‘Use coco levy funds for typhoon-hit areas’

Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - December 15, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone yesterday urged President Aquino to order the use of the newly unlocked coconut levy funds to rehabilitate coconut farms damaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013 and by Typhoon Ruby last week.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has reported that damage caused by Ruby has reached P3.3 billion, of which nearly P2 billion was from the farming sector.

“In my province alone, 100 percent of coconut trees were damaged by the two typhoons. Some 80 percent of my constituents are dependent on the coconut industry,” Evardone said.

He noted that trees partially damaged by the storms could be made productive again in three years, at the earliest. “In the meantime, there should be alternative livelihood” and farmers whose coconut trees have been totally destroyed should be helped in replanting their farms, he said.

Evardone pointed out that coconut farmers in provinces hit by Yolanda and Ruby contributed to the coco levy funds during the Marcos era.

Last week, the Supreme Court (SC) finally allowed the government to use coco levy funds, estimated to be at least P71 million, for the benefit of the industry.

SC spokesman Theodore Te said the high court granted the request of the Office of the Solicitor General “and accordingly directed that entry of judgment of the Court’s Sept. 4, 2012 resolution be immediately issued.”

In January 2012, the SC ruled that a 31-percent bloc of San Miguel Corp. shares was bought using coconut levy collections, which the court declared as public funds. The ruling became final on Sept. 4 that same year.

It is not clear why it took more than two years for the ruling to be implemented.

Donor fatigue among firms

Evardone noted that there is apparently donor fatigue among businesses helping communities devastated by calamities.

He made the observation “because aside from the national government, only international and local non-government organizations so far are active in the distribution of relief goods to typhoon victims and rehabilitation of areas hit by Ruby.”

“I would like to reiterate my appeal to big corporations to help us the same way they did to victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda. There may be much fewer casualties of Ruby compared to Yolanda because of the joint efforts of the national and local governments in ensuring mass evacuations, but the damage to houses, infrastructure and agriculture is comparable to that of Yolanda,” he stressed.

Aside from relief goods, other immediate needs of typhoon victims are housing materials like tarpaulins and roofing sheets.

According to Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, almost half a million people in the three Samar provinces are still housed in evacuation centers.

She said 107,835 houses were damaged, with 82,102 destroyed. The government would help families whose housing units were either damaged or destroyed.

The International Organization on Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees would also send tents and tarpaulins to decongest evacuation centers.

‘Allot P3.4-B unclaimed lotto prizes to DSWD’

Meanwhile, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo wants the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PSCO) to allot P3.4 billion in unclaimed lotto winnings to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

He noted that under PCSO’s lottery rules, the prize is deemed forfeited if the winner does not claim it within one year.

He has filed House Bill 5257 for the transfer of the amount to the DSWD. The measure mandates the DSWD, in coordination with the PCSO, to issue implementing rules and regulations on the use of the money.

Castelo said he wants the amount to be given to the DSWD because the agency runs a “highly reliable targeting system” that identifies poor beneficiaries of government assistance.

PCSO officials have reported to the House committee on games and amusement chaired by Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite that unclaimed winnings have reached more than P3.3 billion.

Castelo cited two instances when two major prizes for solo winners went unclaimed. One was for P23.7 million for the 6/42 regular lotto draw on March 15, 2011. An outlet in Binondo, Manila sold the winning ticket.

The second was for the 6/45 lotto draw on March 25, 2011. The winning ticket was sold in Harrison Plaza in Manila.

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