Christmas Day is just 23 days away.
Majority of the island’s population may not have enough to cheer themselves up on what is supposed to be a day of joyous celebration but at least they are thankful to be alive after 2020’s three typhoons in a row.
After three weeks of frenzied activity on the island, with Navy and Coast Guard ships delivering goods for typhoon victims, national media buzzing around for stories, helicopters flying about to deliver relief goods to hard-to-reach areas and local leaders hosting politicians from Manila who want to be seen commiserating with Catandunganons, the hubbub will come sputtering to an end.
Unless, of course, another super typhoon heads this way, which is unlikely as the cold front is now affecting Southern Luzon.
There will be fewer arrivals of relief goods, with local government units hoping that the Duterte administration will make good on its word to extend an extra 1% of their Internal Revenue Allotments as additional calamity fund.
Right now, the focus of LGUs, from the province down to the municipalities, will be to inventory whatever relief goods they have left and distribute this to whoever really needs them. This is no time for the “everybody happy” syndrome that has sickened the local disaster response system for decades, thanks to politicians who want to be seen as saviors when all they are using come from public funds.
With typhoon aid slowing to a trickle, disaster management officials should take a second look at the situation on the ground and list specific households which still need assistance. By this time, a considerable percentage of partially-damaged households as well as some of those destroyed homes have been repaired or reconstructed.
There’s no use giving GI sheets to families who have already rebuilt their houses. And there certainly will be other who have no more resources to do the same.
As Gov. Joseph Cua enunciated during a press conference last week, this is the time to set aside politics and to let everyone who want to help do so without the distractions of negative comments.
With the national budget almost done, the repair and rehabilitation of government infrastructures destroyed by super typhoon Rolly will surely take more than a year to even begin.
No less than the Department of Education (DepEd) has estimated the damage to public schools on the island at P2.1 billion. Even if half this amount is granted by the national government, the repair work would not suffice to even allow face-to-face classes, assuming that the slowing COVID-19 spread and the availability of a vaccine would permit it.
The last week of December would at least bring some smiles to Catandunganons’ faces as the islanders always find ways to celebrate even in dire times.
By the time the Yuletide hangover ends on January 2, 2021, the people and their leaders would be facing the challenge of surviving the year.
Thanks to Rolly, the abaca industry, and the 12,000 or so abaca farmers dependent on it, would not be able to contribute P150 million a month to the island’s economy.
There will be less money going around and less opportunities to earn enough to feed one’s family.
It would be up to the island’s leaders, from the two congressmen, the governor and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, down to the municipal mayors and the municipal councils, to find ways to prop up the local economy.
And their constituents should and must remind them to do their best, as 2022 is just around the corner.