Rehab status angers Roxas
Jessa Agua (The Freeman) - October 16, 2014 - 12:00am

TAGBILARAN CITY, Philippines —  At exactly 8:12 in the morning yesterday, church bells rang, sirens of emergency response vehicles such as fire trucks and rescue ambulances wailed, and public and private vehicles blared their horns for 33 seconds, exactly a year after a 7.2 earthquake shattered Bohol.

Unlike last year, however, there was no calamity yesterday, only Boholanos making a creative remembrance of the powerful earthquake that tested their resiliency and forever changed their province.

Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto said the “noise” was their own way of showing that the people of Bohol still stand and are prepared whatever comes their way.

The observance, however, was not all solemn and serious, after Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas blew his top during the Bohol Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council meeting he attended.

At the start, Roxas likewise lauded the resilience the Boholanos displayed after the earthquake.

He, however, ended up angry when he received no positive feedback when he asked on the status of efforts to rehabilitate government infrastructures like municipal halls, civic centers and public markets under the Bohol Earthquake Assistance program.

“Sasabunin tayo ng pangulo nyan at lalo na ng boss natin, ang mga mamamayan,” a pissed off Roxas addressed the local officials.

Chatto explained that they were trying their best to expedite completion of all requirements so that construction can already start.

Not finished yet, Roxas likewise reprimanded the mayors of Clarin and Sagbayan towns since they have not even complied with half of the total number of program of works and estimates (POWE) that the national government requires.

Clarin received P51.8 million for 15 supposed post-earthquake projects and but the mayor has not submitted even a single POWE.

Sagbayan received P216.7 million from the BEA through the Department of Interior and Local Government for 65 projects but submitted only three POWEs.

Since the local officials reasoned that they lack the technical experience in coming up with a POWE despite being given an appropriation that they hire 15 structural engineers to assist them, Roxas directed Department of Public Works and Highways-7 Director Ador Canlas to hire 20 more engineers.

Funding for the additional engineers would be sourced from the national government.  Roxas further instructed Canlas to write an official letter-request regarding the matter.

Before the meeting ended, Roxas told those around that he would return to Bohol next month to ask for updates and he hoped that construction would finally start before Christmas.

After the province-wide, simultaneous noise-making activity yesterday, Tagbilaran City Bishop Leonardo led the celebration of a Holy Mass to commemorate last year’s event.

The Saint Joseph the Worker’s Cathedral, with a capacity of 1,000 people was filled up, with others joining the mass, which was amplified through speakers, already outside the church.

In his homily, Medroso emphasized that the observance was not meant to make fun of the lives and properties lost; rather, it was a realization on how precious the gift of life really is.

“This should give us a wider perspective in looking at things, by not judging by the appearance. Let us not be called hypocrites. Behind all the calamities that we experienced, we have to pick up the pieces to have a normal life again, and realize that there is that love of God. That is what we are going to celebrate,” he said.

Medroso said that though lives were lost, the earthquake proved that the Almighty God has always been there for His people.

Before the mass ended, images of search, rescue, and retrieval operations as well as the names of those who died were projected unto a white screen.

A moment of silence and special prayers for those who perished was also offered.

In a speech he delivered after the mass, Tagbilaran City Mayor John “Baba” Yap stressed that “life is fragile” and that Boholanos have proven to the world their generosity and gratefulness.

“Bisan pa man naigo ta sa linog, when Yolanda hit Leyte, Boholanos still afforded to extend help because we knew how it feels to be victims,” Yap said.

Chatto, on the other hand, told those gathered that the calamity brought the Boholanos together.

“We cannot just say that we want to forget that day…because beautiful things happened. It produced the best of the Boholanos, Filipinos, of being one with each other. We are reminded to be always prepared because in our time, the Lord has His own plans,” he said.

Shortly after the religious activity was the groundbreaking of an earthquake memorial marker on top of Banat-i Hill in Bool, Tagbilaran.

The future tourist attraction overlooks the neighboring towns of Bohol as well as the islands of Panglao and Balicasag.

Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino was also present during the mass and the groundbreaking.

Chatto said they were grateful for MMDA rescuers who arrived in Bohol a few hours after the temblor and joined the province’s TARSIER rescue team in going to Loon town, which was isolated after its bridge collapsed.—/RHM(FREEMAN)

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