Vice Gov. Lilia G. Pineda. Photo by Bong Lacson
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – Crafting laws that will institutionalize rehabilitation efforts, land banking, as well as establishing funds for the construction of permanent resettlement sites are primary points for consideration.
Drawn from Pampanga’s Pinatubo experience, this was the unsolicited advice of Vice Gov. Lilia G. Pineda to solons from Batangas, Cavite and Calabarzon to address the ongoing eruption of Taal Volcano as well as its aftermath.
Pineda shared her thoughts to the media at the Capitol here on Monday as the Pampanga Team was getting ready to return to Batangas to help some more in the relief and recovery efforts and conduct medical missions for the victims of the eruption.
She noted how the Mount Pinatubo Commission became the “coordinate point” that “catalyzed Pampanga rising again from the volcanic ashes” suggesting that the lawmakers need to give serious thought to the establishment of a similar body for Taal.
Finding irony in that part of the funds used by Pampanga in helping the Taal eruption victims came from the profits out of the pyroclastic materials that Pinatubo emitted, Pineda said the same “transformation of adversity into opportunity” beckons to Batangas and the other affected areas.
Pineda said since residents in the vicinity of the Taal Volcano can no longer return to their residences which is now declared a permanent danger zone by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), various non-government organizations (NGO) especially the business sector should start being active in organizing ways on how to contribute to the relief efforts and contribute lands for resettlement sites.
She noted that in the case of Pampanga, the Mount Pinatubo Commission was able to buy vast tracts of land. Some of the lands were even donated but majority was bought for P50 per square meter, which was later used for resettlement sites located in safe zones.
Pineda, the mayor of Lubao town at the time, recalled how the NGOs, especially the business sector, helped in appealing to then President Fidel V. Ramos to construct various protection to save Pampanga.
She also recalled when then-Senator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) crafted a law which created a commission, which was eventually the Mt. Pinatubo Commission (now defunct), and set aside P10 billion for the rehabilitation and relocation of the Pinatubo victims.
“Now, with that and the help of fellow Kapampangans especially the governor (Bren Z. Guiao) and other provinces, that was how we were able to rise again,” she said.
“So, the first thing to do is to form a commission. They should refrain from giving the money to the LGUs but instead to the commission which is the agency tasked for the rehabilitation and recovery efforts,” she said.
Pineda recalled that then then public works director and later Secretary Florante Soriquez was able to request heavy equipment from the Netherlands which were widely used in the desilting operations of lahar-choked major river channels.
She lamented that instead of being hailed, Soriquez was even sued for graft. “But it was him (Soriquez) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that really saved the day,” she added.
Pineda said the solons should look into the law crafted by GMA to help in the rehabilitation efforts of the Taal Volcano eruption which is the fastest way to recover from the devastation wrought by the volcano.