Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy John Low visited the town on Friday (Nov. 16) to personally hand over the assistance of US$700,000.00 or equivalent to P37.3 million for families affected by “Ompong “ in Benguet and Cagayan Valley last September.
The assistance is the form of emergency rental assistance for those whose shelters were totally damaged or located in declared permanent danger zone and could not afford to pay rental.
Low together with Mayor Victorio Palangdan and Diocese of Baguio Bishop Victor Bendico presided the ceremonial awarding of certificates of eligibility to TY Ompong beneficiaries who qualified to the emergency rental assistance based on the assessment undertaken by the Diocese of Baguio Social Action Ministry.
Director of the Diocese of Baguio Social Action Ministry Rev. Fr. Manny Flores said about P15 to P20 million will be apportioned and granted to qualified recipients in the province.
Palangdan acknowledged the delegation led by Low for the grant the USAID, the US lead government agency for international development and disaster assistance, extended to the affected residents. He also requested for additional assistance for the people and the town that were the hardest hit by ‘Ompong”.
“I know it will not replace the many people that you lost. I know it cannot replace the houses lost and the possessions and things that matter to you. But we hope it would be an expression of how much the US and American people care,” Low said.
He said he is inspired and impressed at the courage, resilience and the community spirit of the people in working together to help the victims rebuild their lives. He underscored the Filipino Bayanihan spirit, “helping each other when someone needs help and you are able to help.” Low said they will try to do more they can to extend assistance.
Fr. Flores, meanwhile, said more than 200 qualified recipients will be given six months financial rental assistance starting October this year until March next year. Monthly rental ranges from P2, 500.00 to P4, 500.00.
Aside from being a resident of the affected barangays during the typhoon, other criteria to qualify for the aid include non-possession of other house located in safe area, with dependent or vulnerable household member, with family member casualty, no asset or with a monthly income of P10,000.00 and below, among others.
Baguio Diocese Program Facilitator for Disaster Management Sheila Taiga said the more than 300 evacuees during the initial month were all given rental assistance. But they have to validate as some do not qualify and fall under the criteria set. They must also comply with the necessary requirements such as the assurance of safe location of the apartment or boarding house or room which they would like to relocate, proof of dependent /vulnerable family member and agreement with property owners.
Beneficiaries who were present during the ceremonial handing of certificate of eligibility personally expressed gratitude for the help extended to their families.
The ministry earlier extended assistance such as non-food items. There are also plans to extend livelihood, house repair, educational assistance to the victims in the area, Fr. Flores added. By Susan C. Aro (JDP/SCA-PIA CAR,Benguet)