No aid from local gov’t yet for Surigao Sur evacuees

DIATAGON, Lianga, Surigao del Sur (MindaNews/20 July) – No assistance from the local government has reached the evacuees from upland communities of this village and neighboring areas who fled on Monday, officials said on Friday.

Diatagon barangay chair Remigio Pareja said the barangay, municipal and provincial governments so far have not released funds for food and other needs.

Children comprise the majority of evacuees from the upland areas of Barangay Diatagon in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. July 20, 2018. MindaNews photo by GG BUENO

Pareja said the barangay council could not allocate from their calamity fund because the evacuation was “illegal”.

He said the people left their homes even if there were no incidents of armed hostilities between government forces and the New People’s Army in their area.

“We can’t give them support from our calamity fund because there’s no problem there, there’s no encounter,” he said in the vernacular.

“We can be questioned by the Commission on Audit if we release the calamity fund without legal basis,” he explained.

He said the barangay receives an annual internal revenue allotment of P5 million of which five percent is for the calamity fund.

Pareja said the evacuees were using their own money for food and other needs.

Melita Incenso, head of the Municipal Social Welfare and Development (MSWD) office of Lianga affirmed Pareja’s statement that the local government has not extended assistance due to legal considerations.

“That’s what the law says, that calamity assistance can only be released during manmade and natural disasters,” she said.

She said the only assistance so far from a government agency were 30 hygiene kits from the Department of Health.

“Those hygiene kits are for pregnant women,” she said, pointing to a pile of blue buckets outside the barangay gym where the evacuees are staying.

She said the local government is appealing for help for the evacuees from other sectors.

MSWD Lianga chief Melita Incenso. July 20, 2018. MindaNews photo by GG BUENO

She said a representative from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees came on Thursday to assess the needs of the displaced individuals.

“But they (UNHCR) told us they can only give non-food items,” she added.

As of Friday, the MSWD inventory counted 215 families or 1,220 individuals who have evacuated from nine sitios of Diatagon and 51 families from other villages of neighboring San Agustin town.

However, Roy Sarzon, an evacuee said that aside from those in the gym, there were those who opted to stay in the houses of relatives in Diatagon. He estimated their number at around 800 individuals.

Incenso, for her part, estimated the number of home-based evacuees at around 100 families.

Evacuees asked by MindaNews said families in their area have an average of 8-10 members each, a number that approximates Sarzon’s and Incenso’s figures on displaced persons that are home-based.

The evacuees fled their homes on Monday to protest the presence of a detachment of the 75th IB in their place. They vowed not to return unless the outpost was dismantled and the military left. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)