Catholics Work to Provide Housing for Filipinos Displaced by Flooding

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MANILA, Philippine — Catholic agencies and officials in the Philippines are working to provide housing for victims of recent flooding that left more than 1,200 people dead and hundreds of thousands more displaced.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said it would seek funding for the construction of 1,000 houses and 400 permanent homes in Cagayan de Oro, another 400 transitional homes in Iligan, and 200 other temporary shelters in Dumaguete.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops' Catholic Relief Services said Jan. 3 that the agency hoped to begin building more than 800 transitional shelters. She said CRS also hoped to implement a six-month cash-for-work program with a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the Philippine bishops' Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace, said it was asking Caritas Internationalis for $1.6 million.

"They will start releasing their pledges once we finish the revision of the proposal," he told the Asian church news agency UCA News. He said he expected construction to begin by mid-February, once Caritas gives its approval.

"Those in Iligan and Dumaguete will be constructed on site, while those in Cagayan de Oro will be relocated. We have to find a suitable place for the 400 families there," he said.

Father Gariguez said relief supplies have been arriving steadily, but that shelter is the principal need.

"There are tent cities but these are only temporary. We want to address the long-term need of the community -- relocation and shelter assistance. Otherwise, (residents) will just return to the hazardous areas," he said.

Government and other groups have also announced plans to address housing needs in the wake of flooding.

Welfare secretary Corazon Soliman said the government would prepare an unspecified number of permanent homes for flood victims now being moved to tents and temporary shelters from schools and churches.

Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University also introduced a plan to build 200 new residences in two flood-affected cities.