A year on: PLDT, Smart send aid as Taal evacuees relive tragedy

posted March 23, 2021 at 12:40 pm
by  Manila Standard
On January 12 last year, Taal Volcano erupted, and Belen Cacao and her family lost everything—their home, a sari-sari store, a small eatery, and a horse that carried tourists to and from the crater.

A year on: PLDT, Smart send aid as Taal evacuees relive tragedy

She, her husband and two children were among the last residents to leave the island. They walked first to the nearest evacuation center in Caloocan, Talisay, then to a multipurpose gym, only to move to another building as the gym had developed cracks.  In the morning they were taken by rescuers to the evacuation site in Tumaway, Talisay, where the couple have since been staying. Their children live with Belen’s in-laws.

Fourteen months on, Belen and her family are reliving the horror, with Taal threatening to erupt again.

A small sari-sari store enables them to get by; her husband is unable to work because of a heart condition. Their children long for them to be reunited.

Belen is clinging to the local government’s promise of relocation.

Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Taal Volcano island “no man’s land.”

Talisay councilor Jerome Natanauan asks evacuees for more patience and understanding as he reassures them that they will be relocated to a new community.

He and the Talisay LGU are grateful for the aid donated by private companies, like PLDT and Smart Communications, Inc.

As in the past year, PLDT and Smart have come to the aid of more than 250 families staying in three evacuation centers in Talisay, amid the increased activity at Taal. Also lending a hand are the Alagang Kapatid Foundation, PLDT-Smart Foundation, Metro Pacific, and One Meralco Foundation.

“We returned to Talisay, Batangas, to help not only those who have been in the evacuation center for a year now, but also other residents ordered to evacuate due to Taal’s increasing unrest,” said Decerie Claire Astorga, PLDT AVP and Cluster Head for Regional Customer Development in South Luzon 1.

“We want to provide some relief to them as we support government programs that aim to uplift the lives of calamity victims,” said John Palanca, Smart FVP and Regional Head of Consumer Sales Group.

Smart, the wireless arm of PLDT, donated 258 sacks of rice sourced from the company’s own Buy Local, Buy Smart program which allows consumers to buy rice directly from farmers. The platform benefits rice growers who also suffered the devastation brought about by the typhoons last year.

Smart also handed out wooden pallets that evacuees in Tumaway can use as temporary beds, as well as a megaphone for use at the shelter. It has also activated a Libreng Tawag (free call) station at the shelter.

PLDT-Smart Foundation handed out hygiene kits and face masks for protection against COVID-19, while Alagang Kapatid Foundation Inc. distributed food packs, blankets, hygiene kits, toys, and medicines.

Metro Pacific Investments Foundation and One Meralco Foundation sent water filters and relief goods.

“We offer support as evacuees recover from these tragedies,” said Menchie Silvestre, Alagang Kapatid Foundation Inc. (AKFI) Executive Director.

A year on: PLDT, Smart send aid as Taal evacuees relive tragedy

All these efforts are part of PLDT and Smart’s #SafeandSmart advocacy, which promotes preparedness and immediate response through network resilience, continuous availability of communication services, mobile solutions and activities, and relief assistance to help communities mitigate disaster risks.

Smart continues to engage stakeholders to #LiveSmarter for a #BetterWorld and bring much-needed support to communities that have faced adversities.

Topics: Taal Volcano , Belen Cacao , PLDT , Smart Communications Inc.
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