ORMOC CITY – There’s Disneyland and there is Codilla Land!
The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation Inc. formally launched its housing program for Yolanda victims and internally displaced persons here in the city, in rites held at the city plaza on Monday, September 29, where a sample unit of the houses they would be constructing was put up.
Present during the launching was Alfredo Li, president of Tzu Chi Philippines, Mayor Edward Codilla, Vice Mayor Leo Carmelo Locsin Jr., some city councilors and other Tzu Chi volunteers. Also present were former 4th Leyte district representative Eufrocino Codilla Sr. and the mayor’s wife, Violy.
Tzu Chi Foundation will be building 2,000 housing units in a 50-hectare relocation site that the mayor has provided which was dubbed “Codilla Land”, on a usufruct arrangement for the next 50 years. Li earlier said the agreement had an option to extend it for 75 years, but added it by 50 years “nangamatay na tang tanan ana”.
They will also be building 700 similar houses in Palo, Leyte and 300 in Tacloban City, or a total of 3,000 houses in the three areas.
Alfredo Li said it was Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez who brought them to Ormoc City, just days after Yolanda. The congresswoman appealed to them to take a look at the city, which was also devastated, but did not get much attention from humanitarian groups because the focus was on Tacloban City.
Through her, he said, they came to know Ormocanons. He said they liked the warmth of the Ormocanons, which encourage them to bring in more interventions.
It was also learned that to help Tzu Chi, Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez filed a resolution in Congress, seeking to exempt the aid and assistance they were bringing in from taxes and custom duties.
Li added they also came to know the mayor and city officials, who’ve been helpful and cooperative with their programs.
Li conveyed that their founder, Master Chen Yen, who is based in Taiwan, is happy to find a place where the mayor was more than willing to lend his land for the relocation of the homeless.
He said that their master was so impressed that she gave the mayor a certificate of appreciation, the only person in the world to receive such a citation from her.
That is why, he said, their master wants the foundation to give Ormocanons the best temporary shelters in the world.
The temporary shelter comes in two sizes. One is 21- square meters, with two rooms, for a family with four members. Another is 27-square meters with three rooms, for a family of 5 or more members.
It is pre-fabricated and with the help of 20 plus builders from Taiwan who are experts in assembling it, the recipients are expected to help build the houses.
Master Chen Yen has also thrown in a bed each for every occupant, a plastic one that is sturdy and won the “Reddot Award”, a worldwide contest for innovative product designs.
Two beds were assembled for the public to see, and two “heavy weight” councilors, Mario Rodriguez and Tommy Serafica, asked to try it out. The bed could be folded up to become a chair, too.
Meanwhile, he added, unemployed women of the IDP’s residing in the temporary bunkhouses are the ones making cement tiles for the floors.
The relocation site, he added, will set a standard for the world. The main road will be 15 meters wide, while the side roads would be 6 meters wide. There would be parks and spaces.
Previously, it was announced that the master development plan of the site was drawn up by renowned Architect Jun Palafox, their partner in various humanitarian missions of Tzu Chi in places like the tsunami-devastated Aceh and war-torn Iraq.
It was also learned that the construction of the temporary shelters is funded solely from contributions of donors from within the country.
Li said they already got the commitment of big-ticket donors to the project like the BDO Foundation, which committed to raise P 100-million for it, but they also welcome the contribution of everybody. “A 100-peso contribution is welcome”, Li said, adding that Tzu Chi operates on the principle of helping each other by sharing resources, big or small.