Manila, Philippines --- This year’s EDSA People Power commemorative activities initiated by President Benigno S. Aquino III started on a sour note.
Aquino, who traveled to Davao Oriental to kickoff the 28th EDSA People Power revolution anniversary, took pride that life is back to normal since the onslaught of typhoon “Pablo” in December, 2012, only to be upset upon learning that power has not yet been restored in many barangays.
The President reprimanded energy and budget officials for the lingering power shortage in Davao Oriental and warned them not to test his patience.
Aquino was in typhoon-hit Cateel, Davao Oriental, to check the rebuilding efforts as part of the kickoff ceremonies for the 28th anniversary of EDSA People Power revolution this week. His EDSA tour includes Bohol, Cebu, Leyte, and Eastern Samar to promote people power in rebuilding lives of calamity victims.
On power, I just talked to (Budget) Secretary (Florencio) Abad and (Energy) Secretary (Jericho) Petilla and our NEA (National Electrification Administration) administrator. I called them because I am shocked to learn that there are still places that don’t have electricity. They told me that NEA has a pending request. DBM, however, claimed the request is not with them. I am now asking the DOE where the request is, Aquino said in Filipino in his remarks at the Cateel municipal plaza.
Since I have already asked them many times, they should now give me a clear answer before I leave Cateel. They know that I seldom lose my patience so they should not test me, Aquino added, drawing applause from the crowd.
Prior to the President’s speech, Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon reported that power has not yet been restored in 24 of the 42 barangays in Baganga, Cateel and Boston, the hardest hit towns during Pablo’s fury in 2012.
Although she highlighted efforts to provide shelter, health, and livelihood assistance to affected families, Malanyaon revealed that electricity has only been restored only in town centers and barangays along the highways.
The governor said they hope Davao Oriental Electric Cooperative’s (DORECO) fund request to NEA and DOE would be granted “to complete the restoration of energy in all the barangays of the three municipalities and the conversion of the single phase line into the three phase line in selected areas.”
“Adequate power supply is very much needed in our rehabilitation activities and in developing industries in these areas,” the governor said.
Despite taking a longer helicopter ride to Davao Oriental due to bad weather, the President was initially in good spirits during his visit in Cateel.
After apologizing to the crowd for being late, Aquino highlighted that the province has started to return to normal since the powerful typhoon hit the area two years ago. When his helicopter landed in Cateel, Aquino even said he thought he was in a different place.
There is no doubt in what I saw. Your province is returning to normal. This is different from the situation I saw immediately after the onslaught of typhoon Pablo, he said.
Aquino said the government has set aside P10.5 billion for the rehabilitation efforts of the Pablo-hit communities. A Task Force Pablo has been created to oversee the recovery efforts after the typhoon left more than 1,000 persons dead and left damage to agriculture and infrastructure estimated at P36 billion.
Aquino likewise pledged that the government would build back better the places devastated by the typhoon.
He noted that the government plans to provide disaster-resilient shelter to 17,480 affected families in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley. In Cateel alone, he said they aim to relocate 1,179 families to safer homes by August.
Apart from attending to the housing needs of the typhoon survivors, Aquino said the government also spent P573.56 million for the cash-for-work program in Davao Oriental that benefited 57,890 persons.
In the same speech, the President explained that he chose celebrate the EDSA anniversary outside Metro Manila so he could be with the families affected by the recent calamities. This is the first time the EDSA commemorative rites would be held in the Visayas, not in the place where the historic revolt happened.
The President said the spirit of People Power is still alive among Filipinos following the solidarity displayed to rise above the recent natural calamities and start anew, President Aquino said in Cateel.
Because I believe that for every fall and every recovery, for every initiative to ensure nobody will be left behind in the straight path, we are living the true spirit of EDSA, Aquino said.
Meanwhile, among the highlights of the President’s visit here was his personal interaction with three beneficiaries whose lives were significantly changed through the implementation of various programs and projects.
Two farmers who represented the beneficiaries of the hot chili plantation and rice production programs told President Aquino on how they were able to recover from the wrath of Pablo through the said programs. (With reports from Alexander D. Lopez and Madel Sabater Namit)