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New homes for 2,800 families by Christmas

Newlyweds Earvin and Riza Nierva pose beside a ship and homes damaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda after their wedding in Tacloban City yesterday. AP                                                                                        

MANILA, Philippines - More than 2,800 families of Typhoon Yolanda survivors will have new homes by Christmas, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said yesterday.

In a statement, the DPWH said that by Dec. 25 it shall have completed the construction of 119 bunkhouses, each comprising 24 units or a total of 2,856 homes.

The 119 bunkhouses are part of the 142 being built by the DPWH for typhoon victims in Eastern Visayas. The agency is targeting to complete the construction by New Year.

 The DPWH will turn over the bunkhouses to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for assignment to beneficiaries.

 The construction of the bunkhouses in 29 different sites in Eastern Visayas is being supervised by DPWH regional directors and district engineers from Regions 4-A, 4-B, 5, 10, 11, 13 and the National Capital Region.

However, the DPWH said sporadic heavy rains are hampering site development and construction activities in the 29 locations in the areas.

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But DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson said private contractors tapped by the DPWH for the task have committed to work double time during good weather so they can meet the completion target.

DSWD, TESDA pitch in

The DSWD and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) have also collaborated for the rebuilding of communities in Eastern Visayas.

TESDA director general Joel Villanueva said his agency would conduct free training on basic carpentry and house wiring in affected areas, while the DSWD would distribute construction materials to families who lost their homes.

“Later on, we will also provide free skills training on construction work and technology so the people there can be the ones hired in the massive reconstruction and rehabilitation effort to be led by the government in the region,” Villanueva told The STAR.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said the DSWD is set to distribute construction materials or “shelter kits” to the beneficiaries next week. She declined to disclose the number of beneficiaries, as the agency still has to make a report to President Aquino on Tuesday.

“We have the number but we are still waiting for the meeting with the President where we will present the data to him first,” she said.

Soliman also said the DSWD has conducted a “pilot” distribution of construction materials to homeless families in Tanauan, Leyte and Guiuan, Eastern Samar.

Adopt a Christmas lantern

SM City Pampanga has also joined the rebuilding efforts by launching “Adopt a Parol” program, which aims to raise funds for the construction of 24 housing units for homeless Yolanda victims in the Visayas using proceeds from the sale of Christmas lanterns.

Each house costs around P150,000 to P175,000, while a Christmas lantern costs P3,000.

The housing project will be implemented in cooperation with the provincial government of Pampanga as well as with the Gawad Kalinga, and will be named “Pampanga Village.”

SM City Pampanga officials are calling all Kapampangans to “adopt” the 1,000 pieces of parol, which were all handcrafted by lantern makers in the province.

As of yesterday, at least 180 lanterns worth P540,000 have been sold or “adopted” for the housing project of the SM Foundation.

During the launching of the program last Dec. 1, the provincial government and the municipality of Lubao sold 60 lanterns amounting to P180,000.

In a related development, more than 100,000 food packs have been distributed to typhoon-devastated areas in Cebu. 

Most of the relief goods went to the towns of Bantayan, Borbon, Carmen, Catmon, Consolacion, Daan Bantayan, Madridejos, Medellin, Pilar, Poro, San Francisco, San Remegio, Santa Fe, Sogod, Tabogon, Tabuelan, and Tudela and the cities of Bogo, Cebu, Mandaue and Talisay in northern Cebu.

“We will still continue to dispatch family food packs to northern Cebu per request of local government units,” DSWD regional director Mercedita Jabagat said. “We are also sending the donations given by various foreign donors.”

Jabagat also said the DSWD will soon implement its cash-for-work program in the province. Each beneficiary will be given cash assistance equivalent to 75 percent of the minimum wage in his or her area in exchange for 15 days of disaster rehabilitation work.

Japanese PM’s visit

Meanwhile, visiting Japanese Prime Minister Itsunori Onodera is flying to Visayas today to personally assess the ongoing relief operations being conducted by Japanese forces deployed in affected areas.

Onodera said he would also evaluate whether it is already time for the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) to end its mission as the relief operation is already shifting to rehabilitation.

The outcome of his evaluation would decide whether he would recommend to the Japanese government a pullout or extension of troop deployment,

“I believe that international disaster relief operations are getting close to the ending. But this does mean an end of Japanese support and assistance. Rather, it will change and shift to the next stage,” he added.

Troops from the United States and Israel pulled out last week, while contingents from the Italian government are also planning to leave by Dec. 15. – With Rainier Allan Ronda, Ric Sapnu, and Jaime Laude

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