TACLOBAN CITY – SM Foundation vice-chairman Teresita Sy-Coson, Secretary Panfilo Lacson of the Office of the Presidential Assistance for Rehabilitation and Recovery, and Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez inaugurated the newly rebuilt and larger Tacloban City Hospital on Wednesday, August 27.
They were joined in the ceremonies by OPARR Usec. Danny Antonio, SM Foundation officers executive director Debbie Sy, executive director for health and medicine Connie Angeles, executive director for education Linda Atayde, city councilor Cristina Gonzales-Romualdez, Yedda Romualdez representing her husband Leyte Rep. FM Romualdez and other city officials.
Sec. Lacson hailed the newly rebuilt and improved Tacloban City as a “hospi-tel”, saying it was almost like a hotel. “It is beautiful inside and out,” he said.
He also said the rehab work was “a good example of building back better and faster”, adding that it was only four months ago that Ms Coson signed a MOA with the City and OPARR to undertake the hospital’s rebuilding.
SM Foundation did not only rehabilitate the hospital but also increased its bed capacity from the previous of 50 to 100. It also has complete laboratory equipment and state-of-the-art operation rooms which hospital chief Dr. Judy Manugay said was the start of the realization of her dream to turn the hospital into a “medical center.”
Lacson also lauded the generosity of SM Foundation in funding rehab projects in Yolanda affected areas. He also announced that BDO Foundation, which is part of the SM family, has committed another P 100-million for a housing project in partnership with Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation.
He also appealed for SM Foundation and other private sector partners to continue helping the Yolanda-affected regions because it was the private sector that they were relying on to do most of the work, as of now.
“We have just submitted the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Plan last August 1”, Lacson said. Consisting of 8,000 plus pages, he candidly admitted it would take time for government to act on it. Meantime, it is the private sector their office is relying on, he said.
In her talk, Coson said that aside from rebuilding the Tacloban City hospital, they are also rehabilitating 10 health centers and building some 156 classrooms in Yolanda affected areas. The first health center to be finished will be in Tabontabon, Leyte which was inaugurated the next day.
She also said SM Foundation was among the first to respond to the emergency situation in Tacloban City, sending over 140,000 relief packs and holding 12 medical missions for the affected populace.
Coson also noted she was happy to see that Tacloban City was recovering fast, congratulating the people and Mayor Romualdez for the feat.
The hospital rehab, said Ms Debbie Sy, in an interview, is part of P 100-million that SM Foundation committed for the Yolanda relief efforts. “I do not know exactly how much was spent for the hospital,” she said, “but what I know is that SM Foundation committed P 100-million to the Yolanda rehabilitation effort.”
Mayor Alfred Romualdez, on the other hand, told Coson and SM Foundation officials “there are no words to express how we feel today but just our warm thanks”.
He said the city could not have recovered without the help of generous people and organizations like SM Foundation.
Romualdez said that he has led Tacloban to become one of the top 10 cities in good governance and transparency before Yolanda, and views the tragedy as “one step backward” which he is responding with “two steps forward.”
The short program ended with the city hospital staff singing Florante’s “Handog” to Coson and SM Foundation officials. They replaced the lyrics with words thanking the foundation. In the refrain, they sung, “Tatanda at lilipas rin kami, ngunit mayroong SM Foundation iiwan sa aming alaala, dahil minsan tayo’y nagkasama.”
Ms Debbie Sy, visibly moved at the effort to thank them, was seen wiping the corners of her eyes while the staff sang the song. By Lalaine M. Jimenea