MALILIPOT, Albay: A few months after three strong typhoons pummeled the Bicol Region in the middle of a pandemic last year, displaced families in Albay still live in tents inside evacuation centers under the scorching heat of the sun and occasional torrential rainfall here.
This reporter revisited evacuees staying at San Roque Elementary School in San Roque village, Malilipot town to check on the situation of the displaced families four months after three typhoons battered Albay and Catanduanes provinces in November 2020.
Milagros Buates, 52, mother of eight children, is still living with her family at a temporary shelter in the school.
She had put up a small sari-sari (variety) store outside a classroom to earn a living.
“We are longing to go back home. Unfortunately, the place where we have been residing for 52 years was declared [a] no man’s land by the government because of fissures,” Buates said.
“We don’t know until when we will be staying here. We’re still waiting for the government to relocate us because until now, there’s no land and home given to us,” she added.
Her family is among the 102 families currently housed at the San Roque Elementary School.
Buates’ house is situated in front of the provincial road where a 100-foot deep fissure now lies.
Cedric Daep, chief of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office, said the wall of a cliff in San Roque could easily loosen and cave in should there be more flooding.
A river near the fissure is silted with volcanic materials such as boulders as big as cars and sand, posing danger to residents of San Roque and nearby villages.
The village has a population of 2,277 based on a 2015 census.
The 102 families needed to be relocated, but an assessment by the Mines and Geoscience Bureau found that the number has increased, according to barangay (village) captain Josefina Vinas.
Typhoon “Quinta” (“Molave”), Typhoon “Rolly” (international name “Goni”) and Typhoon “Ulysses” (“Vamco”) hit Albay alone within three weeks from October to November 2020.
Malilipot Mayor Roli Volante said his office is still negotiating with landowners for the purchase of a resettlement site to relocate the 102 families.
Volante added that he had also asked the National Housing Authority to help the local government unit to expedite construction of housing for these families.
He said the residents of San Roque and nearby villages are not only threatened by mudflow but also by massive soil erosion, allegedly as a result of road projects implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highway at Mount Bulucawan and Mount Tuktukan.