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Feeding 84,000 plus evacuees is a tall order,” says Legazpi Bishop

Bishop Joel Z. Baylon. At the background is the cloud and ash-covered Mayon Volcano which has continued its eruptive stage. (Bicol Times)

LEGAZPI CITY, February 5, 2018–Catholic Bishop Joel Z. Baylon said feeding over 84,000 evacuees is a tall order especially when Mayon’s eruptive stage continues.

Interviewed early Friday morning, the 25th anniversary of the fateful 1993 eruption, Bishop Baylon said both the government and the Catholic church in Albay province have been in constant coordination as to the numbers of evacuees that need to be served and the kind of response required.

“Most of the evacuees are farmers and would not have anything to augment their needs such as viands to enhance rice, noodles and sardines handed out by government and non-government relief agencies,” Bishop Baylon said.

In the Diocese of Legazpi, he said the Social Action Center has reponded to various needs because Albay is prone to many forms of disasters.

“We have devised ways to immediately respond to the disaster victims’ needs,” the 64-year old bishop said. He added having been a former parish priest in Bigaa, Legazpi City two years after the disastrous and fatal Mayon eruption in 1993.

Should Mayon volcano continue its eruptive stage, Bishop Baylon said the Catholic church would be able to help with minimum capacity, meaning basic food requirements.

Science and Technology Undersecretary Renato U. Solidum, Jr. said when they explained possible scenarious, they use the 2000 scenario.

“The current eruption may be similar to that in terms of the eruption style of the first phase, Strombolian, followed by a Vulcanian phase,” Dr. Solidum said in a text message to this writer.

“No doubt the evacuees would survive on noodles, sardines and other canned goods and dried fish because they’re in disaster mode but feeding them the person the same food will not be good,” the bishop added.

There is an existing microfinance project in the Diocese of Legazpi to help farmers plant and engage in agribusiness activities. The products these their beneficiaries sell are bought by the evacuees who have been issued colored coded cards provided by the Diocese of Legazpi.

“Evacuees may buy eggs and vegetables using the color-coded access cards for what they need,” he explained. He described the approach as a “win-win” program for both the producers and the evacuees.

He likewise disclosed a local mall operator, Liberty Commercial Center reduced their prices at factory-level costs where evacuees can swipe the issued plastic cards worth P 1,000 which the diocese issued to families for non-food items.

Bishop Baylon said the fundamental needs would be addressed like food and shelter as medical requirements along with health and sanitation will be attended to by government agencies like the Departments of Health and Social Welfare and Development and local government units.

During Mayon’s previous eruptive stage, Bishop Baylon said they did a skills-inventory survey and offered their findings to both government and private agencies who may need manpower through food-for-work programs. He said this could be implemented these days to help augment the income losses by farmers and other skilled evacuees.

“These days you’ll see women who brought their sewing machines to the evacuation centers and continued their work,” Bishop Baylon said.

He added President Rodrigo Duterte recently visited the city and addressed the concerns of the local government officials and the evacuees.

Bishop Baylon said these days, the evacuees and the local government officials need all the help they could to attain normalcy even at some crowded evacuation centers.

“The Catholic church in Legazpi will continue to do its share to help,” Bishop Baylon concluded. (Melo M. Acuna / Bicol Times)

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