In Iligan City, red tape stops group from helping build homes

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ILIGAN CITY—Blame is now being directed at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Northern Mindanao for the slow-paced construction of houses for victims of the Dec. 17 disaster that struck this city at the height of Tropical Storm “Sendong.”

Milagros Luisma, chair of Barangay Acmac, said many of the logs that had been swept into the city by killer floods on Dec. 17 were rotting away because the DSWD stopped a nongovernment organization from processing these into lumber.

She said the task of processing the logs, which played a bigger role than the floods in the deaths that the disaster brought, was being performed faster when the group Ecosystems Work for Essential Benefits (Ecoweb) Inc. was still involved.

Rotting logs
Now, many of the logs are rotting because only a few people are processing these, Luisma said.

She also said more than 200 logs in her village had disappeared since Ecoweb stopped processing these into lumber.

“I am sure the culprits are not from my barangay but from other places and I think they are being tolerated because the agencies tasked to protect the logs from unscrupulous individuals have not been doing their jobs,” Luisma said.

But Manuel Boris, of the regional DSWD’s administrative office, said the government welfare agency stopped the operations of Ecoweb because the group did not secure a permit from the department.

Illegal operations
Boris said the group relied only on a verbal agreement with the mayor’s office, which makes its operations illegal.

Araceli Solamillo, regional DSWD director, said only the department could dispose of the logs because these had been turned over to the DSWD by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Regina Antequisa, Ecoweb executive director, said the group had long asked the DSWD to help them process the permit needed for the group to operate so that more houses could be built but the agency has not acted on the request so far.

4,000 logs
Luisma said had the DSWD not stopped Ecoweb’s work, the more than 4,000 logs now stocked in her village would have been put to good use and not left to rot.

Boris said all Ecoweb had to do was secure the necessary permit so that its activities could resume.

He said in the case of the Diocese of Iligan, the DSWD allowed it to continue processing the logs because it had secured a permit from the regional DSWD office.

By Tito N. Fiel
Inquirer Mindanao

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