By Annabel J. Petinglay
ILOILO CITY, Aug. 26 (PNA) — Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor, Sr. during his state of the province address (SOPA) delivered before the Iloilo provincial board members, capitol heads of offices, town mayors and invited directors of national agencies Tuesday, made special mention of President Benigno Aquino III’s approved “Yolanda” rehabilitation and recovery plans where Iloilo will be getting a fund of P17.3 billion.
The governor said, “I couldn’t thank you enough. And I speak not only for myself, but for those who could no longer speak, and those who couldn’t speak loud enough.”
Defensor, who delivered his SOPA at the session hall, said, “It is at this point, when our own resources are overstretched and even drained, that we welcome the announcement of President Aquino in his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) that he has approved the rehabilitation and recovery plans of Yolanda-affected provinces. Iloilo will be getting projects and programs amounting to 17.3 billion pesos under that plan.”
The governor recalled that when the super typhoon struck the province November 8 last year, “She (typhoon) left behind a swath of death and destruction – and those lucky enough to be alive had to bear the loss of livelihood and homes, of limbs, even of loved ones.”
He further said, “When the winds died down and the lashing waves of our Northern Iloilo seas settled into ripples, they glinted with a strange reflection of sunlight from the skies. No, the now-subdued sea was not blue but shiny black. The super typhoon was gone, but we had a major oil spill in our hands.”
Gov. Defensor said aside from the national government, help was also extended to them by the stream of volunteers, both Filipino and foreign, who came with food, clothes and medical help.
“The local and international groups who brought with them or helped procure building materials and – wielding the carpenter’s tools with their own hands sweated under the sultry sky to build shelters for the homeless,” Defensor said.
He also mentioned corporations that have high sense of social responsibility like Ayala Land which last June turned over 200 typhoon-resilient housing units to Yolanda survivors who were relocated to an eight-hectare resettlement site in Barangay Jolog in Estancia town and the SM Group of Companies, which is now constructing a 200-unit housing project in Barangay Bacjawan Sur in Concepcion on a one-hectare property donated by Mrs. Ruth Tirol Jarantilla and her family for those affected by the calamity.
Adjacent to the SM Cares Housing Project, there is also now an ongoing construction of 100 permanent houses of the Gawad Kalinga Assumption Village for the victims of Yolanda. The land was also donated by Mrs. Ruth Tirol Jarantilla and her family.
“When we launched the Adopt-A-Fisherman Project soon after the onslaught of Yolanda, our target was 9,000 fishing boats. We have already distributed 6,308 fishing boats to fishermen who lost their means of livelihood. Using the 11.5-million peso cash donations that we received for the project, we will hit the target – and soon exceed it,” Defensor said.
”So much has been done, but we all know that a lot more needs to be done. We simply have to move on because for us, there is no turning back,” the governor added.
Meanwhile, Iloilo Vice Governor Raul C. Tupas, in an interview after the SOPA, also acknowledged the big support of the national government especially President Aquino, who has approved the Yolanda rehabilitation and recovery plans.
”We are also thankful with the huge fund Iloilo will be getting,” he said. He added the national government support gives new hope and opportunities for Ilonggos particularly in the affected northern towns.
Former Iloilo first district congressman Oscar Garin Sr. who came to listen to the SOPA also said that “the fund would be enough to help the affected towns recover and improve even beyond what they were before.”
He said that the first district in the south of Iloilo province is just lucky it was not that badly hit by the typhoon, but if help would also be extended for the area, it will be welcomed. (PNA)