Mayor Viscuso De Lira of Balangiga, Eastern Samar acknowledged the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to be the first national government agency to respond to the town’s restoration and rehabilitation needs after the super-typhoon Yolanda caused massive destruction in Samar and Leyte last November 8, 2013.
DAR Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes even visited the town two months after the typhoon and met agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and other farmer-leaders from the agrarian reform community (ARC) barangays. Sec. de los Reyes also visited the town of Lawa-an for a consultation dialogue to identify priority needs to be included in the restoration and rehabilitation plan for devastated ARCs.
Sec. de los Reyes disclosed that there is an additional budget for the typhoon-ravaged areas and that according to him he wanted to verify the survey conducted earlier and hear from the affected ARBs themselves what their immediate needs are. He also wanted to see for himself the extent of damage in order to effectively defend the speedy release of funds and likewise make proper coordination with the concerned local government units (LGUs). Although some of their needs will be sourced out from other government agencies and organizations, he added.
Restoration and rehabilitation activities will come in when relief operations, which usually last for four months, are over. DAR is now looking forward to the next 18 months as recovery period for the affected farmers. Among the priority needs the farmers presented during the two-hour dialogue were: repair of their houses and post-harvest facilities, planting materials and other farm inputs, clearing of their lots, repair of irrigation system, and livelihood opportunities.
Deputy National Project Director of the second phase of the Agrarian Reform Communities Project (ARCP-2) Herman Ongkiko announced during the dialogue that the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has already committed coconut seedlings and camote cuttings for the intercropping.
Secretary de los Reyes also visited the town of Basey in Samar meeting another group of farmer-leaders and also ARBs from Marabut for the same purpose. Mayor Igmedio Ponferrada of Basey assisted the Secretary and thanked him for including his town among the priority areas.
The following day, though the Secretary left for Cebu, Ongkiko together with officials from the Bureau of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Development (BARBD) in DAR Central Office and local DAR officials proceeded to conduct the same activity in Julita and Palo towns in Leyte.
Meanwhile, Regional Director Eliasem Castillo explained that his office is prioritizing those ARCs who were severely hit and also disclosed that DAR is currently negotiating with other international organizations to source out assistances for these areas. He emphasized during the forums that DAR is helping them rise to be self-reliant and not be dependent forever on relief. (Jose Alsmith L. Soria)