PWDs awaiting creation of disability office in Davao City

John Frances C. Fuentes / VERA Files

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 March) — Wheelchair user Florencio Timkang lost his person with disabilities (PWD) card four years ago. The 67-year-old candle seller outside the San Pedro church here wants to apply for a replacement card.

He said he wants to avail himself of the discounts PWDs are entitled to once they have a PWD ID. He knows where to go: The second floor of the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO) along Rizal Park in Bolton Extension here. The problem is how to get there.

Because the office is on the second floor, it is not accessible to him and his makeshift wheelchair, and climbing the stairs will require assistance from others. For Timkang, it is too much of a bother.

The good news for Timkang is eight months ago, Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte signed an order to build a persons with disability affairs office in the city.

Executive Order No. 34, signed by Duterte on July 21, 2014, is designed to create an interim Persons with Disability Affairs Office (PDAO) and designate a PWD affairs officer or focal person.

The EO is pursuant to Republic Act 10070 that says a PDAO “shall be organized and established in every province, city and municipality.”

The bad news: Timkang and other PWDs might have to wait a while before the office becomes operational.

The city has set aside an office: An old building badly in need of renovation, but the space is still occupied so construction could not begin.

CSSDO department head Maria Luisa Bermudo said the plan is for the PDAO to open for business by the second quarter of the year. The office will be on the first floor of the CSSDO. “Our office is a very old building and we need to do the necessary repairs below,” she said.

“We can’t have PDAO in the second floor where we are occupying now because we have to consider the condition of our PWD clients,” she explained.

The septic and drainage systems also need to be repaired, Bermudo added.

Bermudo said the city has allotted some P3 million for the yearly operation of PDAO which, at present, is still under the PWD Welfare Program of CSSDO. She said the fund will also be used to start programs for PWDs like the Camp Pag-Asa, a gathering of PWDs in Davao City next month.

For now, Bermudo said, CSSDO personnel handle PWD concerns but this will change once a PDAO focal person is eventually appointed.

If and when the PDAO here opens, it will be the first in Region XI. Based on data from the National Council on Disability Affairs, the entire Davao region has 71,236 PWDs on record but not a single PDAO.

There are no available data on the total number of PWDs in Davao City but PWD and Comprehensive Local Integration Program Officer Annabelle Lugo says they are targeting to have the data also by the second quarter of the year.

Lugo said they have asked the social workers in the different barangays to do the legwork of identifying the PWDs in every household especially those who are residing in far-flung areas in Davao City.

“We want to gather the data without having them come to the office since for most of them, the problem is transportation from their homes to the office and vice-versa,” she said.

Because of this, the CSSDO is looking into the possibility of PWDs registering and applying for IDs online through their website, www.davaocity.gov.ph/cssdo.

The CSSDO has so far issued only 1,014 PWD IDs as of 2014. Recipients are 653 males and 361 females.

The PWD ID entitles the holder to a 20 percent discount for purchase of medicines, admission fee in theaters, cinema, and amusement parks.

It may also be used to get 20 percent discount on medical and dental services in government and private hospitals, hotel accommodatinos, and transportation privileges.

No focal person yet

The appointment of a PWD affairs focal person will be made by the city mayor based on recommendations by different associations and groups of PWDs. The City Council will endorse to the mayor a shortlist of three to five names.

Priority should be given to those PWDs who have experience in providing services to PWDs, according to the EO.

CSSDO is still waiting for the different associations to submit the names of their representatives.

The appointment of a PWD focal person is welcome news to Juanito Makig-angay, 48, an indigent PWD who relies greatly on charitable churchgoers of the San Pedro Cathedral for food provisions and some money.

“I am glad that a PWD will take charge of PDAO soon since he or she knows how it feels to be a person with disability,” he said. “I’m sure he or she will be approachable.” (John Frances C. Fuentes / VERA Files)

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