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Ping: Yolanda rehab agencies not doing their jobs

French Ambassador Thierry Mathou (sixth from left) and Red Cross Philippines chairman Richard Gor- don (fourth from left) lead the turnover of 126 houses to Yolanda victims in Paypay, Daanbantayan in Cebu.        Ferdinand Edralin

MANILA, Philippines – There’s a lack of focus, some government agencies are not doing their jobs, and the “nightmare” of Super Typhoon Yolanda “continues to haunt us,” according to the man who once headed the rehabilitation effort.

On the eve of the second anniversary of the typhoon, former senator Panfilo Lacson  lamented that despite President Aquino’s commitment to speed up rehabilitation and recovery in Yolanda-devastated areas, some of the programs were not being implemented.

“Sad to say, the comprehensive rehabilitation and recovery plan (CRRP), including the P167.8-billion budget for the entire Yolanda corridor as submitted and approved by President Aquino, is not being followed by implementing agencies. This, in spite of their personal commitment to the President in the last Cabinet meeting that I attended,” Lacson told The STAR yesterday.

“If not for the non-government sector and the bilateral and multilateral agencies from foreign countries which responded and assisted beyond anyone’s expectations, I cannot imagine how things shall have been accomplished as we see it two years after Yolanda. The nightmare of Nov. 8, 2013 continues to haunt us,” he said.

Lacson, who served as presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery, said the cause of the delay was the release of the budget to finance the rehabilitation and recovery in 171 cities and towns hit by Yolanda.

He described as “slow” the government implementation of the recovery plan prepared for Eastern Visayas.

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The President appointed Lacson to head the rehabilitation and recovery program shortly after Yolanda hit the Visayas and managed to complete his office’s task by February 2015.

In the plan, Lacson said his office recommended that budget be poured into the Yolanda-stricken region to ensure normalcy and help the people get back on their feet.

“Obviously, with just seven or eight months remaining, they need to speed up implementation to catch up with the timelines imposed by the President on them. As far as I am concerned, the biggest gap that must be addressed by the present as well as the next administration is focus,” he said.

While Yolanda is the strongest typhoon that ever made a landfall in recorded history, Lacson said the government and the general public must realize that climate change is now “the new normal” and therefore a permanent agency must be created to address disasters and calamities.

He said Republic Act (RA) 10121 or the law creating the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council could have been an opportunity for Congress to create a permanent body which has all the powers, authority and the budget to address future disasters. 

He said he submitted a position paper to the defense committees of both Houses way ahead of the May 27, 2015 deadline of the mandatory review of the law to emphasize the need for a permanent agency, among others.

Only 500 permanent houses built

Meanwhile, Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez said out of 12,000 permanent houses the government promised to build, only 500 were constructed.

He noted that the city government has already prepared three different lists of survivors in need of government assistance.

“The first list was those who were affected by Yolanda, but we were asked to remove from the list of individuals and families living in danger zones to prevent them from rebuilding their houses on unsafe zones.

“However, we were again asked to prepare another list and remove the names of government employees receiving more than P15,000 monthly,” Romualdez said.

Commemorative book

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has launched a commemorative book on stories of survival, courage, determination and resilience of Yolanda victims.

The book, titled “After the Storm: Two Years On,” contains compelling stories of survival and recovery of Yolanda survivors.

It is in commemoration of the second anniversary of the most devastating typhoon that hit the country, said DILG Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento.

Sarmiento said the book, published by the DILG’s Recovery Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) project management office, contains first-hand accounts of survivors from the 93 local government units in 11 provinces whose livelihood and communities were significantly improved with the completed rehabilitation projects under RAY batch 1.

DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero said the book would show how Filipinos rise up after a tragedy.

“It’s unfortunate that we had to learn the hard way, but what is important is that we rise up from the ruins, learn from the experience and come back stronger and better because of it,” Panadero said. 

“Yolanda taught something to us all... That yes, we may be used to storms throughout our lives, and yet we still have a lot to learn about what to do before, during and after such disasters.”

The book will be launched at Leyte Park Hotel, Tacloban City during the two-year anniversary event spearheaded by DILG VIII Regional office. 

The DILG said an online version would also be launched to ensure the broadest possible reach of the book.

A corresponding online multimedia website has been developed to provide “soft-copy” access to readers, both in the Philippines and abroad.

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