TOLOSA, Leyte: Though Mayor Erwin Ocaña of Tolosa, Leyte knows how much his constituents need food, water and other supplies, he prods them to look beyond these basic items and think of the future.
“We don’t know where to start but we need to survive, we don’t want to live on doleouts. We want to bring back life in Tolosa, so I am appealing for assistance from the national government or other related agencies to give us some rice seedlings so we can start harvesting by April and fishing boats for our fishermen to restore their normal livelihood,” he said.
Tolosa’s revenues come from fishing and agriculture.
The mayor said the residents are in dire need of construction materials and medicines. He added that his constituents need to rebuild their homes in order to bring back a semblance of normalcy in their ruined community.
Ocaña said that 19 of his 17,531 constituents perished in the typhoon.
“It took four days for relief to reach our towns because our roads were impassable. We had to ask for food assistance from other districts of Leyte. Had we used our IRA (internal revenue allotment), we would not have been able to make both ends meet,” he told The Manila Times.
Ocaña said he has urged some of the residents to temporarily move to Manila or Cebu and to come back when reconstruction of their battered town starts.
The mayor was happy that Tolosa will be adopted by Quezon City as part of the Adopt-A-Town project of the Metro Manila Development Authority, which promised to rehabilitate the small municipality.
Ailing and injured residents were given medical aid a week after the typhoon hit Central Visayas. A medical mission from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao reached the town on November 17.
Dr. Alinader Minalang, who heads the group, said that some people cried out of sheer joy when they arrived.
“In terms of the medicines and medical supplies, there was a major shortage. There’s also a shortage of health workers here since, they themselves, are also victims of the typhoon.”
The group turned the municipal hall into a makeshift hospital, serving victims with a variety of medical needs.
Minalang said they are running low on medicines and anti-tetanus vaccines.
But the doctor is not losing hope, “I am here to serve the people of Tolosa during their time of need. It’s a call of duty. After all, we are all Filipinos under one nation,” he said.
Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, whose mother Imelda hails from Tacloban, coordinated with his cousin, Philip Romualdez, to being relief goods to the typhoon victims. Aside from the basic necessities, they also gave out tools to help the residents fix their homes.
“Since Tacloban is already receiving so much aid, we deemed it necessary to help the residents of Tolosa and the other towns of Leyte like Tanauan, Sante Fe and Dulag. We used our house here as an evacuation center and entry point for relief goods so as to reach the areas that cannot be reached by land but through barges and fishing vessels,” Marcos said.
“We are also sending heavy machineries such as bulldozers, to clear the roads and mechanics to fix the vehicles that can still be used to deliver relief goods and other necessities,” he added.
United Nations (UN) humanitarian coordinator Luiza Carvalho said aid will continue to be distributed to battered towns as relief operations are scaling up.
“We are, and will continue to work with national and local government to deliver as we have in previous calamities,” Carvalho said. “They remain in the lead on this response, and we will continue to complement and provide support to them in any way we can.”
“We need solar lanterns, which can recharge mobile phones so communities can stay in touch and families are more secure at night. We are happy to have supported the water system restoration in Tacloban City and to have around 200 women and men involved in cash-for-work in debris clearing. This is just the beginning,” she added.
A vaccination campaign for measles, polio and Vitamin A deficiency that aims to reach 500,000 children will begin on Monday. Health officials have pledged to look after the needs of pregnant and new mothers.
Carvalho said schools in the affected areas should resume classes at the soonest possible time so that children will return to their normal routine which will help them cope with the trauma they experienced.
Carvalho said temporary shelters for homeless families should also be given priority. Uprooted trees can be used in the rebuilding of homes, she added.
“People are asking for tools. They also need our support for livelihoods – many jobs were lost and crops destroyed,” she said, noting that farmers require seeds and fertilizer to plant for the coming rice harvest.
“This will take time, but we are committed to supporting the longer-term recovery of families and communities. We are ready and willing to help in this recovery, but require the continued support of our generous donors,” the UN official said.
WITH A REPORT FROM NEIL A. ALCOBER