ORMOC CITY – A British agricultural commodity merchant, with presence in 60 countries and which has been operating in the Philippines for the past 40 years now, passed up celebrating their 230th anniversary last December, opting instead to help Yolanda victims here and in Cebu where they have business interests.
Tark Bartlema, country manager of SvG of the British ED&F Man Group, said they donated US $ 200,000 or P 8.76-million to help meet the shelter needs of affected sugar workers here and in Bogo, Cebu. The company coursed their donation through Habitat for Humanity, noting its good reputation in rebuilding damaged homes in calamity stricken areas.
Half of the funds were from employees’ contribution, which the company matched with an equivalent amount. ED&F Man has around 3,500 employees all over the world.
In the spirit of charity beginning at home, Bartlema said they chose to help affected sugar cane planters and workers in Leyte and Cebu since they are the company’s business partners. For Ormoc, US $ 150,000 was allocated and the remaining US $ 50,000 for Bogo. The company buys the molasses of the sugarcane growers here, and its sugar sometimes.
The Habitat for Humanity took care of screening the beneficiaries and making the final selection.
Engr. Hermenegildo Serafica, president of the Leyte Cane Planters Association, said ED&F Man gave their sugarcane workers an allocation of 216 houses, 126 who received their shelter kits on August 28, Thursday.
Chona Marabeles, a beneficiary, was overjoyed saying they were looking forward to living in a better house. They are currently living in a patched-up shack with plastic sheet as their roofing.
Clarita de Jesus, another beneficiary, said they are very thankful to receive the shelter kits.
Another planters’ group, the Ormoc Sugar Planters Association (OSPA), gets another 216 houses. Atty. Iñaki Larrazabal Jr., president, said that Habitat was still on the process of screening beneficiaries from their group.
The shelter kits are worth P 15,000 each consisting of 8 pieces marine plywood, 10 pieces coco lumber, 12 GI sheets, 2 plain GI sheets, 4 kilos of assorted nails, one hammer and one saw.
The houses will be worked on “pintakasi” style with the beneficiaries giving their “sweat equity” by helping each other rebuild their homes. Habitat for Humanity will monitor the construction to make sure the materials are used in rebuilding homes.
Bartlema said that much as they would want to give the beneficiaries brick and mortar homes, “we wanted to stretch the money to help more people rebuild their homes.”
It was Bartlema’s first time to visit Leyte after Yolanda and he said the vestiges of its devastation, still imminent, was “depressing.” However, other company representatives have visited the area many times already. They will be back on September 6 to distribute to the OSPA beneficiaries.
Bartlema then paid tribute to the Filipino people’s resiliency. “It may sound cliché”, he said, but he had seen it rise to the fore many times in this calamity-prone country. Bartlema has stayed in the country for the many years now and has seen how the Filipinos have coped from one disaster to another. By Lalaine M. Jimenea and Jhay Gaspar