MANILA, Dec. 18, 2015 – Even after it started rolling out its “Alay Kapwa” local emergency funds, the Philippine Church’s humanitarian and social arm expects “bigger needs” ahead as soon as communication lines in provinces ravaged recently by typhoon “Nona” are restored.
“We are expecting bigger needs in the coming days, especially as communication lines have not yet been fully restored in some areas. We, however, maintain close monitoring in the affected dioceses,” explained Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines.
The priest pointed out the “Alay Kapwa” funds will be used to buy food packs for families affected in at least three dioceses in Northern Samar, Sorsogon, and Oriental Mindoro which initially downloaded funds totalling Php 1.5 million.
According to the Goldman Environmental Prize awardee, NASSA/Caritas Philippines is also monitoring the situation in the other dioceses affected by the Nona like those in Romblon, Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Masbate, and Nueva Ecija.
In line with this, it has activated its “Nona” Monitoring Center at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) compound in Intramuros, Manila.
Gariguez went on to share that Catholic Relief Services (Caritas USA) has already deployed its staff to Northern Samar and Sorsogon to do rapid assessment and relief distribution.
“Initially, we received reports of the heavy damage in Northern Samar. Aside from the rapid assessment teams from the Catholic Relief Services, we shall augment this by sending another team from our office here in Manila and the Archdiocese of Palo Relief and Rehabilitation Unit (Caritas Palo),” the priest noted.
Gariguez expressed assurance that more rapid assessment teams are set to be deployed in Oriental Mindoro and other affected provinces.
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Since communication lines went down, Rodelyn Opena has not received news from her mother who lives alone at their ancestral home in Palapag, Northern Samar.
“She’s already old. I just hope my siblings get to check on her. I can do nothing. I can only cry because I’m in Manila,” she said.
Leonora Elamparo, also from Northern Samar, expects that the national government and the media would also consider visiting far-off islands to see the situation for themselves.
“We don’t know yet everything we need to know [about the impact of the Nona] because the news tend to focus on the mainland. I pray someone would check on remote islands which are probably the most affected,” she shared.
“From the rapid needs assessment results, we shall see if there is a need to launch a rapid response appeal to the global Caritas Internationalis to augment the current local funds available,” he added.
The church’s local emergency funds called “Alay Kapwa” is the Lenten evangelization and fundraising program of the Church to raise consciousness and funds for calamities and major social concerns.
Through these local funds and support from Caritas Internationalis, NASSA/Caritas Philippines was able to carry out various relief and rehabilitation programs to typhoon victims in the Philippines.
To date, the ‘Yolanda’ rehabilitation program was the biggest it has implemented reaching as many as 1.8 million people with funds amounting to Php 3.2 billion in the last two years. (Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)