Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman recently visited Zamboanga City to monitor the progress of the rehabilitation efforts for those affected by the siege that happened in the city on September 2013.
“I want to personally ensure everyone that no one is forgotten. We from the national government, with all our partners, will continue to provide assistance until we have built back better for all the victims,” she affirmed as she chaired the Local Inter-agency Committee (LIAC) meeting held at the Zamboanga City Hall.
Although the Secretary was quick to admit that the December 15 deadline of moving all evacuees in the Zamboanga Grandstand was not met, she still believes that the efforts of the local government, national agencies and international humanitarian organizations should be recognized.
“From almost 2,800 families residing at the Grandstand in January 2014, there are now just around 1,300. Some we have already moved to permanent shelters, while others to temporary shelters as they await the permanent ones. This is still a very significant accomplishment,” she pointed out.
The Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Complex, or the Grandstand, became the biggest evacuation center at the height of the armed tension last year when a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front stormed the city.
Aside from the setback in the construction of houses, Sec. Soliman also confirmed other circumstances contributing to the delay.
“Another major factor causing delays are certain cultural concerns have just been brought to the attention of the authorities. For example, there are more or less 300 families who cannot go to a certain transitional area because of clan conflict. So they would not move out of the evacuation center,” she shared.
There have also been instances of evacuees not wanting to transfer to temporary shelters for fear that they will not eventually be given permanent houses.
“We constantly clarify to the displaced families, especially those relocated to transitory sites, that those are just temporary. They will still have to be transferred to permanent, more sturdy houses, although most have noted that the bunkhouses are already better than what they had before” she commented.
According to the National Housing Authority, they target to finish all permanent shelter by middle of 2015 as the projects are currently in various stages of completion. On the other hand, DSWD intends to relocate everyone in the evacuation centers to transitory sites by January 2015.
Furthermore, Sec. Soliman explained that according to the local government, not all who are still staying at the Grandstand were actually victims of the siege.
For them, DSWD offers other services such as the Balik-Barangay and Balik-Probinsiya program where they are provided financial assistance so they can return to their places of origin.
“We do this because those who will only be awarded permanent houses are those really affected by the siege and are already previously listed on the database of the local government,” she expounded.
On Tuesday, the Secretary attended the turnover of 40 bunkhouses and 14 single detached housing units in Masepla, Mampang constructed by the 52nd Engineering Brigade of the Philippine Army with funding support from the DSWD and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
To date, the Department has already provided a total of P438.75 million worth of assistance to all affected families.
This includes P95.5 million which covered for expenses for the transitional shelters and P8.75 million for the DSWD programs for movement of families such as the Balik-Probinsiya, Balik-Barangay, House Rental and Home Materials Assistance (HOMA) Programs.
Some P318 million was spent on the provision of food packs and non-food items, implementation of the cash and food-for-work programs, and delivery of other basic series such as financial and educational aid.
The Department likewise continues with the conduct of livelihood programs. A total of P16.5 million has been utilized to cover the capital seed funds and the conduct of skills trainings.
“We have given out capital funds for businesses like seaweed farming, fish vending, candle making, food processing, rice retailing, among others,” she continued.
The city government likewise reported that it is working with concerned national agencies and international organization to continue to ration water and provide electricity using generator sets to transitory sites.
Though these physical necessities of the affected families should immediately be met, Sec. Soliman pointed out that more beyond the provision of their daily needs should to be done.
“The durable solution still is the rebuilding of the trust of all the Zamboangueños, all the ethnicities, all the religions. We should remember the peaceful diversity alive in the city before, as perfectly represented by the famous vinta sails – a beautiful piece created by a harmonious patching together of different colors and textures,” she reminded all. #