Dinagat Islands

Typhoon-stricken Dinagat Islands turn garage into province’s seat of power

Herbie Gomez
Typhoon-stricken Dinagat Islands turn garage into province’s seat of power

HUG. Dinagat Governor Arlene "Kaka" Bag-ao and Senator Risa Hontiveros hug each other when the lawmaker visited the typhoon-devastated island-province before Christmas Day.

courtesy of Josel Gonzales

Dinagat's Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office counts 27,780 destroyed houses and 3,085 damaged houses in 7 towns

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The provincial government of Dinagat Islands has turned a garage into the province’s seat of power where local officials are now mapping out plans to rebuild.

With the main capitol buildings seriously damaged and destroyed during the onslaught of Typhoon Odette (Rai) on December 16, workers built makeshift offices at the capitol garage in Barangay Caurinta in San Jose, the capital town of Dinagat.

Josel Gonzales, chief of staff of Dinagat Governor Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao, said some 300 provincial government workers crammed in the makeshift offices to facilitate continuous government functions.

The Dinagat Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council also set up a makeshift base in Barangay Santa Cruz, also in San Jose town, where all disaster relief operations in the province are being planned and coordinated.

“This is to ensure the delivery of goods and services to Dinagatnons as we work to rebuild in the aftermath of Typhoon Odette,” said Gonzales.

He said some of Dinagat’s biggest challenges now are bringing back the supply of electricity and restoring the province’s telecommunications signals that were cut off on the day of Odette’s landfall.

Dinagat has been groping in the dark for over a week now and mobile phone signals are still very weak and limited in a few areas after Odette pounded on the islands and destroyed the province’s power and telecommunications infrastructures.

Bag-ao has been sending capitol officials and workers out of Dinagat to mainland Caraga just to establish communications with disaster response groups with the help of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD). This means traveling as far as Butuan City where the power supply and telecommunications signals are relatively stable.

The rebuilding of homes and health facilities is also a major concern.

Thousands of families lost their homes in what is seen as the worst environmental disaster to ever hit the Dinagat Islands in recent years.

On the day Odette unleashed its fury there, “homes were swept like paper houses,” according to Gonzales.

The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) counted 27,780 destroyed houses and 3,085 damaged houses in seven towns on the Dinagat Islands as of December 23.

Gonzales said Governor Bag-ao and other officials in Dinagat’s “makeshift capitol” were working to bring back the vital public infrastructures as they start thinking of ways to pump prime the local economy, ensure an ample supply of food, and generate emergency employment to ensure incomes.

Gonzales said a capitol team, formed by Bag-ao, was working on early recovery.

The capitol, he said, was also optimistic that Dinagat would get help from the United Nations and international aid organizations “to help us build better.”

Dinagat has so far received pledges of support from UN resident coordinator to the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez, and ambassadors Michèle Boccoz of France, Steven Robinson of Australia, and Peter Kell of New Zealand.

“We are facing a very critical moment. We are trying to find the best way of recovering from that,” said the UN’s Gonzalez as he announced plans for a UN mission for the Dinagat Islands.

Gonzalez and the other diplomats were supposed to fly to the Dinagat Islands from Surigao City last week but were prevented from doing so due to logistical problems.

Bag-ao’s chief of staff said relief aid has been “overwhelming” so far, and these enabled the provincial government to set up “community kitchens” in typhoon-devastated towns in Dinagat “to help ensure that Dinagatnons don’t go hungry as we work together towards recovery.”

“Help is coming from all over – from international and national humanitarian organizations, business groups, civil society groups, church and government agencies, families, individuals, and barkadas (friends),” Gonzales said.

He said Dinagatnons are resilient by nature given that they live on an island province that “made us and our people no stranger to isolation,” and “created a culture of self-reliance.” –Rappler.com

The following are the donation channels announced by the provincial government of Dinagat:

  • Gilbert Anguay, senior aquaculturist, provincial government of Dinagat, 09303737160
  • Nolasco Ritz Lee B. Santos III, Balaod Mindanaw executive director, GCash-linked number: 09209380692
  • Loi Cabaluna of Balaod Mindanaw, GCash-linked number: 09561274786
  • Banco de Oro (BDO), Unibank, account number 001768028140, Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw Incorporated, Corrales Street, Cagayan de Oro City, SWIFT Code: BNORPHMM
  • Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) account number 2041-0351-05, Balaod Mindanaw Incorporated, Velez Street, Cagayan de Oro City, SWIFT Code: BOPIPHMM
  • Balaod Mindanaw Office, 105 Faustino Neri Street, Block 13, RER Subdivision, Phase I, Barangay Kauswagan, Cagayan de Oro City 9000
  • District Office of Agusan del Norte Representative Lawrence Fortun, 4th Street, Guingona Subdivision, Butuan City