Last Monday morning, Dec. 27, 2021, a team of 17 personnel from the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) on board a boom truck with man lift, a support truck and a van embarked on a journey to Bohol in the Central Visayas.
Three of them would be going back to Catanduanes after ensuring safe travel of the team, part of the contingent sent by the Bicol Electric Cooperatives Association (BECA) in response to an appeal from the national government to assist in the rehabilitation of power lines damaged by typhoon Odette last Dec. 16.
During last week’s meeting of the association, FICELCO General Manager Engr. Raul Zafe expressed with some regret that the cooperative would not be able to bring cash assistance for the disaster-struck Bohol municipality of Jagna where the team is headed.
But, in an interview with the Tribune, he stressed that the repair crew’s participation in the power rehab effort is FICELCO’s way of expressing its gratitude for the invaluable assistance rendered by Visayas electric cooperatives, especially Bohol Electric Cooperative I and II, in the aftermath of powerful storms that struck Catanduanes in the last two decades, from “Reming” in 2005 to “Rolly” just last year.
Knowing the Catandunganons empathize with the plight of the victims of Odette, FICELCO said in its Facebook post that it would accept relief goods to be sent by civic groups and individuals to Bohol.
But it did not expect at all to see its Marinawa headquarters swamped by the number of boxes that the limited space of its two vehicles could no longer accommodate.
At the suggestion of the Tribune, the provincial government, through Governor Joseph Cua, was asked if it could deploy a cargo truck that could load the relief goods sent by its constituents and accompany the FICELCO team during their journey.
As of Sunday morning, Gov. Cua had agreed to the suggestion and efforts were underway to coordinate the matter with FICELCO management.
This is not just a matter of scheduling or booking trips on roll-on, roll-off (RORO) ferries, as the main route to the Visayas from Bicol is through the Matnog-Allen crossing.
There is also the possibility that the FICELCO team could be assigned to a place other than its intended destination of Jagna, Bohol, which would leave the provincial government’s truck to proceed alone in delivering its cargo.
This week, the provincial chief executive is expected to convene the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) to discuss the allotment of financial aid to the any of the provinces hit by Odette.
According to a source, a figure of at least a million pesos is being proposed as Catanduanes’ donation to Cebu, with a team of responders reportedly being considered for deployment after New Year’s Day.
The donation, paltry as it seems compared to the millions in calamity assistance the island received after “Rolly,” may be just a token but it should send a message to our fellow Filipinos in Visayas and Mindanao that we have not forgotten how they helped us so many times in the past.
On the surface, the four towns which bore the brunt of super typhoon Rolly’s 285-kph center winds appears to have recovered from the horrendous damage inflicted on homes, public infrastructure and agriculture.
After all, resiliency, especially in the wake of super storms, is hallmark of the Catandunganon, a trait that has enabled islanders to recover quickly from the blows of Mother Nature.
But more than a year after Nov. 1, 2020, the abaca industry upon which more than 13,000 farmers and their families depend for their livelihood, has yet to fully recover.
Even the P120 million assistance promised by the Department of Agriculture to abaca farmers has yet to materialize, lost in the bureaucratic maze of the Duterte administration.
Despite this man-made misfortune, we should not forget that Catanduanes would not be so quick on the path to full recovery without the kindness that our brothers in the rest of the country have shown us.
Let FICELCO’s token assistance to the rehabilitation effort in Central Visayas convince the rest of the islanders to pitch in with whatever they can afford and help our suffering brothers survive their own calamity.