After it bore the brunt of the devastation caused by typhoon Pablo two years ago, the town of New Bataan in Compostela Valley was a picture of despair. But with the combined efforts of the private and public sector, the community has begun its recovery with a renewed optimism for the future.
Cement manufacturer Holcim Philippines was among those that extended assistance to New Bataan. Aside from providing immediate relief, it committed to support the construction of a sustainable village—energy efficient, environment friendly and typhoon resilient—to give a fresh start to 100 families who lost their homes to Pablo. On May 23, the company and local government officials led by Holcim Philippines CEO Ed Sahagun, Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy and New Bataan Mayor Lorenzo Balbin handed the deeds of occupancy and turned over the village to the project’s beneficiaries.
It is even more inspiring considering that the survivors played a huge role in making the milestone possible. The company believes that empowering the typhoon survivors was necessary for them to rise up and rebuild their lives. It thus partnered with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Association of Construction and Informal Workers, the company had 134 of the displaced residents trained in masonry under its flagship CSR program ‘galing Mason to allow them to actively participate in building their village.
Construction of the village required building materials such as hollow blocks and concrete roof tiles. To produce those, the company taught the residents how and shared the equipment for it. Holcim Philippines also pledged to further support the community by helping form a cooperative and teaching beneficiaries to run a business based on the new skills and tools provided to them. It believes these will allow the beneficiaries to not just recover but even improve their lives.
The residents expressed appreciation for Holcim’s approach to empower them to help themselves.
“It seems embarrassing to just wait for houses to be given and ust move in. This way, we have a sense of dignity because we worked hard for our homes. And, we have a new source of livelihood,” said Normelita Rivera, one of the beneficiaries.
Holcim Philippines Chief Executive Officer Ed Sahagun thanked the company’s partners for their support and praised the beneficiaries for their determination in the face of adversity.
“The external support was instrumental in the completion of the project, but the community’s resolve was just as important. We are very proud to support this initiative, and prouder in the determination shown by the people of New Bataan in rebuilding their lives. We hope this will help them get back on their feet more quickly, and that applying sustainable construction principles will lead to a more vibrant community,” he said.
The local government provided the one hectare relocation site and implemented a cash- for-work program, while the Green Architecture Advocacy of the Philippines (GAAP) designed the village to adhere to Holcim’s sustainable construction advocacy.
Sahagun noted that the recent natural calamities highlight the need to build smarter to adapt to the changing climate.
“This is our reality now. Experts have said that we can expect these types of storms to be the norm. But we can reduce these difficult and painful catastrophes by improving our building practices to make sure structures are more resilient and sustainable,” he said.
Sahagun added that he hopes that the Holcim village can serve as model for building sustainable communities for those displaced by natural calamities, as its goal is not only providing beneficiaries with shelters but the proper tools and skills to rebuild their lives.