Rehab plan for Cebu, Yolanda-hit areas signed

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Monday, July 28, 2014


PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III announced in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) Monday the approval of rehabilitation and recovery plans for Cebu and five other areas that suffered from last year’s calamities.

He said the plans for Cebu, Iloilo, Samar, Eastern Samar, Leyte and Tacloban City were scrutinized by the Cabinet and Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery Panfilo Lacson.

“Umaasa po ako sa pakikiisa ng Kongreso, dahil malaking halaga ang kailangan, upang tuluyan nang maibangon ang ating mga kababayan (I am relying on cooperation from Congress, because a large amount is needed to help our countrymen get back on their feet),” Aquino said.

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The President’s approval means that the funds, including P12 billion for Cebu alone, will now be downloaded, more than nine months since an earthquake struck Central Visayas, followed less than four weeks later by super typhoon Yolanda.

Yolanda displaced 152,746 families in 328 barangays in northern Cebu. All over the Visayas, more than 6,200 persons died and more than one million houses were either damaged or wrecked.

“His speech was straightforward and very inspiring. I was moved,” said Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III, who was in Quezon City for the Sona and welcomed the announcement of the rehabilitation plan’s approval.

Watch the post-Sona discussion and more here.

Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer Baltazar Tribunalo Jr. said that the governor informed him through a text message last Saturday that Cebu’s rehabilitation plan was approved last Friday.

Mayors in northern Cebu also welcomed the announcement, which was among the things they had hoped to hear from the Sona.

In San Remigio, Mayor Mariano Martinez said he hopes the President will continue his programs “for the improvement of the marginalized sectors of the country.”

Thanks

Medellin Mayor Ricky Ramirez said he was happy but would like to be assured that the funds would reach the local governments soon.

“Probably, he (President Aquino) wanted to include it (the approval of the rehabilitation plan) in his Sona so that his Sona will be meatier,” Ramirez said.

Mayor Ramirez (not Mayor Martinez as reported in Monday’s issue) had expressed hope that President Aquino would change his mind and approve the resignation of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who conceptualized and enforced now-controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Secretary Lacson, in an interview after the Sona, said a total of P96 billion is needed to rehabilitate the six areas. The comprehensive master rehabilitation plan will be completed by Aug. 1.

President Aquino thanked the international community for the humanitarian assistance that was pledged and sent after the calamities, which affected 1.47 million families in 44 provinces.

“To our friends and neighbors around the world: Your outpouring of solidarity will never be forgotten by a grateful Filipino people. Again, on their behalf, we thank you,” Aquino said.

‘Good intentions’

In Cebu, Daanbantayan Mayor Augusto Corro and San Francisco Mayor Aly Arquillano said they were grateful upon hearing about the approval of the rehabilitation plans.

Sta. Fe Mayor Jose Esgana said he, too, was thankful and was looking forward to hearing from the Department of Social Welfare and Development about its shelter assistance program.

In his Sona, President Aquino also indirectly defended the DAP, which has provoked much of the criticism against his administration in recent months.

He credited the DAP for the release of an additional P1.6 billion for a Training-for-Work Scholarship Program, which 223,615 beneficiaries availed of. He said that 146,731 of those graduates or around 66 percent had already found jobs.

“Ito po ang mabuting pamamahala: may tama pong intensyon, pamamaraan, at resulta. Lahat panalo (That is good governance: with correct intentions, processes and results. Everybody wins),” he said.

The Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that the DAP was partly unconstitutional because, among other reasons, the Executive Department cannot declare savings before programs had been implemented. Neither should it make cross-border transfers nor provide funds for projects that had not gained congressional approval.

Gains

President Aquino did not dwell on the DAP in his speech, however.

He reported some accomplishments, including an increase in tax collections from P1.094 trillion in 2010 to P1.536 trillion in 2013; an increase in the infrastructure budget from P200.3 billion in 2011 to P404.3 billion this year; and a three percent reduction in the poverty incidence from 2012 to 2013.

Aquino pointed out that in 2013, the country received for the first time an investment grade status from credit ratings agencies Moody’s, Fitch and Standard and Poor’s.

Among the projects he mentioned was the approval of the P10.6-billion Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for Cebu City.

“Now that it (announcement) came from the President, everything will have to be accelerated,” said Mayor Michael Rama, who was on leave.

Acting Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, for his part, said he found the Sona well-prepared and that he was glad the President did not dwell on the DAP.

“There is no dispute that he accomplished much but it is hoped that the concerned agencies and departments can respond well in the two remaining years of his term,” Labella added in a statement.

Satisfaction

Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa (Cebu City, south district), said he thought the speech was “very laudable” but wished that it had contained more policy directions, especially for sustaining economic growth, for the next two years.

“The Sona has also failed to deliver a clear outline of his legislative proposals or agenda to enable his administration to bring our economic gains to every family of the now 100-million- strong Filipino nation, amidst the legal challenges to his DAP,” he added.

Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, interviewed an hour before the Sona, had said he hoped President Aquino would talk about equipping local government units (LGUs) for
disasters.

“We lack communication equipment,” he said, adding that the National Government should push for a centralized communication among LGUs.

But he added: “In fairness to the President, naa sad gyu’y nabuhat (he has
accomplishments).”

Cebu’s business leaders were satisfied with the Sona, but would have wanted to hear more about his administration’s plans to deal with the power situation.

Details

“I could have given him the perfect score of 10 had he included power in his report.

But his Sona basically touched everything. His administration did well. He presented quantifiable accomplishments,” said Ma. Teresa Chan, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

She commended the President for his sincerity and for embodying the “public trust and honesty” that all public servants need.

Jeruel Roa, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he appreciated the President’s presentation of data to support his points in the Sona.

“President Aquino’s message is that his administration has a plan and it continues to focus on establishing reforms and enabling transformation,” he said.

Filipino-Cebuano Business Club Inc. President Rey Calooy said he welcomed the use of statistics and the lack of motherhood statements. “Filipinos have a brighter future with the present hardworking president,” said Calooy.

At the Capitol, Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale’s decision to wear a yellow ribbon on her chest did not go unnoticed.

“I still believe in his programs,” Magpale said. (Sunnex/With Rosedelyn S. Catalan, USJ-R Mass Com Intern)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 29, 2014.

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