Poe, Aquino want rehab fund for Visayas quake victims-A A +A
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
(UPDATED) Senators Grace Poe and Bam Aquino on Wednesday pushed for the creation of a multi-billion peso rehabilitation fund to help Visayan provinces recover from the devastation wrought by the magnitude-7.2 earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebuon Tuesday.
Aquino eyed P15 billion for the special fund while Poe said P10 billion is enough.
"This rehabilitation fund will cover all bases in rehabilitation to help provinces such as Bohol and Cebu to fully recover from the devastating and crippling effect of this calamity," said Aquino, chairman of the Senate committee on trade, commerce, and entrepreneurship.
The senator said that the bulk of the fund will be used to rehabilitate old churches and other tourism sites in Bohol, a province which thrives on tourism for its world-renowned spots such as the Chocolate Hills in Carmen and the centuries-old colonial churches in Loboc, Baclayon, and Dauis.
The fund will also be utilized to rehabilitate establishments and other infrastructure destroyed by the tremor in the province of Cebu, considered as the region's center of business and trade.
Aquino added that parts of the fund will be channeled to other places that were affected by the earthquake, including Siquijor and other towns in Mindanao.
"With the help of this fund, provinces affected by the earthquake will be able to get back on their feet and return to their normal lives in no time," Aquino said.
Aquino said the rehabilitation fund will be included in next year's General Appropriations Act, which has yet to be approved by Congress. Poe said the P10-billion fund may be sourced from the P25-billion priority development assistance fund (PDAF), which will be re-channeled to government agencies in 2014.
Poe cited condition of at least 10 heritage churches in Visayas which were badly hit by the tremor.
“Cognizant of the constitutional principle of separation of Church and State, the efforts of rebuilding, reconstructing and rehabilitating should be effected under the aegis of State as parens patriae (the government protecting the welfare of citizens),” said Poe in proposed Senate Resolution 297.
Once approved, this is not the first time that a special fund will be included in the national budget for the rehabilitation of provinces destroyed by natural calamities.
In 2007, then-senator Joker Arroyo moved for the inclusion of a P10-billion fund in the national budget under the Calamity Assistance and Rehabilitation Effort (Care) to victims of typhoons "Milenyo," "Reming," and "Seniang" that hit the country in late 2006.
Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay instructed the government's housing agencies to extend assistance to the earthquake survivors in the Visayas.
Binay said government has the duty to help in the rehabilitation and rebuilding of calamity-struck areas and restore the lives of the people to normal.
"We want to help the survivors not only in rebuilding their homes but more importantly, in getting their lives back to normal," the Vice President said.
The Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-Ibig Fund branches in Bohol and Cebu were instructed to deploy roving offices so members in the areas declared under state of calamity could easily apply for calamity loans and for loan moratorium.
Under the calamity loan program, Pag-Ibig members may avail of up to 80 percent of their total savings. The loan may be paid over two years with a three-month's grace period at an interest of 5.95 percent per annum.
Pag-Ibig also imposed a three-month moratorium on the payment of housing loan amortizations. Borrowers must file their application for moratorium within 90 days after their area was declared under state of calamity.
He also said the National Housing Authority (NHA) will provide home materials assistance for residents whose homes were partially damaged. For those with totally ruined houses that are in danger zones, NHA will offer resettlement.
The Vice President is set to visit Thursday the areas in Cebu and Bohol that were badly hit by the magnitude-7.2 earthquake.
Earlier, he asked the public to pray for the safety of the survivors of the earthquakes and the recent typhoons, and for the country to be spared from further calamities.
He also pledged relief assistance from his office, and encouraged the public to donate food, water, medicines, clothes, blankets and basic toiletries. (Camille P. Balagtas/Jun Sarmiento/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)