Aquino cancels Davao Oriental trip, turnover of houses postponed

CATEEL, Philippines – A construction worker and his dog walk past by an empty stage at the middle of a relocation site in Poblacion, Cateel, while hopeful residents who are waiting for the turnover of government housing for those who lost their homes during Super Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) peek from the windows of their makeshift shacks a few meters away from the area.

It was already 2 in the afternoon on Wednesday, December 4 – exactly a year after Pablo devastated the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental – and the people are still waiting for the President Benigno Aquino III who will lead the turnover ceremonies.

“We have prepared to welcome him. We cannot even explain the excitement that we felt because the president is coming to our village,” 36-year old Normelinda Masumbid said.

Pablo destroyed her family’s house and they are now staying in a makeshift house for a year.

But the residents, some dressed in their best clothes, as this would be their first time to meet up close Aquino, wonder why the stage is slowly being cleared.

Governor Corazon Malanyaon confirmed that the turnover was postponed because Aquino cannot make it to Cateel town.

But the turnover will push through once Aquino will be able to visit the province, Malanyaon said.

However, Masumbid said that they are very dismayed that Aquino is a no-show in Cateel, which resulted to the postponement of the turnover.

Photo by Karlos Manlupig/Rappler

“What? The turnover was postponed just because PNoy cannot come here? Can’t we have our homes even without his presence?” commented Masumbid.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development said at least 254 are already constructed or are still being constructed in the Poblacion area.

Majority of the houses are painted in red, a color associated with DSWD, while some houses were painted in yellow, which is a color associated with Aquino.

Some beneficiaries have already planted flowering plants and attached curtains in their housing units.

With the postponement, the typhoon survivors said they have no choice but to wait. They reminded the government that they are not beggars but constituents, which the officials have sworn to protect and serve.

“If they want to prioritize the interests of the residents, the government should immediately allow us to transfer to the new houses. Getting a new permanent house is vital in our efforts in rebuilding our lives,” Masumbid said.

In Barangay Kinablangan, Baganga, residents staying in bunkhouse provided by DSWD are anxious that a year passed with them still living in uncertainty.

Photo by Karlos Manlupig/Rappler

“Every time it rains, the bunkhouses are submerged in ankle-deep floodwater,” a resident who refused to be identified said.

“We will stand for hours until the flood will subside. We want to relocate but the government has not yet informed us about it. One year and we still do not know what will happen to us,” the resident said.

DSWD asked the residents to be patient as the government is doing its best to address the needs of the survivors.

In the entire province, the agency is presently has constructed 694 permanent shelters.

Local and international organizations have also assisted in providing shelters for the people of Davao Oriental.

In Ban-ao, Baganga, Balay Mindanaw bought a 4.5-hectare property at the top of the hill that would serve as the relocation site wherein at least 32 houses worth P110,000 each are being constructed.

Organizations like CRS, ICRC, IOM and Caritas are also helping in providing permanent shelters for the residents. –