By Donna Cueto-Ybañez
TACLOBAN City, March 14, 2014 – The Iglesia Ni Cristo unveiled on Friday a “model community” for the benefit of its members who were affected by super-typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) more than four months ago. This project, which was launched by the Administration of the Church, is another manifestation of their genuine love and care for the less fortunate members, a palpable fulfillment of their promise and unwavering commitment to help the survivors of the strongest typhoon on record to ever hit the country.
Brother EDUARDO V. MANALO, the INC Executive Minister, led the groundbreaking ceremonies of the INC’s resettlement housing and eco-farming community in Sitio New Era where a garment factory and other livelihood projects will also be set up, atop a scenic mountainous landscape in Barangay Langit, Alangalang town in Leyte, just 18 kilometers from Tacloban City.
The Executive Minister inspected a model unit of the housing project — a concrete quadruplex with tiled floors. Each quadruplex has four studio-type units with a floor area of 22 square meters each and a lot area of 35 square meters, including the garden area.
The project is targeting to finish 1,000 studio-type units within four to six months, as reported by Minister Glicerio B. Santos Jr., the General Auditor of the INC, who also heads the Felix Y. Manalo Foundation Incorporated. It is the INC’s charity-arm which is in charge of putting up the self-sustainable model community for Yolanda survivors in Sitio New Era. The INC’s socio-civic and livelihood skills training arm, the Unlad Kabuhayan International is also involved in the eco-farming and livelihood projects in the site.
Sitio New Era is situated in a 3,000-hectare land purchased by the Church in Alangalang, Leyte. The initial phase of the project involves the development of some 700 hectares of the property, where the housing units will be constructed as well as garments factory, a dried fish plant, and an eco-farm that would be planted with imported rice varieties, imported fruit-bearing trees, vegetables and cultured mushrooms for export. About 40 percent of the land will be utilized for farming – particularly the planting of rice and vegetables.
Minister Jun Santos explained that the INC is not contented in just giving relief goods or food packs as well as medical and dental services for Yolanda survivors in Leyte and other provinces hit by the super typhoon but he likewise said that the Executive Minister also wanted to help the survivors so that they could have their own livelihood and their own house in an area where they will not be at risk anymore by storm surges.
He said that those working in the construction of the housing units and the various factories are typhoon survivors themselves who are being given wages for their work. Sitio New Era is just one of the eight model community projects of the INC. The other model community projects are found in Agusan del Sur, Cavite and Bulacan.
Leyte first district representative Martin Romualdez said that the INC’s resettlement housing project with an eco-farm and area for at least three factories is a very good example of how survivors of typhoon Yolanda should be helped so that they could go back on their feet again. Upon surveying the work done by the INC in Sitio New Era, Romualdez said, “It’s a model community, a total community. Magandang ehemplo ito para sa gobyerno. Napakalaking tulong po ito para po sa amin sa Leyte,” [This is a good example for the government. This is a great help for us here in Leyte] “This should be the standard to follow,” he noted.
Representative Romualdez also expressed his disappointment in the national government’s slow pace in helping Yolanda’s survivors, considering that millions of dollars in donations (cash, food and other equipment) and pledges for Leyte had already been coursed to the national government in the immediate aftermath of the super typhoon.
“Kailangang i-devolve, i-decentralize ito. Sama-sama na nating gawin ang mga dapat maisakatuparan,” [This must be devolved, this must be decentralized. Let us work together in order to get it done] he said as he urged the national government to take a different approach in helping the Yolanda victims, and to follow the INC’s lead.
The groundbreaking of the INC resettlement project (with an eco-farming site and areas for garments factory, dried fish plant) came just a month after the February 15 Worldwide Walk for Yolanda survivors. The funds raised in that charity walk was immediately put to use for projects that will benefit typhoon Yolanda survivors.
On the same day (March 14) that the INC held the ground-breaking for Sitio New Era, the INC also conducted a massive relief food pack distribution as well as medical and dental mission at the Leyte National High School. Some 150,000 food packs, each containing three kilos of rice, three cans of sardines and three noodle packs, were distributed that day.
Before the groundbreaking rites in Sitio New Era, Brother EDUARDO V. MANALO officiated a special worship service at the Leyte Sports Development Center that was attended by at least 60,000 people. After the worship service, the relief-dental and medical mission followed at the high school grounds. There was also a counseling service done for the Yolanda survivors.
Dr. Sergie Santos, a board member of the FYM Foundation Inc., said they also distributed 25,000 toys donated by Emirates Airlines. He reported that the INC, through the FYM Foundation, had already given some 800,000 food-relief packs in the various provinces affected by Yolanda since November last year under the “Lingap sa Mamamayan” or Aid to Humanity project of the INC.
Brother Edwil Zabala, the INC spokesperson for the event, said the funds to be used for the construction of the resettlement housing project, garments factory, dried fish plant, and various livelihood projects for Yolanda victims, as well as the relief food packs being given for the typhoon survivors did not solely come from the funds generated in the Worldwide walk.
He said the bulk of the funds also came from donations of INC members for the “Lingap sa Mamamayan” project of the INC which helps poor communities and victims of calamities not only in the Philippines but in other countries as well.
The INC’s Worldwide Walk for those affected by typhoon Yolanda broke the Guinness world record for the largest charity walk in a single venue (Manila Roxas Boulevard site), and also set a new Guinness record for the most number of participants in a charity walk done within 24 hours in multiple venues.
To sum up everything that happened in Leyte during that day, Minister Jun Santos concluded: “Ang lahat ng ito ay nangyayari sa awa at tulong ng Diyos,” [all these things are happening through the mercy and help from God].
Brother Emer Culala contributed to this report.