Gov. Bag-ao: BARMM lights up Yuletide season in typhoon-hit Dinagat Islands

By Ali G. Macabalang

Dinagat Island province Gov. Arlene Bag-ao speaking in a video clip. (Photo supplied)

COTABATO CITY – The Bangsamoro autonomous government has helped lighten up the Yuletide season rendered gloomy by Typhoon Odette (Rai) among people in CARAGA region, especially in the severely affected Dinagat Island province, according to host Governor Arlene J. Bag-ao.

“Hindi ko alam kung paano magpasalamat sa pamunuoan ng BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) government, lalong-lalo na kay Chief Minister Ahod Balawag-Ebrahim,” Gov. Bag-ao said in a video recorded message posted by the Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence (READi) on Dec. 26.

In a report posted on Dec. 24, the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the storm has severely affected communities of 16 million people in Visayas and Mindanao, notably in Region VIII and CARAGA Region where 2.4 million residents were classified in dire “need of assistance.”

Odette made its first landfall on Dec. 16, bringing heavy rains, violent winds, floods and storm surges to islands in the two regions. Overnight, it rendered homeless thousands of families, endangering some of the impressive social and economic gains made since recovering from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic in the past two years, Gustavo Gonzales, OCHA team head for the Philippines, said in the report.

Gozales, who opened a field office here for BARMM areas this year, said the OCHA launched an aid campaign for at least 530,000 people in the worst affected areas in CARAGA and Region VIII. In four to six weeks from the launch, its Humanitarian Needs and Priorities plan will be revised to reflect the needs arising from additional assessments, he added.

For Governor Bag-ao, the arrival in her province on Dec. 24 of 16 big trucks filled with varied relief packages came as a great reprieve for her severely affected people in this Yuletide season.

“Kayo ang nag bigay ng ligaya sa aming mga puso…lalo na ngayong pasko,” Gov. Bag-ao said in between tears in her video recorded by the READI team for the BARMM relief mission to Dinagat Island province.

The lady governor added: “Ngayon lang kami nakakita ng ganito kalalaki na trucks na puno-puno ng mga biyaya para sa amin.”

She expressed gratitude to the administration of BARMM Chief Minister Ebrahim, in general, and the Ministries of the Interior and Local Government (MILG), Social Services and Development (MSSD), and Health (MOH), in particular.

Gov. Bag-ao received on Dec. 24 the P13-milion worth of goods brought in by the BARMM convoy of 16 trucks led by the READi team. MILG Minister Naguib Sinarimbo and MSSD Minister Raissa Jajurie sent off the convoy in a symbolic ceremony at the BARMM government compound here on December 22.   

She said the BARMM relief mission posted “one of the biggest relief deliveries” to her province so far, touting also the “very good quality” of rice, canned foods and other goods brought in by the convergent team.   

The BARMM relief mission delivered 125,000 kilos of rice, 1,600 jerrycans, and 3,200 boxes of water purification tablets from the MSSD and the Project Tulong Alay sa Bangsamorong Nangangailangan (TABANG) of the Office of the Chief Minister (OCM), and 3,000 hygiene kits from the MOH, an official report said.

For its part, the READi team, operating as an emergency action unit of the MILG, brought for Dinagat Island people 2,000 food packs, which contained 10 kilos of rice, 10 canned goods, and 10 sachets of 3-in-1 coffee each, said the report from the Bangsamoro Information Office.

Meanwhile, the BARMM government partnered with the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) to provide a separate relief team to Negros Island in Region VIII, tapping soldiers and military facilities to deliver assistance in two waves, it was learned.

Since Dec. 21, the office of Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy, 6ID commanding general, has been accepting donations from the BARMM officialdom and other local government units (LGUs) in its areas of coverage to serve typhoon Odette-hit areas in Negros islands, a report from the 6ID Public Affairs Office said.

So far, the report said, soldiers and military trucks from different units of the 6ID had made two deliveries to Negros, dispersing 3,439 food packs, 125 jerrycans, hygiene and family kits, potable water in bottles, and basic equipment.

“Our soldiers (partnering with civilian quarters) manifested humanitarian initiatives to show that Filipinos are united especially in times of disasters, breaking cultural barriers,” the 6ID PAO report said.

“Let us all continuously work hand in hand for the safety and welfare of our compatriots,” Gen. Uy said in the report. (AGM)

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