Many of the development and community planning officers in the Visayas who received scholarship grants from the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) through the US$10-million technical support and assistance extended by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) after their areas were devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda are now helping their communities deal with similar disasters like Odette and Agaton – and independent presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson is very proud of them.
Lacson, who as Presidential Assistant on Rehabilitation and Recovery facilitated their schooling eight years ago, met with some of the planning officers during his and vice presidential bet Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III’s visit to Ormoc, Leyte on Wednesday.
“Parang fulfilling. Of course tinamaan na naman ng Odette, tinamaan na naman ng Agaton. And we take pride in one of our legacy projects na nabanggit ko kanina, nagpa-scholar kami ng 162 planning officers who are now giving services sa kanilang respective municipalities (It was very fulfilling to see some of the 162 planning officers who underwent training via scholarships now giving services to their respective municipalities and dealing with the effects of recent cyclones like Odette and Agaton),” Lacson said.
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“Kanina na-meet namin yung tatlo o apat, and then parang alam mo na yun yung feeling na parang may memory lane na tinatahak ka. Very exciting (I met with three or four of them today, it felt like a stroll down memory lane. It was very exciting),” he added.
In 2014, the OPARR under Lacson helped technically capacitate 171 cities and towns affected by Yolanda, where 162 planning officers graduated from the Development Academy of the Philippines after a number of years.
The USAID, through then Mission Director Gloria Steele, extended technical support and assistance worth US$10 million to OPARR that made possible the enrollment and graduation of these planning officers.
Lacson said this, and seeing Ormoc Mayor Richard Gomez – who he worked with in the Estrada administration’s anti-illegal drug program – made his trip to Ormoc all the more sentimental.
“Nag-graduate sila 2016. Ngayon nakita ko sila very knowledgeable. Kaya sabi ko dapat tama prepared na prepared when Agaton and Odette hit this region again. So again ready sila, alam nila ang gagawin nila. Naging parang mentally resilient na particularly Ormoc and nearby municipalities na talaga namang vulnerable sa calamities (The planning officers graduated in 2016. I see they are now very knowledgeable, so they were prepared when Agaton and Odette hit this region again. They knew what to do),” Lacson said.