MANILA – It was a challenging year for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which had to provide non-stop assistance to Filipinos left vulnerable by disasters, both natural and man-made.
“Very challenging ang 2017 para sa DSWD. We had a change of leadership in the middle of the year,” said Undersecretary Emmanuel Leyco, who took over as department officer-in-charge after Judy Taguiwalo’s appointment was turned down by the Commission on Appointments in August.
Taking up where Taguiwalo left off, Leyco continued implementing the department’s programs and services for those hit hard by calamities and the armed conflict in Marawi City, as well as its regular programs for senior citizens, persons with disabilities (PWDs) and disadvantaged children.
Storms and quakes
In a report, the DSWD said they provided PHP1.16 million in aid to those affected by Tropical Depression Auring in Central Visayas and CARAGA in January; PHP2.23 million when the tail end of a cold front affected 131 barangays in Davao and CARAGA in February; and PHP366,250 to families affected by Tropical Depression Crising, which became a low-pressure area after its landfall in Central Visayas in April.
The department also distributed PHP444,600 worth of assistance to Tropical Storm Maring-affected areas; and PHP298,485 to families struck by Severe Tropical Storm Odette that devastated the Cordillera region, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon in October.
Quite recently, it channeled aid worth PHP72.54 million to areas ravaged by Tropical Depression Urduja; and PHP9.11 million in areas devastated by Tropical Storm Vinta.
The department likewise extended aid to areas struck by earthquakes: PHP22.48 million to Surigao del Norte, which was hit by a magnitude 6.7 quake that damaged more than 10,000 houses in February; PHP5.64 million to Mabini, Batangas when it was rocked by a magnitude 6.0 quake on April 8; PHP252,394 to barangays in Wao, Lanao del Sur affected by another magnitude 6.0 earthquake on April 12; and PHP18.78 million worth of food and non-food items to families affected by a magnitude 6.5 quake in Ormoc City and Kananga, Leyte last July.
“Nakatutuwa naman na kahit ganito ang hinarap na challenges ng DSWD, sa palagay ko naman naging epektibo sa kabuuan ang departamento at naiwasan natin ang malawakang epekto ng mga nakaraang bagyo ng mga nakaraang linggo at naipagpatuloy ang ating mga programa bagamat maraming pagbabago ang naganap sa ating departamento (We are pleased that despite the challenges we faced, the DSWD has been effective and we have avoided the widespread effects of the storms these past weeks. We were able to continue the programs despite the changes that occurred in the department)," Leyco said.
Meanwhile, the DSWD said one of its notable accomplishments in terms of disaster preparedness was the successful conduct of simulation exercises for its Rapid Emergency Telecommunications Team, which it said utilized state-of-the-art satellite telecommunications equipment provided by the British mobile satellite company, Inmarsat, under the International Partnership Programme of the United Kingdom Space Agency.
The emergency telecommunications system includes the Global Xpress terminal, the latest technology in mobile satellite broadband telecommunications; Automatic-Pointing Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) terminals; Manual-Pointing BGAN terminals; and the latest ISat2 mobile satellite telephones, which can all be used anywhere in the country.
Conflict in Marawi
In a report, Taguiwalo estimated that as of July 20, the armed conflict in Marawi City had displaced 115,880 families, or 527,704 persons, from the city’s 96 barangays and from 20 other municipalities in Lanao del Sur, as well as from two municipalities in Lanao del Norte.
Some 89 evacuation centers were opened, accommodating 5,055 families or 27,335 persons, while 98,846 families or 442,981 persons stayed with relatives or friends in several regions. Some PHP432.23 million worth of food and non-food items were provided by the DSWD to its responding field offices, and PHP883.48 million was extended by the department to concerned field offices and response centers.
As of the latest report from the DSWD Disaster Response Assistance and Management Bureau (DReAMB), families affected by the Marawi siege have received PHP650.52 million worth of relief assistance. Of the amount, PHP486.52 million has been provided by DSWD; PHP51.48 million by the DSWD-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; PHP62.56 million by ARMM-HEART; PHP21.80 million by local government units (LGUs); and PHP28.16 million by non-governmental organizations.
Some 13,000 families or about 70,000 people from 19 barangays, who had sought refuge in evacuation centers, had returned to Marawi in November, after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city liberated from terrorists late October.
To help the displaced persons slowly get back on their feet, the DSWD provided cash-for-work (CFW) opportunities to the affected families. As of Nov. 16, a total of PHP102.26 million had been released to give 51,133 displaced Maranaos in Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, CARAGA and ARMM a temporary source of livelihood.
Leyco had also announced the lifting of conditionalities for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and their inclusion in the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) to accommodate the needs of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and help them build a community while staying in transitional shelters.
Under normal circumstances, beneficiaries of 4Ps have to meet certain conditions to stay in the program, such as pregnant women must avail of pre- and post-natal care; parents or guardians must attend the family development sessions, during which topics on responsible parenting, health, and nutrition are discussed; and their children must receive regular preventive health check-ups and vaccines, and must enroll in school and maintain an attendance of at least 85 percent of class days every month.
