2 Cabinet men stalling Yolanda rehab – Lacson

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Two members of President Aquino’s Cabinet have been derailing efforts of the administration to quickly rehabilitate the areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda which hit the Visayas last Nov. 8, rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson said yesterday.

Lacson also disclosed that there used to be three Cabinet officials, but the third seemed to have cut back, while the duo kept on ignoring his calls, text messages and even official correspondence.

Lacson, head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR), refused to identify the two officials.

This has so far been the case in the “lateral coordination” he has with other members of the Cabinet, or in the cluster where he belongs – either things move at a snail’s pace, or nothing moves at all.

Lacson said he had not received any response from the concerned officials as he pointed out that his hands are tied and he can only do so much.

He tries to understand other officials who may also have their hands full, although each department has its own designated point person as the national government comes up with a master plan for the rehabilitation of the devastated provinces.

Lacson said he didn’t raise the problem with Aquino as he wanted the rehabilitation efforts to succeed with the limited resources he has, and not be an added burden to the problems besetting the Chief Executive.

When asked if Aquino was aware of the problem, he replied: “I suppose so.”

He plans to discuss it with Aquino “one of these days.”

Lacson explained how frustrating it is for one team member to ignore the group, since there would be no cohesiveness in the rehabilitation efforts, thereby jeopardizing and delaying even more the national government’s programs.

“How can we create a master plan? Then it’s no longer a master plan,” Lacson added.

Government agencies involved in the rehabilitation efforts in areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda got the ire of members of the joint congressional oversight committee on public enterprises for failure to get their act together to help the victims six months after the disaster.

During a hearing, Sen. Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate panel, cited the lack of a sense of urgency among government agencies tasked to set a massive rehabilitation program for provinces devastated by the storm.

“I share the frustration of the President. From what I have heard from today’s hearing, these agencies do not share President Aquino’s sense of urgency, Congress’ sense of urgency,” Escudero said.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had earmarked about P40 billion out of the over P100-billion calamity fund under the 2014 budget. Officials said only P3.7 billion have been disbursed.

“We have fast-tracked the appropriation of funds for reconstruction and rehabilitation specifically to immediately address the needs of the affected families and communities and yet up until this minute the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) cannot even come up with the post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA),” Escudero added.

“Congress has appropriated a total amount of P40 billion for 2014 and only P3 billion has been spent. It’s already been four months after the budget has taken effect and yet the blueprint for rehabilitation is still blue or even blank... How slow can our agencies get?” Escudero said.

The agencies invited to the oversight hearing were the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Public Works and Highways, DBM and OPARR.

Senators Ralph Recto and Loren Legarda raised concerns over the role of the NDRRMC, which is tasked by law to conduct the post-disaster assessment reports.

Recto also scored the government agencies for insisting on the need for bureaucratic practices before the action plan for rehabilitation is implemented on the ground. 

Karen Jimeno, who represented OPARR chief Lacson, said the rehabilitation efforts are delayed because certain agencies have not submitted the PDNA plan. 

Jimeno admitted that there is no consolidated rehabilitation plan for the Yolanda affected areas. “Categorically no, because we do not have all the submissions,” said Jimeno.

She pointed out that as a matter of procedure, the PDNA is a pre-requisite before the budget for projects is released by the DBM.

Jimeno revealed that except for the infrastructure cluster, livelihood, resettlement and social services have not submitted their proposals.

Jimeno also complained of the lack of powers of the OPARR to compel the agencies to act.

San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora said government efforts are not enough.

“First OPARR, is not really functioning even as a coordinating body, it’s become more or less like a staff of the President,” Zamora said.

Escudero said laggard agencies will be called to task and forced to speed up rehabilitation efforts through the power of oversight committees.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said they have already given the go-signal for the release of P2 billion worth of loans to around 416,000 “micro-entrepreneurs” in provinces hit by Typhoon Yolanda to jumpstart the economy and provide livelihood to the victims.

These businessmen could avail of loans at “extremely low interest rates” of 4.5 percent for various livelihood activities, such as sari-sari stores, livestock, hog, cattle and goat-raising, piggery, fisheries, poultry, and farming.

Tacloban rehab

At least P3 billion is needed for the support programs for the rehabilitation of Tacloban City, the area worst hit by Yolanda.

Maria Adelaida Cea, regional head for United Nations Habitat, said the programs are contained in the city’s proposed recovery and rehabilitation master plan.

Cea said the amount only covers projects that have to be bankrolled by the city government and does not include those to be shouldered by the national government like airports and highways.

“There are other self-recovery initiatives that could be supportive by national government and international NGOs (nongovernment organizations) to lower the cost,” Cea said.

Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez said the local government is considering the option to get loans to fund the projects.

Other funding sources include donations and the local government budget, he added.

The typhoon had left 6,300 people dead and damaged 54,231 houses in the city.

Officials said that only 3,340 out of the 16,473 registered businesses or 20 percent of establishments have renewed their licenses in the wake of the typhoon.

At least 72 companies filed for temporary closure while 115 others filed for retirement closures. – With Christina Mendez, Alexis Romero, Lalaine Jimenea

vuukle comment











  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with