From the ruins

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Saturday, April 5, 2014

RE-BUILDING is a long, seemingly never-ending job. That is what Davao Oriental is experience, more than a year after typhoon Pablo (Bopha) throttled Contra Costa, the name used to call the Davao Oriental towns facing the Pacific Ocean during the Spanish period.

Just last April 2, the MVP Group of companies led by the PLDT-Smart and the Maynilad Water joined local government officials in Baganga, Davao Oriental to inaugurate the first 29 of 262 promised houses in a newly-developed relocation site in barangay Lambajon.

Made up of duplexes and one three-unit rowhouse, the MVP Housing Project followsthe general theme of building back better. Thus its location alone is already well-selected, just beside an elementary school on an elevated area.

That there are just 29 units finished thus far shows the tedious process of re-building; that entails choosing the right places to put up human settlements as well as dealing with the community.

Even the restoration of power took more than a year. Davao Oriental Governor Corzaon N. Malanyaon announced it soon after meeting journalists just before the formal inauguration of the housing units that finally, the 24 barangays farther off the highway, that lost their power supply since typhoon Pablo, were once again in the loop as of April 1.

During the visit of President Benigno Simon C. Aquino III in Cateel, Davao Oriental last February 24, Governor Malanyaon, in her updates of the progress of restorative work in the towns of Baganga, Cateel, and Boston in her province, which were the worst-hit by typhoon Pablo on December 4, 2012, she mentioned that 24 out of 42 barangays in the three towns still have no supply of power since the typhoon. This piqued Aquino who scolded the energy officials for not attending to the needs of the survivors. That is now in the past.

“So many things are happening,” Malanyaon said as she expressed gratitude for all those who have been extending help.

Having to face the fact that the province’s decades-old source of income – coconuts – have been devastated by the typhoon, Malanyaon said that they are now welcoming investors and buyrs of short-gestating crops.

Of course, there is now the large-scale marketing of what Davao Oriental has quietly been known for, “dumang”, the powdered chili pepper.

But aside from that, she said, they are in talks with Agromill oils, which is into oil palm processing. Malanyaon decribed it as a Malaysian technology that already has plantations in Agusan, Bohol, and Palawan. But she said, what they are working at is an arrangement where farmers retain their land and Agromill merely buys their produce. Oil palms start to become productive after two and a half years while coconuts take six years.

They are looking into a minimum of 4,000 hectares because that is the size that can sustain a processing plant, but, this can go up to 42,000 hectares of sloped land.

San Miguel Corporation is also looking into cassava farming.

With these, those who lost their coconuts to the typhoon can bring back their land’s profitability without having to wait for coconuts to grow back.

At the formal inauguration of the MVP Housing Project, Holcim, which is part of the project being the cement supplier, brought in their Galing-Mason program, which trained local menfolk into becoming construction workers who have a certification from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).

The program utilized the housing project as the workshop of the beneficiaries. This was implemented through the help of the Philippine Constructors Association and the Association of Construction and Informal Workers (Aciw) with the Allado Construction Company Inc., which are the partners of the MVP Group in the housing projects in Davao Oriental.
Several graduates received their Tesda certificates for Masonry MC1-Construction Civil Works.

Maynilad also brought in water jugs that come with a portable filtration system designed by Doc Hendley, one of the top 10 CNN Heroes in 2009, which had Filipino Efren Penaflorida as the CNN Hero of the Year.
There was a demonstration of how the filtration system can turn water mixed with soil into very safe drinkable water, way below the safe turbidity level of 7 units.

The experience of Davao Oriental just outlines the massive and time-consuming work of rehabilitation, thus underlining the importance of climate change adaptation measures that can somehow reduce the risks that the forces of nature can bring.

As Hendley was quoted by CNN in December 2013 about his visit to the Philippines in the company of Penaflorida to help typhoon victims, “There's just so much to do in the Philippines. There are so many disasters there -- not just typhoons, but earthquakes. And lots of villages we went to didn't have clean water before the typhoon, and now things are much worse. So there's lots of work to do there, but we're excited about having the chance to help.”

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