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Aquino rallies Filipinos to face nature challenge

Publication Date : 25-02-2014


Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Monday rallied Filipinos behind what he called a new kind of solidarity, not unlike the one they exhibited in toppling the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship 28 years ago.

“Today, the challenge is different. It’s the challenge coming from nature, not men,” the President told a crowd of about 1,000 in Cateel, a town in Davao Oriental province that was hit by Typhoon Pablo 14 months ago in a destructive sweep that left 1,000 people dead in Northern Mindanao.

Cateel was the first stop in the President’s tour of areas devastated by major natural disasters under his watch, his way of commemorating the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution, which installed his late mother, former President Corazon Aquino.

The President is set to lead anniversary rites in Cebu Tuesday morning, away from Edsa, the historic avenue that drew about a million Filipinos during the four-day uprising 28 years ago.

Aquino said the government had done a lot to help the typhoon victims get back on their feet. He said housing units had been provided families whose homes were either damaged or destroyed by Pablo.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development said it had built 1,038 shelters in the province, 520 in this town, although the president said only 110 permanent housing units had been completed in Cateel.

Many in the crowd complained they had not received any help from the government since Pablo (international name: Bopha) hit the province in December 2012.

Nectarina Tinoy, a resident of Barangay (village) San Alfonso, was one of them. Tinoy and her four children have been living in a tent-patched house, rebuilt a second time after flooding caused by a low pressure area destroyed it last month. “I have not received anything, not even GI sheets,” she told the Inquirer.

Nelia Betana, another Cateel resident, said, “My house was destroyed by Pablo, yet until now I still have not received housing assistance from the government.”

In his speech, the President said construction was ongoing in relocation sites. He said the target was to provide 17,480 families of typhoon victims in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley province.
He said the government planned to complete the construction of 1,179 shelter units in Cateel alone by August, to coincide with the death anniversary of his father, former senator Benigno Aquino.

“What we want is to ensure that the structures that we will build are safer, more stable and with better condition,” he said.

‘Pablo chili’
Aquino also cited the Department of Agriculture’s move to help farmers plant chili, dry it and sell it as “hot Pablo chili.” Some farmers, however, said the price of chili had gone down from 50 pesos to 35 pesos as there were fewer buyers.

He said he opted to go around disaster areas “because we believe that in every fall and rise, in every initiative ensuring that no one will be left behind in our journey toward the straight path, we are living the real spirit of people power.”

“Truth be told, it was the right decision for me to go around and see what it really means for the Filipinos helping each other,” he said.

In what was supposed to be a “town hall” meeting with Cateel victims, the president was instead treated to profuse praises coming from handpicked residents asked to deliver testimonials on how supposedly effective rehabilitation efforts had been.

Amid all the good news paraded during the “pulong bayan,” 24 of the 42 barangays in three municipalities were still without power—a situation that irked the president.

The president said he had been asking why electricity had not been restored in the region and said he wanted a response before he left the town. “They know I rarely lose my patience, but I hope they wouldn’t try to find out how far I would go.”

Show to the world
Before the president’s speech, Gov. Corazon Malanyaon appealed to the National Electrification Administration and the Department of Energy to grant the fund request of the province’s local energy provider.

Malanyaon said the amount would “complete the restoration of energy in all the barangays of the three municipalities and the conversion of the single phase line into the three phase line in selected areas.”

“Adequate power supply is very much needed in our rehabilitation activities and in developing industries in these areas,” she said in a separate speech.

Aquino said he was “surprised” there were still areas without power.

Still, the president maintained that things were getting back to normal in Davao Oriental. “What we see now is far different from the situation we saw after Typhoon Pablo struck. Because of its strength, some communities were almost wiped off the map,” he said.

“Like what he exhibited in 1986, we’re again showing the world the extraordinary care that a Filipino gives to his fellow Filipino.”


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