Social Welfare Secretary Erwin Tulfo has relieved Region 4A director Barry Chua and Assistant Regional Director Mylah Gatchalian and transferred them to the Department of Social Welfare and Development central office in Quezon City.
This is while the DSWD investigates the complaint of Noveleta, Cavite Mayor Dino Chua about stringent requirements that its regional office sought from typhoon victims before releasing assistance to them on Oct. 31.
Assistant Secretary Maritess Maristela of the Special Concerns Division will temporarily take the place of Barry Chua, the department said in a statement.
“The DSWD (regional office) was asking for too many requirements. How can people produce such when they were severely affected by the storm? They were asked to present identification cards, an indigence certificate, and a residence certificate. The President has already spoken not to make things difficult for the people,” the Noveleta mayor said.
Moreover, he said, the food packs provided by the DSWD in his area were not enough, and that only 200 out of 500 families were able to receive the aid.
Mayor Chua said he shouldered the cost of the other food packs for the 300 families that were not able to receive government help.
Records from the DSWD showed that a total of 1,600 food packs were delivered by its National Resource Operation Center to the municipal hall of Noveleta on Oct. 30, a day before the relief distribution.
“I don’t know why. Mayor Chua claimed the food packs were not sufficient when we had delivered 1,600 packs to the municipal hall,” Tulfo said.
He also said the DSWD needs to verify the identities of beneficiaries, especially those who would receive cash assistance as this is a requirement of the Commission on Audit.
“We really ask for the IDs from the beneficiaries. If they have none during a calamity, the barangay has a list of the names of the residents,” he said.
“What happened in Noveleta was that the (remaining) 300 residents did not have IDs and were not in the barangay list,” he added.
He said Mayor Chua should investigate if the complaints reaching him are legitimate since fake news has been spreading around.
Lawmakers from Cavite—Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. and District 1 Rep. Jolo Revilla—thanked the DSWD for their quick action in the distribution of food and cash aid to their constituents.
In less than 24 hours after severe tropical storm Paeng hit Cavite, Barry Chua and Gatchalian responded and distributed at least 4,000 family food packs in Bacoor, Kawit, Noveleta, and Tanza, they said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said repairing roads and bridges damaged by the storm could take two to three weeks.
Paeng did at least P2.09 billion worth of damage to infrastructure, based on the DPWH’s initial assessment.
DPWH Secretary Manuel Bonoan said it would not be possible to cut the restoration time to a week.
“We have to engage contractors and we also have to look for the funds to be able to undertake all the reconstruction projects,” he said.
The agency said it needed an initial P300 million to repair infrastructure in eight regions affected by Paeng.
In other developments:
• The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said it is sending a 28-man team to aid affected communities in Maguindanao province. MMDA acting chairman Romando Artes said his men from the Public Safety Division will move from one calamity-stricken town in Maguindanao to another to provide clean water to typhoon victims. “The team will set up water purifiers in various communities with limited to no supply of clean water. Some will also help in the ongoing operations to clear the roads affected by massive flooding and landslides,” said Artes.
• The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Thursday said two of its S-70i “Black Hawk” combat utility helicopters were deployed to conduct a rapid assessment and needs analysis over areas in Southern Luzon where Severe Tropical Storm Paeng battered.
• The Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG said members who were affected by Paeng could avail of the agency’s calamity loan program. At a public briefing on Thursday, Pag-IBIG Fund public affairs manager Jack Jacinto said there are about 344,000 members of the fund who are residing in areas hit by Paeng. He said the loanable amount under the calamity loan program is up to 80 percent of the member’s savings and carries an interest rate of 5.95 percent per year. The loan is payable in three years.