"It is better if we give them the opportunity to stand up again, instead of just giving out," Leyco said in a press briefing in November. “We are customizing them (programs) so that we’ll have livelihood activities that they themselves would carry out and run, that they will be the ones overseeing their own small businesses.”
He further said that in coordination with Task Force Bangon Marawi, DSWD social workers have been “conducting case management and social preparation, which include evaluation for needed services and interventions for our vulnerable sectors, such as PWDs, the elderly and children”.
The department, he said, has teamed up with the Department of Health and LGUs to meet the psychosocial needs of the IDPs through their Maranao-speaking staff.
On the lengthy process of validation, Leyco pointed out that the department has been verifying the lists of the affected families to ensure that the recipients are valid residents of Marawi’s barangays.
He recalled that among the challenges encountered by the verification process were the absence of valid identification cards, which were either lost or destroyed when the IDPs fled; falsified documents; and the absence of a family’s name in the list of the barangays.
“Ang sa amin, gusto lang natin na makarating ang ating tulong sa mga nararapat tulungan (All we want is to help those who truly deserve to be helped),” he said.
On reports that some evacuees were selling relief goods they had received from the department, DSWD Assistant Secretary Hope Hervilla, in a radio interview, warned that those caught doing the illegal act would face prosecution and could be disqualified from receiving future aid from the government.
Meanwhile, the DSWD reported that as of Nov. 30, the SLP had served a total of 134,923 households nationwide. Of the figure, 98,643 households were assisted under the micro-enterprise development track, consisting of 90,842 4Ps households and 7,801 non-4Ps households; and 36,280 households under the employment facilitation track, consisting of 32,655 4Ps households and 3,625 non-4Ps households.
The department in 2017 also served about 6,204,090 vulnerable, disadvantaged, and distressed individuals through its various protective services, such as the Social Pension Program; Assistance for Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS); Lingap at Gabay sa May Sakit (LinGAP); and Supplementary Feeding Program (SFP).
One of the core programs of the department is geared towards the protection of vulnerable persons aged 60 years and above. As of Nov. 30, some 2.54 million senior citizens had received their social pension of PHP500 a month, amounting to PHP14.98 billion.
As for the AICS, the department served 671,596 clients nationwide with assistance totaling PHP2.49 billion, more than 65 percent or PHP1.63 billion of which was spent on medical assistance for 354,459 clients.
Under the SFP, the DSWD served hot meals to 2.93 million day-care children for 30 days.
LinGAP, the free medicine program with a PHP1-billion fund extended by the President’s office, was fully implemented in Central Luzon, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Davao and the National Capital Region (NCR).
In the latter part of the year, the department amended the program guidelines to include the expansion of its partnership with other hospitals, as well as the addition of the assistance for prosthetics assistive devices, laboratory procedures, and other medical supplies, instead of just medicines.
As of November, LinGAP had served 38,407 indigent patients, using up PHP381.11 million of the PHP1-billion fund.
The DSWD also manages 64 residential care services catering to children, youth, women, the elderly and PWDs, along with seven non-residential care services for grieving mothers and PWDs.
It reported that 16,574 clients had been served, with 15,867 inside residential care facilities, and 707 in non-residential care facilities, using PHP836.22 million.
Focus on the homeless
Last month, the DSWD launched its advocacy campaign "#HelptheHomelessPH” to raise public awareness on the plight of homeless families and “redirect public perception” toward the need to seek more concrete programs to end homelessness instead of giving them alms.
“We have programs for homeless families, like the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) and the Comprehensive Program for the Homeless and Sama Bajau (COMPRE), but the department cannot help all homeless Filipinos on its own, given our limited budget and mandate,” Leyco said, appealing to various groups and private citizens to take part in the humane campaign to help the poorest families “the responsible way”.
From 2011 to 2016, the COMPRE project had helped some 10,390 homeless families in the NCR, while the MCCT has benefited 5,575 in the region.
DSWD Assistant Secretary Aleli Bagawan has also urged the private sector, especially architectural firms to design a home for the homeless, and housing developers to fund houses for them.
Helping drug rehab patients
In mid-December, former drug dependents from Quezon province, under the DSWD’s “Yakap Bayan” program, participated in a moving up ceremony after finishing a six-month rehabilitation program that featured psychosocial interventions, disaster response training, and skills and leadership training, apart from detoxification and medical treatment.
“Yakap Bayan” aims to connect the programs of the province to those of other agencies, such as the police, the military, and the labor department, in an effort to capacitate former drug dependents and turn them into productive community leaders, advocates, and volunteers, explained DSWD Assistant Secretary for Special Concerns Anton Hernandez.
A total of 85 campers from the Pagbabago at Pag-asa Reflection Camp (PPRC) in Lucban and 192 Yakap Bayan Project United Stand against Dangerous Drugs (USAD) in Lucena City were recognized for their dedication and commitment to serve their respective communities and shun the dangers of drug addiction.
“This is no longer about rehabilitation. This is about nation building,” said Hernandez during the ceremony.
Leyco acknowledged that the new year will undoubtedly bring both new challenges and opportunities.
“As we usher in the new year, we also assure the public of our renewed commitment to serve,” he said, noting that the department’s programs and services are open to all those in need. (PNA)