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More funds to crank up ‘Yolanda’ rehab

Kristina Maralit

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The Palace pledged yesterday to speed up the stalled rehabilitation work in Visayas provinces devastated by typhoon “Yolanda” five years ago by pouring more funds into it, Malacañang said yesterday.

The stepped-up effort seeks to counter the lack of resources deployed during the previous administration for the recovery efforts.

Former President Benigno Aquino released only P1 billion for the implementation of Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (CRRP) out of a proposed P167.8 billion that stalled rehabilitation plan for Visayas provinces severely hit by typhoon “Yolanda” in 2013, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said.

Lacson, who served as “Yolanda” rehabilitation czar under Aquino, said he even had to remind Aquino’s Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad about the absence of any item in the proposed 2014 national expenditure program (NEP) for CRRP.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo also appealed to the nation to work for a “more adaptive and disaster-resilient” Philippines.

Panelo added Filipinos should “join hands to reduce the risks of climate change in the country.”

“We join the entire country in commemorating the fifth anniversary of super typhoon ‘Yolanda.’ As we pay tribute to the sacrifices and support of those who were on the front lines of responding to the calamity, as well as all the nations, agencies and organizations that helped us overcome the ordeal, we commend the exemplary resilience of our own people, which in the face of adversity, have remained steadfast,” he said.

Typhoon “Yolanda” left more than 6,000 dead and around 630,000 residents displaced when it struck on 8 November 2013.

The effects of the strongest weather disturbance ever recorded in history, according to Panelo, have taught a bitter lesson to the government, particularly in responding to the needs of the people in the aftermath of every calamity.

“This is why the Duterte administration has worked harder to fast-track the recovery efforts for Yolanda survivors,” Panelo said.

As of 31 December 2017, a total of P146.156 billion was released to implementing national government agencies, government-owned and-controlled corporations and local government units for the rehabilitation efforts. Half of the funds released were allotted for housing programs and ancillary basic utilities.

Reminder needed

“I can only remember an instance during the budget call when I notified then Department of Budget and Management Secretary Abad about the absence of any item to fund the ‘Yolanda’ rehab in spite of the approval by the President of the multi-year appropriations of P167.8 billion,” Lacson said.

In response, he said Abad “promised to correct the NEP by proposing a measly P1 billion.”

Per the latest report of the National Housing Authority (NHA), of the 205,128 planned permanent housing units, 100,709 have been completed, 46,412 have already been occupied while 54,297 are now ready for occupancy.

“To speed up resettlement, we are addressing issues that cause the delay, which include limited availability of titled lands for resettlement, slow processing and issuance of permits and licenses for construction projects and absence of sustainable livelihood opportunities, among others,” Panelo said.

He added the finance and social welfare departments are now in the process of putting together a joint order for a one-stop shop to help facilitate relief consignment, similar to the one earlier proposed by Sen. Sonny Angara.

The government is also aiming to spread better awareness on climate change and its impact on communities, according to Panelo.

Through the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, a proposed bill has been transmitted to both houses of Congress for the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience last July.

Reluctant support

Lacson said he was not aware whether the P1 billion promised by Abad or any amount was released after he resigned.

“I only know it was appropriated. I don’t know any more how much was released since I resigned already after carrying out my mandate under Memo Order 62,” Lacson said.

Today is the fifth anniversary of super typhoon “Yolanda” that wreaked havoc on central Philippines, resulting in more than 7,000 people either killed or missing while billions of pesos’ worth of properties and infrastructure were destroyed.

While he lamented the Aquino administration’s lack of funding support to CRRP, Lacson was all praises to the United States Agency for International Development, the United Nations Development Program, Japan International Cooperation Agency and the World Bank for providing technical support and assistance.

Lacson also attributed the completion of most of the infrastructure projects in “Yolanda”-hit areas to the private or business sector and not the government.

with Mario J. Mallari

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