DAVAO CITY – Lumads, including women and children, from Davao City countrysides and other areas who are now in the city to hop households to ask for “Christmas gifts”have been sleeping in sidewalks as their number exceeded the capacity of gymnasium shelter areas designated by the City government.

“They (Lumads) have exceeded last year’s number of 8,000 families. The total we have so far is 11, 126 and supposedly each shelter can only accommodate 500 families each,” said Liwayway Caligdong, assistant administrator of the City Social Services and Development Office.

Caligdong said they do not have the exact number yet as to individuals but her estimates put it at triple the number of families or about 30,000 individuals.

The shelter areas are the gymnasiums of Barangays: Buhangin, Tugbok, Mintal, Bankerohan, Calinan, Toril, Bunawan and Matina Aplaya.

Andy Lepardo of the City Engineering Office (CEO), said that their office is tasked to “mobilization” and can transfer people from one shelter to another.

“But the command would come from the CSSDO,” said Lepardo.

Caligdong said that they couldn’t designate other gymnasiums as “these are in the interior of barangays (far away from areas where they can ask for gifts) while others are in danger zones.”

However, Caligdong said the number would not anymore reach their earlier expected “guests” count of 20,000 families.

She said the city expected the Lumads to arrive December 5 but they are already here since November 30.

Lumads from other provinces like Arakan (North Cotabato), Talaingod (Davao del Norte) and Surigao are among those who come to the city.

Last year, Caligdong said that some of those from outside Davao City were sent home.

“But our new policy now is that we cannot refuse anyone,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dolly Remojo, deputy chief of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) that they have “ensured the cleanliness of the shelter areas.”

Remojo said they have assigned street sweepers and they collect garbage from the areas three shifts per day.

Dr. Samuel Cruz, chief of the City Health Office (CHO) said they would service the shelter areas in three shifts, 24 hours a day tillDecember 26.

He said the common illnesses of congested areas such as the shelters are Pneumonia and Acute Gastroentiritis which is the common cause of loose bowel movements.

“There are also those who give birth at the shelters and vehicular accidents like in one case where a  Lumad fell off a trisikad,” said Cruz.

He said that the CHO is utilizing the current city budget and instructed health personnels “that no one should die because that is their (CHO personnel’s) purpose.”

Meanwhile, Lepardo said that aside from mobilization, they would provide the water supply requirements and portable toilets in the areas.

“Faucets in the shelters cannot supply enough so we will provide water trucks for laundry, bathing and cleaning toilets,” he said.

Lepardo said that, as in the past years, they were tasked to bring the Lumads home using the city’s dump trucks.

He said that they have to “concentrate” all their resources on that day to finish it immediately.

“We have utilized 18 dump trucks in the past years for example and in full blast reached to up to 24 dump trucks. Our work stops (in the CEO) as we have nothing more to use,” he said.

Lepardo said that they cannot say whether they can make use of private dump trucks as this would have “financial requirements” which he cannot comment on.

He said that in their experience, some Lumads “who maybe have savings or got big amounts from their ‘napamasko’, rent jeeps to bring them home.”

Meanwhile, with regards of Lumads seen begging in the streets, Caligdong said that “we ask the public not to give them anything in the streets so they will not survive there.”

“If we do not give them anything in the street, they will have no reason to stay there,” she said.

Caligdong also said that what the Lumads are doing is “not mendicancy.”

“Palimos (mendicancy) in Presidential Decree 1563 is if it become one’s source of living, but this is not the case with the Lumads who are only here to ask for gifts at this time of the year,” she said.

However, Dulphing Ogan, spokesperson of Mindanao Lumad organization, Kalumaran, said that “there could be another way of helping without compromising our dignity.”

“If we are really sincere in helping the Lumads, why not bring the gifts to them?” said Ogan.

Ogan said that the “Christmas visit have become a habit for some Lumads.”

“What we need is help on making our ancestral lands productive. Help in improving our agriculture. I am sure the local government is highly capable of such,” he said.

Meanwhile, Caligdong said that they are making rounds with the police to remind those who are begging in the streets.

She said they do not know of the budget yet for the Lumads but they are “sure that every family every day have ration cards.”

Caligdong said that the daily rations contain two kilos of rice, two cans of sardines, and three packs of noodles. (davaotoday.com)

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