Typhoon 'Pablo' survivors plant seeds of new lives in resettlement site

Typhoon 'Pablo' survivors plant seeds of new lives in resettlement site

NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley - Housewife Marilyn Regis was in high spirits as she clasped with both hands a lump of loose earth to cover the calamansi seedling she just planted in front of her new house.

She, her husband and their three children were moving into their new concrete house in a 22-hectare former coconut plantation community in San Roque village here.

"We won't be living anymore in a hut near a riverbed that swells and threatens us with flooding during heavy rain," said the 36-year-old mother, who is several months pregnant with her fourth child.

But, as in so many things, nothing is perfect. Regis and other women in this new community for typhoon survivors expressed frustration at the lack of basic utilities in their new homes.

The occupants of the new houses complained of weak water pressure in their faucets. Some said there was no water at all.

"We can't even have water for our toilets," said Malyn Natorio, 27, one of the housing project beneficiaries.

"Our neighbours have to walk a considerable distance from here to get water for bathing," she said.

Residents also complained that they have to cough up as much as P5,000 (S$143) just to have their homes connected to the power line of the local power utility, Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative (Daneco).

"That's too expensive for us," said 24-year-old Kenneth Sembrano, father of a one-and-half-year-old boy. Sembrano works at a mine in Agusan del Sur province.

Late last month, the Regises, Natorios and 202 other families from villages in New Bataan ravaged almost two years ago by Typhoon "Pablo" (international name: Bopha) left their former homes and occupied the government-built houses in San Roque village.

The new community in San Roque is part of the government's efforts "to protect the people against the [effects] posed by climate change," said Carolina Angel, southern Mindanao director of the National Housing Authority (NHA).

Angel said the government, through the NHA, would build at least 2,365 houses for New Bataan alone, as part of the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts for those affected by 2012's strongest storms.

At the San Roque NHA resettlement site, 128 families from Cabinuangan village have moved in. At least 29 families from Cogonon, 21 families from San Roque and 26 from the communities of Kahayag, Andap and Fatima have also transferred there.

Local authorities have thanked the national government and the NHA for their continued support for the rehabilitation efforts in Compostela Valley province, even as the government continues to grapple with one disaster after another, Supertyphoon "Yolanda" being one of the most recent.

"At least, New Bataan has already started getting back on its feet. We're grateful (to the NHA) for giving us hope that despite what we have endured, we can still recover," Mayor Lorenzo Balbin Jr said.

Angel acknowledged that the beneficiaries have to do their share in taking care of their new homes and their new community.

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