Approve Cebu post-Yolanda rehab, please

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Sunday, July 27, 2014


THREE mayors in the northern towns of Cebu hope to hear that President Benigno Aquino III has approved the Province’s post-Yolanda recovery plan when he delivers the State of the Nation Address (Sona) Monday afternoon.

Officials of Cebu and Lapu-Lapu, meanwhile, want to hear how President Aquino plans to improve disaster preparedness in the last two years of his administration.

[Watch President Benigno Aquino III's State of the Nation Address]

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Almost two months have passed since the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR) Cabinet cluster approved Cebu’s rehabilitation plan, but the Capitol has not yet received feedback that President Aquino has signed it.

Once he signs the plan, it would mean a go-signal for the release of funds.

The Province has asked for P12.2 billion for the rehabilitation of 15 towns and one city in the north that suffered severe damage when Yolanda struck the Visayas last November 8.

“I cannot believe that the National Government is too slow in responding,” said Mayor Ricky Ramirez of Medellin.

Ramirez said he was frustrated with the Department of Education, after the town received no help for the repair of its classrooms.

Without the private sector, he added, the students in their town would still be “holding classes under the sun.”

Last 2 years

Madridejos Mayor Salvador Dela Fuente said he also hopes that help for communities devastated by Yolanda will be included in the Sona, and that the next two years will include programs related to the rehabilitation of typhoon-affected areas.

San Remigio Mayor Mariano Martinez said he expects to receive updates on the rehabilitation efforts.

Martinez said he also hopes that the Aquino administration’s poverty alleviation program for the next two years will continue, like the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, which gives cash each month to selected poor families, if they meet some conditions.

“I’ve got a high poverty incidence in my town and on my own, di ni nako kaya (I cannot solve it),” Martinez said.

Aside from the rehabilitation plan, Ramirez said he would also appreciate if the President would be “repentant on Monday” and express respect for the Supreme Court (SC).

Two weeks ago, in a televised speech, President Aquino questioned the SC’s decision to declare unconstitutional parts of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

He needs to “focus on programs that will work for the improvement of the marginalized sectors of the country. He is just focused on defending his Cabinet and himself,” Martinez said. He expressed hope that Aquino would change his mind and approve the resignation of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who conceptualized and enforced the DAP.

More on DAP

Talisay City Mayor Johnny de los Reyes, in a separate interview, said he hopes to hear a clearer explanation from President Aquino on how the DAP came to be.

“Paningkamuton gyud niya na ma-esplikar ug tarong ang iyang mga programa pareha anang DAP para mobalik ang pagsalig sa mga tawo sa iya (He needs to explain the DAP better, to revive the people’s trust in him),” said de los Reyes.

Minglanilla Mayor Elanito Pena said that while the DAP has its downsides, it has its positive effects as well, only that Aquino must explain it more comprehensively and clearly.

But aside from the DAP, City of Naga Mayor Valdemar Chiong said he hopes the Sona will mention projects and developments for Cebu, like the improvement of road networks, among others.

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza said she hopes President Aquino will talk about programs aimed at helping local government units (LGUs) prepare for and respond to disasters.

“I want to know what the National Government can do to help LGUs in terms of disaster preparedness and response,” she said.

The City has stepped up efforts to make its barangays disaster-resilient since typhoon Yolanda caused massive destruction and killed more than 6,200 persons in the Visayas nine months ago.

It recently tapped the Metro Manila Development Authority to train disaster responders.

Radaza said she also hopes to hear the President reiterate his commitment to support LGUs dependent on tourism.

No-nonsense

She thanked the Aquino administration for widening and improving the Mactan Island Circumferential Road. The project, still ongoing, is aimed at addressing traffic congestion and making the road more tourist-friendly.

“We give him credit for his no no-nonsense fight against graft and corruption,” said Acting Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella.

But he said he would appreciate it if the Sona mentions initiatives to make the country better prepared against disasters, like the 7.2-magnitude earthquake and super typhoon that struck less than a month apart in the last quarter of 2013.

“Much is desired in so far as disaster response is concerned,” Labella pointed out.

Among Cebu City’s challenges is finding a safer location for two schools that are in high-risk areas.

Leaders in the business sector recognized the Aquino administration’s programs that address pressing concerns such as poverty, education, infrastructure and corruption.

Completion

“We hope that the administration would further streamline the functions of various government agencies to reduce bureaucracy, ensure consistency and improve coordination,” said Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Jeruel Roa.

He said streamlining would improve government agencies’ ability to provide services that will make different sectors more competitive, in light of the full integration of Southeast Asian economies next year.

Rey Calooy, president of the Filipino-Cebuano Business Club Inc., said he expects the administration, in its last two years, to focus on making economic growth inclusive.

“All priority projects under the Aquino administration have been attended to. It is just that we can’t see all these projects finished at the same time but what we know is that these projects have already been fast-tracked,” said Ma. Teresa Chan, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

She said it would be good to see the completion of major infrastructure and the realization of public-private partnership projects in the next two years.

“We also want to see government efforts in tapping overseas Filipinos to become tourism ambassadors of the country,” Chan added. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 28, 2014.

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