By Aaron Recuenco
LEGAZPI CITY – Where is the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)?
This is the question being asked by provincial officials of Albay, who have noted that the agency has yet to make its presence felt among the tens of thousands of evacuees, three weeks since Mayon Volcano started to act up.
The latest figures made available by the provincial government placed the number of evacuees at more than 85,000 at its peak last week.
“They told us that they would take over after 10 days of local government units’ spending on the needs of the evacuees. But up to now, we have yet to hear anything from them,” a provincial official said while requesting anonymity.
The local government had earlier bared that its savings from last year’s Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) could only expenses for the massive excavation related to the Mount Volcano eruption for only 10 days.
Residents living within the danger zone started to flock evacuation centers on January 15 and its original number of about 30,000 has ballooned to some 85,000 after Alert Level 4 was hoisted over Mayon Volcano on January 22.
“Mayon’s eruption could be over soon but the assistance from the DSWD has not yet been downloaded,” another source said.
“The DSWD people should shape up because they will certainly be a laughingstock here if their assistance would come after the Mayon’s eruption is already over,” the source added.
As a result of the slow response, the Provincial Government of Albay has had to maximize what the Provincial Social Welfare and Development had, while also relying on donations from non-government organizations.
Fortunately, the depleting funds of the local government units was augmented by the P70 million fund from President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, and another P5 million from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Francis Tolentino, who was designated by Duterte to link Malacanang and Albay, also confirmed the slow response of the DSWD regional office of Bicol.
Sources said DSWD Bicol regional director Arnel Garcia was one of the two agencies heads castigated by Tolentino for slow response during a meeting on Wednesday.
In the same meeting, it was also discovered that the DSWD has not even conducted its own profiling of the evacuees that they were planning to enroll in its cash-for-work program.
As such, the DSWD had to borrow the data of the regional Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) which had finished its own profiling of evacuees for its own cash-for-work program much earlier.
The DOLE has rolled out P30 million for its cash-for-work program and has released its first payout yesterday.
The DSWD, on the other hand, has a budget of P60 million for its cash-for-work program but sources here said that the agency has yet to start its own version of the program.
The DSWD regional office also reportedly became a source of the delay of the Wednesday meeting as its representative did not have with him the documents on the memorandum of agreement for its cash-for-work program.
And when the documents to be signed finally arrived, the format of the MOA was that for the Marawi City siege.