City Council seeks Marcos’ help for fire victims

The Iloilo City Council is asking for the help of the national government in assisting more than 1,000 persons who are now homeless after a fire gobbled more than 200 houses in Molo district over the weekend. (Photo: City Architect’s Office and John Noel E. Herrera)

By John Noel E. Herrera

The Iloilo City Council sought the help of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in addressing the housing needs of the victims of a fire that gobbled almost 300 houses and affected at least 1,100 individuals in Molo district.

In a regular session on Wednesday, Feb 1, 2023, Councilor Ely Estante passed a resolution urgently appealing President Marcos Jr.’s assistance for the “relocation of 299 families affected by the January 28, 2023 fire that razed a large area of Barangay San Juan and West Habog-Habog, district of Molo, Iloilo City.

Estante cited that the fire quickly spread to neighboring areas and gobbled a “wide swath of destruction covering an area of around two hectares” as the houses in nearby neighborhoods were made of light, combustible materials.

Estante also said that 299 fire victims were relocated to the Baluarte and San Juan Elementary Schools for temporary shelter, but they could not stay long as the schools are already implementing face-to-face classes.

He added that most of the victims face the “grim prospect of having no more place to return to as they are informal settlers whose houses were built on privately-owned land.”

The resolution will also be forwarded to the offices of President Marcos Jr., Representatives Julienne “Jamjam” Baronda, James T. Ang (Uswag Ilonggo Party List), the Department of Human Settlement and Urban Development (DHSUD), and the National Housing Authority (NHA) for appropriate actions.

Mayor Jerry P. Treñas earlier said that he had already talked to the owner of the land (Layson family), the Iloilo City Urban Poor Affairs Office, and the City Assessor’s Office to determine the extent of damage, as well as the possibility of buying the land.

“We will buy the land, then we will converse with the DHSUD if we can have a medium-rise building built so we can also place better housing there. I think this is around 3.16 hectares,” Treñas said.

Treñas also recognized that the fire incident emphasized the need for better housing solutions for residents, which he noted as timely to the Marcos administration’s goal of building one million houses per year.

He also mentioned commitments of financial assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) through interventions by Rep. Julienne Baronda and Senator Christopher Go.

The city government, on the other hand, has already extended help to the fire victims through the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) and the City Health Office (CHO).

Data from CSWDO indicated that a total of 300 families were affected by the fire, which was composed of 1,139 individuals, while 263 houses were totally damaged and 21 were partially damaged.