Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, as well as NEA.
“I called because I was surprised, why are there still places here where energy has not yet been restored? Their response to me is that there’s a pending request by NEA. The DBM (Department of Budget) said they don’t have the request,” he explained to the crowd made up of government officials, government employees, local officials and calamity victims.
“So I asked the DOE (Department of Energy): Where is this request really? I’ve asked so many times that before I leave Cateel, I better get a good answer. They know I rarely lose my patience, but they best not try me,” he said.
Aquino was scheduled to arrive at his next stop, Loon, Bohol by 2:55 pm. As of publication time, there was still no known response from the DOE.
Town hall meeting?
Cateel was Aquino’s first stop in his two-day out-of-town EDSA celebration, which, he said, he chose to spend with calamity victims who “characterize the true essence of People Power.” They have shown their ability to rise after a fall.
On Tuesday, February 25, Aquino’s next stop is earthquake-hit Bohol, then Cebu for the annual Salubungan, and Leyte for areas affected by Yolanda.
While Aquino’s Cateel visit meant to include a town hall meeting, only 3 pre-selected beneficiaries spoke publicly in the presence of Aquino. They testified to how the government’s projects helped improve their lives.
During his speech, Aquino said P10.5 billion has been allocated by the government to rehabilitate communities affected by Pablo. He said the government aims to provide permanent housing in relocated areas to 17,480 families in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.
In Cateel, Aquino said the goal is to relocate by August 1,170 families to safer housing. The President said that 110 housing units have been built so far since the 2012 storm struck.
Aquino related the People Power Revolution to the resilience and courage of calamity victims – pointing out the Filipinos’ decision to stand together amid challenges.
“Today the challenge is different. The challenge is the environment, not a person. The truth is, it was the right decision to go around and make visits, in order for me to see what they truly mean when they say the Filipino people are helping each other,” he said. – Rappler.com