University hosts relief efforts to aid Yolanda survivors

With a super typhoon that ravaged half of the country under a state of calamity, De La Salle Philippines stepped in to mobilize relief efforts to aid the most affected, using the University as its base.

 De La Salle Philippines (DLSP) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) mobilized two different relief operations inside DLSU last week to help the typhoon-ravaged region of Eastern Visayas.

According to Mr. Ramon Gasgas, the supervising officer of what was the DSWD repacking center in DLSU, the satellite-repacking center of relief goods in the University is among the eight newly opened repacking venues all over the country to speed up the production of family food packs. He also added that same relief effort is on going at Ateneo de Manila University.

Meanwhile, DLSP has set DLSU as ‘central operating place’ of all La Salle schools, and started mobilizing to provide relief on Friday of November 15, with its first target of 2,000 relief packs on its first day.

DSWD food packing

The DSWD relief operations in the University started on November 13 at around 6 pm in the evening. “We have to move fast considering the extent of the devastation. People in the worst hit areas need food, water and medicines,” announced DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman in a recent press conference. As per the instructions of Soliman, the satellite-repacking centers all over the country are set to run for a month; however, the operation in DLSU has indefinitely closed down.

The goods that are repacked in the DSWD satellite-repacking centers are mostly procured goods or goods that were acquired through the DSWD department budget. Furthermore, the satellite-repacking center in the University was set to only focus on food products since other satellite centers will take charge of other needs, as instructed by DSWD. However, Gasgas insists that they will still accept donations of any kind.

In the case of DSWD satellite-repacking center in the University, a minimum total of 10,000 family food packs are expected to be produced by the end of the month. As of 6 pm in the morning of November 14, there were already 1,890 family food packs ready to be transported to DSWD National Resource Operations Center (NROC) via truck or bus.

From the DSWD-NROC, which is the command center and national warehouse of the DSWD where disaster operations are monitored, the goods will be transported to Villamor Air Base, and will be loaded to helicopter or plane carriers of the Philippine Air Force and will then be ready to be delivered at Eastern Visayas. Additionally, some goods go straight from the buses via Ride-On Ride-Off ships to the Visayas.

Transportation problems

Thee DSWD satellite-repacking center in the University had after two days of operation experienced problems as the DSWD-NROC failed to provide a sufficient number of trucks to transport the relief goods from DLSU, to DSWD-NROC, all the way up to Villamor Airbase.

Ms. Raquel Gabriel, a DSWD volunteer worker, admits that there is a problem with regards to transportation, and that as of November 15 there were still no trucks available to transport the remaining repacked goods. For this reason, repacking of goods was also temporarily put to a stop.

Though some private groups have already rented or lent out their trucks for use, Gabriel still seeks help continually from volunteers, to support the relief operations by providing the means of transportation for the goods.

“I really hope that as the relief operations continue, someone could contribute in the transportation of the goods, because we really want the goods to reach the typhoon survivors on time,” she said.

Despite the ongoing relief efforts of various government sectors, particularly DSWD, Gasgas laments on the way the media is portraying the current situation of these endeavors. “Ang naglalabasan sa media puro negative [Everything’s painted as negative],” he says.

“Ang lahat ng tao sumisigaw na walang ginagawa ang government [Everyone’s just crying foul at the government not working],” he claims, “pero hindi nila nakikita yung positive side [They never look at the positive side].” He states that instead of attacking the government sectors in doing their job, Filipinos must put in mind that the main mission is to provide for the needs of the victims of super typhoon Yolanda.

Gabriel also defends the DSWD in this light. She says that workers are willing to do their jobs 24 hours a day, even if it calls for them to compromise their safety and forego their hunger. She says that, although there may be inevitable circumstances, such is the case of lack in vehicles, the DSWD is doing is best to act on their roles.

DLSP relief operations

Meanwhile, the DLSP relief packing that operates in the University will continue running for two weeks.

“I think our minds are set that it’s going to be indefinite. Most likely two weeks,” says Keane Palatino, the Executive Director of DLSP Lasallian Mission Services and the person in-charge of the DLSP relief operations. “From what we see in the news, the need for relief goods cannot still be defined when they wouldn’t be needed anymore,” he adds.

Palatino has also identified Guiuan, Eastern Samar as DLSP’s first recipient of the 2,000 goods. Guiuan was the first town where super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ made its first landfall on November 8. According to reports of, despite the town being the first-hit, the town is the last to receive goods from government and private sectors.

Palatino has also outlined how the delivery of goods will flow. He said that from DLSU, the relief goods will be loaded to four Air21 container vans, and will be transported by the same shipping company by sea, and will then be distributed by his contact from the archdiocese in the town of Guiuan.

De La Salle Zobel is also conducting its own relief efforts while relief efforts in La Salle schools at Visayas are also on-going, states Palatino. DLSP has already sent monetary aid in order for the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod (USLS) to reach its target of a total number of 10,000 relief packs purchased and assembled for distribution.

“We’ve been working with USLS, their recipient of relief packs will be Northern Negros, Ilo-ilo, Capiz, Sagay, Panay Island, Bantayan and Cebu,” Palatino said.

DSWD and DLSP acknowledged the continuous relief effort of all Lasallians especially DLSU and De La Salle-College of St. Benilde (DLS-CSB).  Palatino was thankful of the presence of both schools as volunteers. Gasgas and Gabriel of DSWD likewise claim to be overwhelmed with the Lasallian spirit they’ve seen since the first day of relief efforts.

“Amazing [La Salle spirit], sometimes it’s as if the problem is a lot of people wanted to volunteer but we can’t accommodate them all,” says Palatino. “I’m happy because La Salle schools are continually contributing . . .this is the ‘one La Salle’ concept,” he shares.

The DLSP relief drive is as of press time in need of volunteers for the next packing operation slated for Tuesday, 9 am. Priority donations needed include 200 sacks of rice, 100 boxes of canned goods, 100 boxes of noodles, milk and coffee. Drop off points for interested donors are at the DLSU South Gate and the Central Gate.

As of press time, a little over 6,000 packs for Guiuan, Samar have been distributed and ready for dispatch. La Salle, primarily through its presence in De La Salle Santiago Zobel has been coordinating closely with Diocese of Paranaque, St. James Parish, AAVA and Brgy. Ayala Alabang for donations.

CJ Cachola

By CJ Cachola

Althea Gonzales

By Althea Gonzales

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