After Yolanda: The road to recovery
Takehiko Nakao (The Philippine Star) - December 15, 2013 - 12:00am

The plight of the Typhoon Yolanda victims — and its survivors — has touched us all deeply. As a key development institution in Asia and the Pacific, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has an obligation to respond. But more than that, with more than 2,000 Filipino staff and our physical location in Manila, this country is our home.

Given the scale of the disaster, we should not underestimate the significant challenges the Government faces in the longer term. In our view, the process of reconstruction should be guided by the following principles:

First is strong leadership and coordination. The Government has taken actions to coordinate the efforts of its own agencies, multilateral and bilateral partners, civil society organizations and the private sector, and President Benigno Aquino III has appointed a “reconstruction czar.” The Government needs to sustain sound coordination for the duration.

Second is transparency. The Government has set up the Foreign Aid Transparency Fund (FAiTH) to allow the public to monitor foreign assistance flows. Other elements of transparency should include stringent anti-corruption measures to ensure that public and private contributions will benefit the most affected people; a robust monitoring and evaluation system; and a well-functioning system to address grievances.

Third is the challenge of “building back better.” From this experience, it has become clearer that natural hazard risks are a serious challenge in the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia, and need to be systematically mitigated. Otherwise, the hard-won gains from development are lost in one instance. This could involve rebuilding essential public facilities, particularly schools and hospitals, to withstand the severest winds as well as earthquakes and other hazard risks.

Fourth is to ensure equity in the reconstruction process. The damage to livelihoods is large and geographically widespread. Any support — whether for getting people back on their feet, for housing or for timely education and health services — must be designed and distributed on an equitable basis across all affected people and communities.

Clearly, significant resources — both human and financial — are needed to carry out this huge, complex and multifaceted task. The ADB is fully on board to help in whatever ways we can. Our initial response included a $3 million emergency grant, which has already been utilized for immediate relief goods and emergency supplies. We will also provide a $20 million grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction to restore livelihoods. We have already approved and are extending a $500 million emergency assistance loan to help the Government meet its budgetary requirements in the wake of the calamity. And we are working with the Government through existing programs, including our ongoing conditional cash transfer program for the poor, to bring immediate assistance to the affected communities. We can also consider expanding our support for the rehabilitation and reconstruction based on further discussion with the Government.

The ADB has decades of experience in helping Asia’s developing countries respond to disasters. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, for example, our assistance in rebuilding critical infrastructure had a direct impact on economic revival and livelihood restoration in Indonesia. ADB-financed seismic resistant housing designs proved able to withstand the April 2012 earthquake near Aceh Province. We are well positioned to help boost capacity for resilience to future disasters, advise on financial and fiduciary management, and engage civil society in the process.

Leading to the first month anniversary of the disaster, the Government has taken a number of concrete measures. By confirming its commitment to close coordination, transparency and good governance, I am confident that the Government can secure the trust of all partners to join hands in this journey toward recovery.

(Takehiko Nakao is the President of the Asian Development Bank.)

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