Surigao fire victims cry foul in relief distribution

Victims of the fire that his this city over the weekend are complaining of alleged unfair distribution of relief goods.

The fire at P. Reyes Extension in Barangay Taft last Saturday, which claimed the life of a 68-year-old woman, was reported to be the worst to hit the city in a decade, razing down over 200 houses and rendering about 1,000 people homeless.

Fire victim Vergie Bestajo claimed that the aid from the government intended to fire victims reached non-victims as well. She said some of her neighbors lucky enough to be spared of the fire were among those who joined the queue to receive relief goods at the evacuation center at the Nueva Gym of the Mariano Espina Memorial Central Elementary School.

“What kind of relief distribution is that?” she lamented.

Other fire victims who did not stay at the gym but with their relatives, on the other hand, claimed they were not allowed to receive vitamins for the children and other relief goods because they were not in the evacuation centers.

Pablo Bonono Jr., a councilor of Barangay Taft, admitted the lapses in the relief distribution. “It’s shameful to know that there were people who joined the line and asked relief even though they were not fire victims,” he said in a telephone interview.

He advised fire victims who did not receive aid to go to their purok chairman or to the barangay so they could be taken care of.

He said that the local offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) are the ones who made the list and the ones distributing the relief goods to the fire victims. The list reportedly has 374 families affected by the fire.

Bonono thanked all the kindhearted individuals, private companies and organizations, as well as city and provincial governments for giving aid to the victims. But he said the aid that came were still not enough and asked for more donations.

“Just today the Surigaonon Rural Banking Corporation, the Chinese Chamber, Surigao Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Alpha Phi Omega Star Jed Corporation, E.Y. Marketing and other private individuals came to the barangay to give relief goods to the fire victims,” he said.

Gloria Saluday, whose house was devoured by the fire, told MindaNews that they are in dire need of clothing, food and other household items.

She said she and the rest of her family saved nothing from their belongings except the clothes they were wearing as they hurriedly left their house at the height of the incident.

Saluday appealed to the local government to relocate them to a safer site as some elected officials had promised earlier to build decent and safe houses for the squatters.

Many of the victims had reportedly been squatting in the area for almost 20 years.

With no relatives living in the city, other victims have nobody to turn to for temporary shelter except the two evacuation centers. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)

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