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‘Say less, listen more’

CBCP: Consider Yolanda victims’ plea for charity

A CATHOLIC Church leader appealed to the government and aid organizations to listen to the victims of super typhoon Yolanda and not just provide them with relief or shelter without considering their needs.

Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said that it is not enough that humanitarian agencies must respect the feelings of the people.

“They must be consulted first and heard. If they prefer building materials, let it be. If they prefer that houses be constructed, let’s do it. Let us be sensitive to their feelings,” he said.

Villegas said benefactors must deal with beneficiaries as equals.

Some victims, he said, did not like the idea of concrete houses with iron sheets for roofing.

“We asked them why and they told us that it’s because they can’t live in a house that would bring back memories of concrete walls and iron sheets that killed their parents,” the prelate said.

“The bottom line is please listen to the needs of the people because we might have great ideas but they have feelings of devastation and even trauma. Therefore, we should be respectful of that because it will take time to heal these pains,” Villegas said.

The archbishop’s appeal came as the Palace announced that it has identified four pilot areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda for rehabilitation.

Presidential Assistant On Rehabilitation And Reconstruction Panfilo Lacson identified the areas as Tacloban City, the hardest-hit area and the economic center of Eastern Visayas and a regional logistical hub; Tanauan; Leyte for its tourism potential and build-back capacity; Guiuan, Eastern Samar for the high level of private sector interest; and Biliran for government-led programs.

President Benigno Aquino III ordered the Interior, Defense and Social Welfare departments to provide a reliable baseline for the recovery and rehabilitation efforts.

“The President also ordered the immediate completion of land-use plans that would clearly delineate no-build zones,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said.

The 171 cities and municipalities affected by Yolanda were divided into 24 areas of intervention and development.

Eighteen areas have been adopted by companies such as PLDT-Smart-Metro Pacific Group; the ICTSI Group; Metrobank; the Injap Group; the Lopez Group; the Aboitiz Group; and the Engineering Equipment Inc. of the Yuchengco Group.

A multi-donor fund was launched and will be managed by top business executives in a bid to hasten the post-Yolanda rehabilitation efforts. Lacson said the government will set up a map-based website to ensure that the public can track all donations.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on Thursday said 43,577 families in the Visayas were being assisted to plant rice.

“By March or April, this should yield enough rice to feed 800,000 people for a year, at an estimated value of $84 million,” the organization said in a report.

Complementing seed distribution, FAO is also providing affected farmers with 8,250 tools, 4,013 tons of fertilizers and other vital agricultural equipment in Mimaropa, Bicol, and Western, Eastern and Central Visayas.

An Agriculture Department report said the country needs some $724 million to rehabilitate 600,000 hectares of farm land devastated by the super typhoon. Yolanda also destroyed coconut (73 percent), rice (16 percent) and corn (4 percent) crops in the area.

Ireland’s Ambassador to the Philippines Joseph Hayes, who is based in Singapore, visited Sta. Fe in Leyte to visit the farmers and observe the emergency response project to restore the rural livelihoods of farmers affected by typhoon.

“It’s my personal pleasure to go back to my country to tell them about you and what you need,” Hayes said in a speech before farmers in Sta. Fe.

FAO Representative in the Philippines Rajendra Aryal said the rice seeds distributed by their agency would bring hope.

“We’re planting seeds of recovery, seeds of hope and restoration because we cannot keep the people dependent on relief goods. We want as much as possible that farmers go back to their farms and produce their own food,” he said.

“About 2,900 bags of certified seeds have been distributed. At the same time we are expecting the same number of bags for the fertilizers. We welcome the donation of Ireland. Had it not been for your great help and with the support in terms of funding, we should have not seen plants growing at this time,” said Jeanjit Amante, rice field officer from the Leyte provincial agriculture office, who oversaw the distribution of seeds to the farmers in Sta. Fe.

The FAO said there was still an urgent need to fund coconut and fisheries rehabilitation.

Also on Friday, Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and officials of the Catholic Relief Services said they were coming to the Philippines to visit and help areas devastated by the super typhoon.

The US archbishop said was saddened by the report that more than 1.1 million homes were damaged, more than half of them completely destroyed. More than 8,000 were killed or missing.

“Numbers like that overwhelm everyone. That’s why on the eve of the Super Bowl, I’m packing sneakers to join a delegation with CRS to meet with Filipino church leaders and people from Samar and Leyte,” Kurtz said.

“I’ll visit Palo, just south of the city of Tacloban, and I’ll walk through rubble to let people know that the Catholic Church in the United States cares and will help,” he said.

The USCCB head will be accompanied by CRS chairman of the board and Oklahoma Archbishop Paul Coakley, Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, president of Catholic Health Association, and Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of CRS.

The delegation is expected to be in the country from Feb. 2 to Feb. 7.

“I and others are visiting personally so that we can wrap our hearts and minds around the situation. This firsthand look will enable us to adequately convey to fellow Catholics the spiritual, physical and emotional extent of the damage,” Kurtz said. With Vito Barcelo and Ronald O. Reyes

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