AGONCILLIO, Batangas — While the Taal Volcano continues to show signs of possible phreatic eruption, endangering anew the families who were displaced by the volcano’s eruption last year, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) unveiled its newest charitable project to safeguard the living condition of affected locals.
A brainchild project of PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Andrea Domingo, the PAGCOR Villages broke ground in the towns of Agoncillo and Lemery on February 18, 2021. They are designed to provide permanent shelters to less privileged families who were displaced by Taal Volcano’s eruption in January 2020. Most of these families remain homeless until now.
Each PAGCOR Village has a funding of P30 million. Its main features include 100 units of 30-square-meter houses and an arc or signage located at the entrance of the project site.
The PAGCOR Village in Lemery, which will be built in Bgy. Payapa Ilaya and Bgy. Talaga, are both outside the danger zone with up to 15 kilometers distance. Meanwhile, the project site in Agoncillo is in Bgy. San Jacinto, which is 14 kilometers away from the danger zone.
The beneficiary local government units’ counterparts are to provide the land where the housing project will be constructed and ensure that the site has access to roads, water and electricity.
PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Andrea Domingo said the project came into fruition to provide more concrete and long-term solutions to locals who were displaced by Taal Volcano’s eruption last year.
“When the Taal Volcano erupted in January 2020, we deployed volunteer PAGCOR employees who immediately distributed food and non-food essentials to affected locals. However, the bigger problem was the loss of homes and properties of many families living in the towns surrounding the volcano. Now, in spite of the ongoing pandemic, we launched this program not only to provide permanent housing for Taal-affected families who have no means to rebuild their homes, but to also give them hope to rise above their situation,” she explained.
Ginalyn Alcantara, 50, was one of the locals from Sitio Ilaya, Agoncillo who lost their home during the Taal Volcano eruption in January 2020. A former domestic helper in Malaysia, Alcantara narrated how she saved her salary for seven years just to pay off the loan she incurred to build her family’s dream house.
“Nang pumutok ang Taal noong nakaraang taon, nagkaroon ng malalaking bitak ‘yung bahay namin dahilsa sunod-sunod na lindol. Tumataas din yung tubiglawa. Dati lagpas pa sa 100 meters yung tubig mula sabakuran namin pero ngayon, kinain na ng tubig pati ang loob ng bahay. Lahat ng pagod ko sa pagtatrabaho saibang bansa ay nabale-wala sa isang iglap. Back to zero talaga kami,” she tearfully narrated.
Alcantara’s family is temporarily living in her sister’s old house, as they have nowhere else to stay. She added that because of the pandemic, she and her partner make ends meet by selling native rice cakes and tending to some backyard farm animals.
Luckily, Alcantara and her family became beneficiaries of the PAGCOR Village in Agoncillo. “Laking pasalamat po namin sa PAGCOR. Kung ang kasalukuyang hanapbuhay lang po namin ang aasahan, matatagalan po na makapag-patayo ulit kami ng bahay,“she said.
Agoncillo Mayor Daniel Reyes said about 1,700 houses in their town were damaged during the Taal eruption and the series of typhoons that battered the country in 2020. “Of this number, around 400 houses were completely destroyed. Kaya nagpapa-salamat po kami sa PAGCOR dahil mabibigyan ng pabahay yung ilan naming kababayan na wala na talagang babalikan,” he said.
Lemery Mayor Eulalio Alilio also expressed his gratitude to PAGCOR for helping build a housing community for his displaced constituents. “Dahil sasunod-sunod na mga pagyanig ng lupa, tumaas ang tubig sa ilang mga bayan na hindi dati binabaha kaya maraming mga pamilya ang wala nang babalikangbahay. Dahil din sa pandemic, depleted na ang pondong aming lokal na pamahalaan kung kaya’t malakingtulong itong proyekto ng PAGCOR,” he shared.
Aside from the “PAGCOR Village“, the state-run gaming firm also allocated P2 billion for the Multi-Purpose Evacuation Center Project which is aimed is to provide temporary shelter for typhoon-prone communities around the country.