June 14, 2024

The ongoing construction of the halfway home at Balenben, Irisan will address the possible influx of rebel returnees in the region, according to the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO).

Liza Bulayungan, acting city social welfare and development officer, told the city council during the regular session last June 27 the construction of the facility is in preparation for the possible increase of rebel returnees in the coming years.

The halfway home is a dormitory-type structure that will serve as a temporary shelter for former rebels in the city and nearby localities as they prepare to be reintegrated into the community and have a β€œnew life” after their voluntary surrender to the government.

The project proposal indicates the building will cater to 60 rebel returnees (30 males and 30 females).

However, Bulayungan said there was only one reported rebel returnee in the city since 2016, and that individual had already been reintegrated into society. 

She said the building can be used for other productive undertakings of the city government to cater to other clients if the number of rebel returnees remains low. 

In 2018, a P5 million grant was cascaded by the Department of the Interior and Local Government to the city government of Baguio for the construction of the halfway home to house former rebels who are beneficiaries of the DILG’s Balik-Loob Program. 

An amount of P15M was appropriated by the city government from its annual budget to complement the DILG grant. 

The acting CSWDO chief said the construction of the halfway home for the rebel returnees was started before there was a proposal to construct a retirement home for the elderly.

β€œIt was only in 2021 when the retirement home for the elderly was included as one of our projects,” she said.

Earlier, Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda questioned the measurement of the halfway home for the rebel returnees compared to that of the retirement home for the elderly. The proposed master development plan indicates 297 square meters is dedicated for the halfway home for rebel returnees while only 130 sqm is for the retirement home for the elderly.

β€œYou mean to tell me that you are giving priority to rebel returnees who are only very minimal in number over the numerous senior citizens who are in need of a retirement home?” Tabanda asked. 

The councilor appealed to the CSWDO to give priority to the retirement home.

Bulayungan said her office will work with the City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) for the possible revision of the master development plan to address the concern raised by Tabanda.

Concurring with the councilor, Bulayungan said one possible solution is to interchange the two facilities. 

Councilors Levy Lloyd Orcales and Arthur Allad-iw suggested that the halfway home building, being a multi-use facility, may also be used as a temporary shelter for vagrants in the city while they are recovering and preparing to be reunited with their families.

Councilors Mylen Yaranon and Lilia Farinas, on the other hand, said there is also a need to establish a halfway home for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. 

The city council approved the master development plan of the Social Welfare and Development Complex on the condition that it would be subject to amendment. 

Aside from the retirement home for the elderly and the halfway home for the former rebels, the development plan includes the Bahay Pag-asa, formerly the Social Development Center, and the youth auditorium.

Arch. Donna Tabangin, City Planning and Development Coordinator, said only 43 percent of the total area will be used for construction while 57 percent will remain as open spaces, which will be used for parking, permaculture or edible landscaping, green houses, and nurseries. – Jordan G. Habbiling