CARITAS SHELTERS RISE IN DAVAO ORIENTAL
April 12 and 13, 2013 marked significant events for Barangays Aragon and Poblacion in Cateel and Barangay Sibajay in Boston, Davao Oriental, which were devastated by Typhoon Bopha last December 2012. Bishop Patricio H. Alo of the Diocese of Mati, Davao Oriental, led three groundbreaking ceremonies in the municipalities of Cateel and Boston for the construction of transitional shelters, much to the joy of the affected communities. It is expected that 128 families will benefit from Caritas Shelter units in Barangay Aragon, 65 in Barangay Poblacion and 50 in Barangay Sibajay, Boston.
The said events, organized by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines – National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA)/ Caritas Philippines, and the diocesan program staff, were well-attended by representatives of the local government units (LGUs), the military and members of the communities.
They also witnessed the signing of Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) between the Diocese of Mati and the landowners for the free use of their land for a new settlement and the donation of fallen coconut trees as material for the construction.
In the same event, Fr. Dan Fuentes, the Diocesan Social Action Center Director, encouraged the communities to adopt sustainable agriculture as alternative livelihood to protect the environment and to minimize the adverse impacts of disasters like this on the communities. Josephine Ignacio and Harvey Luistro of Caritas Philippines, explained the rationale of the project – to bring back hope to those whose lives were devastated by the typhoon and give them a fresh start for the future. The efforts of the community organizers under the able supervision of Cesaria Hugue, the Diocesan Program Coordinator, were also given recognition in the same event. CBCP-NASSA/ Caritas Philippines had demonstrated Catholic charity.
Historically, the Philippines is visited by more than twenty typhoons each year; some bringing strong wind, others heavy rains and still others both wind and rain, but all bring destruction and devastation. One of the most destructive typhoons in 2012, Bopha, ravaged Davao Oriental last December, killing over a thousand people and leaving some 800,000 homeless. Destruction was not confined to their residences but also affected their livelihood. Coconut trees were fallen and still littered the landscape three months after, proof of the magnitude of its impact on the economy of the province.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-NASSA/ Caritas Philippines, compelled by the love of God and in response to this need, developed and spearheaded a rehabilitation project to restore their faith in God and give hope for a new beginning to the survivors. Caritas Philippines aims to build at least 800 Caritas Shelter units in the whole diocese.
With funds from the government of New Zealand, Caritas New Zealand and Caritas Internationalis, the Caritas Philippines adopted the design of the model shelter unit being used by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in their own rehabilitation programs. These transitional shelters were designed to be typhoon resilient and is made from coco-lumber. It may be noted that the primary product of the province is coconut and that the typhoon destroyed a large area of the coconut plantation leaving behind fallen trees that must be cleared fast to prevent a rhino beetle outbreak which will infect and destroy healthy trees that survived the disaster. It was a blessing in disguise that these wasted trees now found to be productive as raw material for the construction of transitional houses.