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Moving to a new ‘comfort zone’: New opportunities for typhoon relocatees

Govt. Philippines
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For people who have been relying on a lake for their subsistence all their lives, relocating to a new community is a big challenge.

In 2017, residents along Sampaloc Lake in San Pablo City, Laguna were relocated to Barangay San Lucas 2 in the same city. It took them more than two years to finally settle in a safer community after Typhoon Glenda washed away their houses.

The years that came before the construction of their new houses were filled with stories of doubts and challenges. Despite the long and challenging journey, the typhoon survivors in Barangay San Lucas 2 remained undaunted and pursued the change that they have long been waiting for.

New homes

The relocation plan for the families living along Sampaloc Lake started in 2015 when the local government of San Pablo City proposed the construction of new shelter units under the Core Shelter Assistance Program (CSAP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

CSAP is one of the interventions provided by DSWD along disaster response and rehabilitation, which provides structurally strong shelter units to families affected by disasters or those who are living in hazardous areas.

“Noong umpisa, napakahirap lumipat kasi matagal na kaming nakatira dito (referring to Sampaloc Lake),” shared Ceverina Maula, who added that people doubted this project because they do not know what will happen once they move to the new site, especially that it is far from the lake where they all have been relying on for their livelihood.

However, the residents agreed to relocate since they have been considering the safety of their families. According to them, all their lives, they worry whenever there is a typhoon because they do not know if they, as well as their houses, can survive the rising water level of the lake.

Under CSAP, a total of 59 core shelter units were built with the help of the Bisig Pagkakaisa Neighborhood Association (BPNA). This association is composed of residents who agreed to relocate to the new community and participate in the construction of their new houses.

Ernesto Flores, president of the association, expressed his gratefulness for the new houses.

He also shared the sentiments of the members regarding their livelihood. _“Yung pang-araw-araw namin, kinukuha namin iyon dati sa pangingisda. Pero dito, mahirap ang hanapbuhay lalo na at halos pangingisda lang ang alam ng karamihan dito,” _Ernesto said.

Even with a new house, away from the threats of the rising water level of the lake during typhoons, Ernesto and the rest of the residents were one in saying that a new livelihood opportunity would finally help them move forward.

New livelihood opportunity

Their wish did not fall on deaf ears, after all. In 2017, the association proposed for the opening of a community store to help with the livelihood of the residents. Since the community is also far from the market, they decided that a community store will be a practical project that will provide income while helping all the residents of Barangay San Lucas 2 meet their daily needs.

In January 2018, the association was granted P500,000 capital assistance under the DSWD’s Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP).

SLP is a capacity building program of DSWD that provides opportunities for poor families to engage in a micro-enterprise through seed capital fund or gain employment through skills training and employment facilitation.

The members of the association underwent several trainings on small business and financial management, among others, to prepare them for the operation of the community store.

“Malaking bagay sa amin ang tindahan na ito dahil halos lahat ng kailangan namin ay nandito na. Hindi na namin kailangang mamasahe pa papuntang bayan para bumili ng kakailanganin namin,” Hilaria Sandoval, vice president of the association, said.

Today, Hilaria is proud to share that the community store is able to help the members of the association through earnings from their dividends. Also, the association has put up a system where members may borrow goods such as rice and gas from the store which they can later repay.

With the community store’s income, the association plans to buy a tricycle, which they will use to save on the cost of transporting goods that they would be selling. Aside from this, the tricycle can be rented out, giving extra income to the association. Hilaria expressed hope that with the increasing income of the association, all members can be assisted to have their own tricycle to start their livelihood.

Members of the BPNA may have started from scratch again, but with their success earned through hard work and trust from each other, they can proudly say that they are happily settled in their new and safe community.