Church agency spending P563 M on ‘Yolanda’ efforts

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MANILA, Nov. 7, 2014—The Catholic Church in the Philippines has rolled out as much as €9.7 million, about Php 563 million, in the relief, rehabilitation, and recovery of over two million individuals directly affected by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013.

The Church’s integrated program for Yolanda recovery, REACH Philippines, not only responds to the physical needs of each survivor, but includes other components like shelter, food security and livelihood, hygiene, community organizing, and ecosystem recovery, among others. (Photo: CBCP – NASSA)

Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)’s National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice, and Peace (NASSA), told Church-run Radyo Veritas in a recent interview shared that the amount, mostly donations from 41 various Caritas Internationalis member-organizations in six continents, makes up the total budget of the Church’s humanitarian arm for typhoon Yolanda recovery.

Integrated human development

The funds are being used in implementing the Church’s integrated human development program REACH Philippines (Recovery Assistance to Vulnerable Communities Affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines), particularly in areas severely devastated by the calamity, among which are the 35 parishes comprising the Archdioceses of Iloilo, Capiz, Cebu, and Palo; the Dioceses of Kalibo, Antique, Borongan, and Calbayog; and the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa.

Gariguez said REACH Philippines, not only responds to the physical needs of each survivor, but incorporates a holistic view on recovery by including six components: shelter or housing, food security and livelihood, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), DRR (disaster risk reduction), community organizing, and ecosystem recovery.

“One more beautiful aspect of our program is that it is not just about shelter, but we respond to integrated human development, part of that is livelihood at security, even spiritual formation, community organizing, resiliency is also community empowerment. So this is the entire package. The beauty of this is that the people get to participate, they themselves build the houses,” he explained.

REACH Philippines covers 130 remote communities with roughly 141,112 beneficiaries who had previously not received much help.

3,753 houses

Gariguez revealed that CBCP-NASSA, along with its partner dioceses, is currently overseeing the construction of 3,753 permanent housing units or disaster resilient-shelters, 1,600 of which have recently been completed and are already livable.

“Most of what the government builds are bunkhouses, the Church’s target until March is to put up more than 3,000 houses, that’s why we are right on track even budget-wise that’s why we can finish by March,” he explained.

The priest shared they have set up as many as 35,550 WASH facilities, and handed over 70 food security and livelihood projects to 10,125 household beneficiaries also in the Yolanda-hit communities.

Gariguez admitted that while acquiring land which will be used as resettlement sites remains a problem, the Church keeps scouting for locations where houses of Yolanda survivors can be safely built.

The priest mentioned that by April 2015, CBCP-NASSA is set to appeal for an additional fund of Php300 million for ecosystem rehabilitation. (Raymond A. Sebastián)

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