Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bets swoop down on evacuation centers

By Cet Dematera
The Philippine Star
Updated December 23, 2009 12:00 AM

Original Story: http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=535113&publicationSubCategoryId=68

LEGAZPI CITY , Philippines – In the gloom of an impending eruption of Mayon volcano, displaced residents are not feeling abandoned, thanks to the election season.

Politicians and aspirants in the 2010 general elections have been visiting the 26 evacuation centers across Albay to distribute goods or simply spread cheer to the evacuees, now totaling 9,441 families
or 45,366 people.

The Liberal Party’s standard-bearer, Sen. Noynoy Aquino, and his running mate, Sen. Mar Roxas, were the first to visit the evacuation centers. Former President Joseph Estrada is scheduled to visit the evacuees today.

Earlier, Nacionalista Party senatorial candidate Adel Tamano also visited evacuation camps here while Bicol-based party-list Ako Bicol did not only distribute relief items but even held a short program.

Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales not only visited but also handed a P1-million donation to Albay Gov. Joey Salceda for Christmas gifts of the children in evacuation centers.

Disaster management officials here say that they see nothing wrong with politicians or candidates visiting evacuation centers and giving them assistance in whatever form.

No less than Salceda said that he welcomes any politician to the evacuation centers not only because they are handing over financial and material assistance, but more so because they offer some sort of psycho-social comfort to the displaced Mayon evacuees.

Cedric Daep, chief of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (Apsemo), said they look forward to more visits of politicians.

“In fact, we welcome more visits. After all, our evacuees will be the ones to benefit,” Daep told The STAR.

Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Bicol director Raffi Alejandro said the Yuletide season is a blessing in disguise for Mayon evacuees, adding that aside from the government and non-government organizations’ assistance, political aspirants also augment the basic needs of the evacuees.

“We really allow them to visit the evacuees. More help, more comfort for our affected people,” Alejandro said.

Special Noche Buena, Media Noche for evacuees

Despite being cooped up in crowded evacuation centers, the Albay government has assured thousands of evacuees that they will be able to celebrate Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) and Media Noche (New Year’s Eve) like they are in their own homes.

Salceda said the provincial government will make sure that each family will be able to feel the spirit of the holidays even if they are staying in evacuation centers.

“We will make them feel the spirit of Christmas and New Year as if they are staying in their own homes,” Salceda said during a radio interview.

The Albay governor said the provincial government has allocated two kilos of bihon (noodles), two apples, two oranges, chocolates and cheese for each family for Noche Buena.

He said the same package will be given to the families for their Media Noche.

“We have prepared 10,000 packages for the families for Christmas and another 10,000 packages for New Year,” Salceda added.

Meanwhile, Salceda thanked Health Secretary Francisco Duque III for sending nine medical teams, six of which will arrive today. The health teams will report to Bicol DOH regional director Nestor Santiago.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has already turned over 20 truckloads of water jugs with faucets to the Apsemo and deployed eight portalets to the San Jose evacuation center where 545 families from Barangay Calbayod in Malilipot town are staying.

“Albay is now an open city for relief operations,” Salceda said at his regular press briefing yesterday. - With Celso Amo and Cecille Suerte Felipe

Original Story: http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=535113&publicationSubCategoryId=68

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