SURIGAO DEL SUR – Addressing the problem of a disaster-prone area like Hinatuan takes unity and camaraderie. This was what the people of Hinatuan showed during the inauguration and turn-over ceremony of their evacuation center (the biggest evacuation center completed through the Kalahi-CIDSS program, nationwide) last June 1, 2018.
The project, which was completed through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Caraga’s – Kapit-Bisig-Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) program costs a total of Php15,905,111. Looking at the massive infrastructure, one would never believe the total cost of the said community project. This was what Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur Municipal Mayor Shem Garay pointed out – that Kalahi-CIDSS does amazing things in its implementation.
“Daku ang akong pasalamat sa Kalahi-CIDSS kay kung ang Kalahi-CIDSS na gani ang motrabaho, lahi gayud. Wala gayud mabiyaan maski unsa na ang challenges nga naagian. Ug kini nga center dili lang ang taga-diri nga barangay ang makapahimulos niini kundi ang tanan. Ako gayud ikapasigarbo kini nga sub-project kay mao kini ang pinakadako nga evacuation center sa Kalahi diri sa Pilipinas (I am thankful to the pogram because I know that when Kalahi-CIDSS does the projects, it will surely be different. No one gave up, even though there were a lot of challenges in the implementation. And this project will not only be beneficial to the residents of Brgy. Bituon, but the majority of the people of Hinatuan. I am proud of this sub-project because this is, by far, the biggest evacuation center project of Kalahi-CIDSS, all throughout the country),” Mayor Garay said.
The said evacuation center, is by far, the biggest Kalahi-CIDSS project completed in the country (on paper) with an area of 50 meters by 35 meters. It has unique features with existing animal shelter, nursing rooms, isolation rooms, and is complete with steel trusses and plumbing and electrical works.
The municipality of Hinatuan is geographically situated in a typhoon-prone area facing the Pacific Ocean. It experiences disasters more frequently than other areas since it is extended near the Philippine Area of Responsibility. Thus, the need for evacuation centers is a priority among its residents, especially in communities near the shorelines and those communities in the mountainous areas – prone to landslides and flashfloods.
Merging resources for a common cause
With this shared situation, the people of Hinatuan have developed a sense of camaraderie especially in times of calamities. They have been through a lot, and it was through their bond that they were able to rise from the challenges they faced. And because of this, there was a combined effort from the different barangays to pool their resources, and agree on coming up with a unified project proposal for a mega evacuation center and proposed it in the 2015 Kalahi-CIDSS implementation.
Supposedly, the normal implementation of the program would have different barangays preparing their individual proposals and submit it for budget allocation through prioritization. But since the need to address the lack of facilities to use during disasters were common to different barangays, instead of coming up with different proposals for smaller evacuation centers in their respective barangays, ten (10) barangays decided to merge their proposals and propose a bigger evacuation center that would serve more households during disasters. This means, they all agreed to merge resources/funds for the proposed project, which later was decided to be built in Brgy. Bituon.
Barangay Harip, Talisay, Pocto, Maligaya, Lacasa, Sasa, Tidman, Bigaan, Maharlika, and Aquino did what was more favorable to them – and that was to merge funds and resources for a better evacuation center. Seeing the importance of the project, the other remaining barangays (through community/barangay assembly) chipped-in additional funds for the evacuation center, which they slashed from the allocated funds for their sub-projects – just to cover the needed amount for the realization of the evacuation center.
With all the budgetary requirements in place, it seemed that it was going to be a smooth implementation for the said project. The project was started. Everyone was excited. Since it was built in Brgy. Bitoon, the sub-project implementation was spearheaded by the Bitoon Barangay Sub-Project Management Committees (BSPMCs), headed by BSPMC Chairperson, Cris Tarona. Though BSPMCs from other barangays helped in the implementation, it was the BSPMC of Bitoon which took the lead.
Supposed to be, the sub-project implementation timeline was supposed to be less than a year – it should have been completed as early as 2016. But due to some circumstances, it was completed in 2018. Due to the technical aspects of the project, a firm was contracted to build the center. But since it was monitored by community volunteers, the contractor was slacking on the job.
Gapauyon-uyon ra sila ug trabaho. Ang uban specs sa mga materyales dili mao ang naa sa plano. Gikaminusan mi nila kay mga volunteers lang mi, mao akong gipahibalo sa staff sa Kalahi ug sa barangay nga dili maayo ang pagtrabaho sa contractor (They were slacking on the job. Some materials were sub-standard – they did not follow what was specified in the plan. They looked down on us because we were mere volunteers, that is why we reported this to the Kalahi-CIDSS staff and to the barangay that the contractor was not doing the job well),” Cris said.
Challenges along the implementation
This prompted the program implementers to act on the matter. There was a timeline for the implementation and the contractor was already dragging the timeline. Add to that the problems of the discrepancies between the physical completion and that of the budget disbursed, it was indeed clear that there was something horribly wrong. The communities, together with the DSWD Kalahi-CIDSS management, the BLGUs, and the municipal local government unit decided to cancel the contract they have entered into since there was clearly breach of contract.
At first, there was no objection from the contractor. But when the contractor demanded for their performance bond to be returned (which in the event that the contractor is unable to deliver their side of the agreement, leading to the cancellation of the contract, would be forfeited), the contractor cried foul. A case was filed against the BSPMC – Chair, the LGU of Hinatuan, and DSWD.
But even with the filed case in place, the program implementers decided to continue construction. This time with another contractor. DSWD, the LGU of Hinatuan, and the barangay chairpersons believed that it would be unfair for the community if the project would be hindered from being completed – the communities needed the evacuation center, and no one could deny them of that.
Amidst the ongoing case, the evacuation center was completed, in 2018. Everyone was proud of their project – that even though a lot of challenges tried to derail its completion, they were able to face the challenges and emerged successful. This was because of the committed volunteers who stood up for what was right, even though there were instances where their integrity was questioned.
“Bilang BSPMC hindi ko lubos akalain na hahantaong tayo sa ganitong sitwasyon. Sa loob ng tatlong taon, wala akong tinanggap na anumang kapalit ngunit ipinagpatuloy ko pa rin ang taos-pusong pagganap ng aking katungkulan. Itinaguyod ko kung ano ang tama at nilabanan ang anumang katiwalian. Malinis ang aking kunsensiya (As BSPMC – Chair, never have I imagined that we will reach this far. In three years, I have never received anything in exchange for my services, but I have done my work well as a volunteer, wholeheartedly. I have stood up to the principles of the program, to what is right, and have never given in to any type of corruption. My conscience is clean),” Cris emotionally expressed.
The community’s sweet success
It was a sweet success for all the stakeholders who were part of the endeavor of the communities. During the turnover of the community project, several recognitions were given. One of the highlights was the giving of certificates of appreciation and recognition to the Province of Surigao del Sur through Congressman Johnny T. Pimentel, Municipality of Hinatuan – through Mayor Shem Garay, and BSPMC Cris C. Tarona.
As a sign of fellowship and camaraderie at the end of the inauguration, the participants held hands and formed a circle to sing the Kalahi-CIDSS theme. It was a sight so beautiful, as the stakeholders have proven that with a strong bond and common aspirations, a unified community will always beat the odds stacked against them.
With the fully-functional evacuation center, the people of Hinatuan will now have a safe place, especially in times of disasters. This was their dream, they worked hard for it, and now they will reap the fruits of their labor.
###(SHERYL M. LORENZO/MARKO DAVEY D. REYES/Kalahi-CIDSS/Social Marketing Unit/DSWD Field Office Caraga)