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DSWD chief assures welfare of Socorro group during relocation, reintegration

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Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian has assured members of the Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. (SBSI) that their welfare and well-being will be protected during the planned relocation and reintegration into their community.

“When the decision to move these families out of the area was made, the social protection comes into pictures. Those we can reintegrate, let’s reintegrate them,” Secretary Gatchalian said during the January 19 coordination meeting held at the DSWD Central Office.

Among those who attended the meeting were Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Surigao del Norte Governor Robert Lyndon Barbers.

Secretary Gatchalian explained that the role of the DSWD in the resettlement of the SBSI members is to ensure that social protection tools are in place as they reintegrate into their community or relocate to a different area.

The DSWD chief has mobilized the Department’s Operations Group to assist the provincial government of Surigao in identifying the members who can be reintegrated into their respective communities and those needing actual relocation.

“Provide financial assistance to members who have family in the town where they can be reintegrated,” the Secretary Gatchalian pointed out during the discussion of the proposed plans for the resettlement and relocation of SBSI members.

Governor Barbers said the proposed relocation and resettlement master plan should address the needed housing and relocation assistance for some 390 SBSI members of the Socorro group.

The Surigao del Norte provincial government has started preparing for the relocation of the Socorro group members after the DENR suspended the 2004 Protected Area Community-Based Resource Management Agreement (PACBRMA) with the SBSI, pending further investigation into the latter’s alleged violation of the deal’s terms and conditions.

Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga said the DENR will look closely into the environmental aspects of the relocation area which should be bound by law and that the target area has the necessary permits for residential use.

“Importante sa amin ma-justify environmentally bakit sila need ma-relocate sa area na ito,” Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga said.

(It is important to us that we justify environmentally the need to relocate them in the area.)

The January 19 coordination meeting is part of the DSWD and DENR response to the provincial government’s call for assistance from the national government in building shelters and providing assistance geared at ensuring that children and individuals in Sitio Kapihan are protected.

Senators Risa Hontiveros and Ronald dela Rosa have filed separate resolutions calling for an inquiry into the activities of the alleged religious cult SBSI which is based in Surigao del Norte.

Joining Secretary Gatchalian in the meeting were DSWD Undersecretary for Operations Group Monina Josefina H. Romualdez and Undersecretary for International Affairs, and Attached and Supervised Agencies (ASAs) Emmeline Aglipay Villar.

Accompanying Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga were Undersecretary for Field Operations-Mindanao Joselin Marcus E. Fragada; Undersecretary for Special Concerns and Legislative Affairs Atty. Ignatius Loyola A. Rodriguez; and DENR Caraga Regional Executive Director Nonito M. Tamayo.

Also present in the meeting were DSWD Asst. Secretary for Community Engagement Ulysses Aguilar, Asst. Sec. for International Affairs, and Attached and Supervised Agencies (ASAs) Atty. Elaine F. Fallarcuna, Asst. Sec. for Regional Operations Paul D. Ledesma, and Asst. Sec. for Statutory Programs Ada A. Colico, Kapitbisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS) National Program Manager Director Bernadette Mapue-Joaquin.

Gawad Kalinga Chairman Jose Luis Oquinena and representatives of Department of Education (DepEd)-Caraga also attended the meeting.

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