ROMUALDEZ URGES SPEEDIER RELEASE OF YOLANDA FUNDS
• November 16, 2014
• Written by Ryan Ponce Pacpaco
• Published in Top Stories
HOUSE independent bloc leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez yesterday urged the government to accelerate the release of funds for Yolanda survivors under the approved master plan for the comprehensive rehabilitation just as the administration had done with the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Romualdez’ district, especially Tacloban City, was among the hardest-hit areas that should benefit from the 8,000-page P167.9-billion Yolanda Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan recently approved by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Romualdez said that now is the time to speed up the much-delayed government’s rehabilitation programs in Yolanda-stricken areas. “The President has finally signed the master plan so that the funds can be downloaded. Of course the procedures will take few months to do so, (so) we will ask them to fast-track it and do it as fast as they implemented the DAP,” Romualdez pointed out, referring to the DAP, whose key provisions the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional.
Last November 8, Filipinos commemorated the first anniversary of the worst tropical cyclone that hit the country, leaving a path of death and destruction in central Philippines.
Romualdez said that the continued lapses in government’s response to the tragedy that placed so many survivors in difficult living conditions should be a thing of the past after the approval of the master plan. “They can accelerate the downloading of funds and there should be no excuse for the slow and non-release of funds,” he said.
The House independent bloc leader lamented that a year after the catastrophe, stories of survivors’ hardship still dominate despite the government’s rehabilitation programs, as many of the victims have remained in the so-called tent cities and bunkhouses instead of living in safe permanent housing areas.
Reports also said that sustainable livelihood opportunities continue to be a major concern, the supply and distribution of relief goods have dwindled if not totally stopped, some women have been forced into prostitution, some of the fatalities have remained unidentified and missing, and political differences of leaders remain an obstacle, among other problems.
No less than President Aquino recently admitted that he was not contented with the pace of the rehabilitation efforts in Yolanda-damaged places and described some delays as absurd.
Last October 29, President Aquino finally approved the master plan that Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR) Secretary Panfilo Lacson recommended, which, under the slogan “Build back better,” seeks to rebuild infrastructure and provide livelihood and social services for residents in 171 cities and municipalities ravaged by the powerful typhoon.
Super typhoon Yolanda affected 1.5 million families of whom 918,261 were displaced. Government official figures ware placed at 6,300 deaths and 1,061 missing aside from 28,689 injured.
Mayor Alfred Romualdez reiterated his call for the Aquino administration to make permanent housing a priority program in the concept of “build back better” to restore many lives to normalcy, complaining that only less than 200 units out of the estimated 14,500 needed units were built.
Of the 200 permanent housing units, Mayor Romualdez said that half were constructed through the efforts of the various non-government organizations (NGOs), including the GMA Kapuso Foundation. “Ang na-build na units ay less than 200, but almost half of that came from the private sector, we need 14,500 units,” said the mayor.
“The definition of ‘build back better’ by our people is building their lives back better and not building infrastructure better. Ang sinasabi ng mga tao ngayon based on the feedback we are getting, sila muna ang tulungan because sila ang direct na naapektuhan dito, ‘yun ang buhay nila,” Mayor Romualdez stressed, adding that building permanent housing units should be a priority like giving relief goods to the victims during the early days after Yolanda pulverized Eastern Visayas.