Philippines

Philippines: The Bicol Recovery Project: A new ray of hope for Bicolanos

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Like the brilliant rays of the sun, Bicolanos devastated by the series of destructive typhoons which hit the Bicol Region since 2006 are starting to recover from their ordeal, with a lot of help from the Department of Social Welfare and Development-United Nations Development Programme (DSWD-UNDP) Bicol Recovery Project.

Social Welfare and Development Acting Secretary Celia Capadocia- Yangco said that the DSWD-UNDP Bicol Recovery Project is a two - year program for disaster victims through the provision of shelter assistance, livelihood support, technical and vocational skills and capability building on disaster preparedness and mitigation.

It is being implemented in coordination with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) with funding assistance from the UNDP. This is on top of Calamity Assistance and Rehabilitation Efforts (CARE) and rehabilitation program for typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng victims.

A total of 570 beneficiaries from the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Sorsogon are currently benefiting from the Bicol Recovery Project. "Labis kaming natutuwa sa binigay na tulong ng gobyerno na pinadaan sa DSWD at UNDP. Malaking tulong ito sa amin na naririto (We are so happy for the support provided to us by the government through the DSWD and UNDP. It's a big help for all of us here)," Barangay Guruyan, Juban, Sorsogon Neighborhood Association for Shelter Assistance (NASA) president Arnold Buella enthused.

Arnold was among thousands of Bicolanos who were displaced because of the typhoons which totally damaged their houses. His family, like their neighbors had to endure almost a year of living in makeshift homes. "Difficult and depressing" is how Arnold describes their living conditions at the evacuation centers.

Today is entirely different for Arnold. Their new house is clean, with bedrooms, kitchen and toilet. Vegetables and flowering plants were also planted just in front of their house. "Masuwerte kami dahil makukuha mo sa aming bakuran ang mga gulay, di na kailangan pumunta sa palengke para bumili. (We are lucky because we have vegetables in our backyard, we don't need to go to the market to buy vegetables), Arnold related.

Through the efforts of the community and the municipal government, 112 core shelter units for 112 families were built with a budget of P7.8 million. The UNDP, on the other hand, provided P1.8 million for the water and electricity connection in each core house.

In her message to the beneficiaries during the turn-over of the core shelter units in Barangay Mambulo Nuevo in Libmanan, Camarines Sur, Acting Secretary Yangco said "The government has provided you two (2) Ks- Kabahayan at Kabuhayan. The government has done its part and now is the time for you to do your part. Take good care of your homes, your family and the
livelihood opportunities that have been provided to you."

"Under the DSWD-UNDP Bicol Recovery Project, the beneficiaries themselves build their own houses to give them a sense of ownership and responsibility. In the process, they learned masonry work, basic carpentry and other skills. Their new homes become a symbol of a fresh start," Acting Secretary Yangco explained.

Likewise, the DSWD and the UNDP will be completing the construction of a basic facility in Guruyan, Juban, Sorsogon scheduled for turn-over to the local government unit on March 20, 2010. Also on track is the turn-over of water and electricity installations in Magallanes, Casiguran and Sorsogon City, as well as monitoring of Self-Employment Assistance Kaunlaran (SEA-K) projects.

Acting Secretary Yangco said that these projects will continue to be implemented as part of the DSWD-UNDP Bicol Recovery Project in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Sorsogon. Acting Secretary Yangco added that "the construction of the core houses for displaced families in Bicol Region is in response to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's directive to provide immediate assistance and strengthened rehabilitation efforts to families affected by typhoons."