Editorial: Transparency in rehab effort

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

THREE hundred members of the South Korean Army, who are part of the more than 500 contingent called “Araw,” arrived at the Mactan Benito Ebuen Air Base last Friday to conduct rehabilitation work in selected areas in the Visayas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda.

South Korea and the Philippines, the influx of South Koreans to the country notwithstanding, actually go a long way. In 1950, some 7,500 Philippine troops fought side by side with South Koreans when their country was invaded by North Korea in what was known as the Korean War.

The Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (Peftok) included a young lieutenant named Fidel Ramos. The Manila Times sent a reporter who gained the distinction of being youngest correspondent to cover the Korean War. His name: Benigno Aquino Jr.

But that isn’t the only symbolism in the arrival of South Korean troops in the Visayas. The act reminded us that the task of rehabilitating the areas devastated by typhoon Yolanda is a formidable one. The United Nations has even continued its appeal for help from the international community so Yolanda won’t become a “forgotten crisis.”

The Filipino public and most probably the world are monitoring the manner rehabilitation aid is being spent by the Aquino administration. But worries that corruption will rear its ugly head in the effort are par for the course considering government’s record.

On this, “transparency” is needed.

It is in this context that the government setting up a website called the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub or Faith (www.gov.ph/faith) can be considered as timely. Faith, as the website admin says, “is an online portal of information on calamity aid and assistance pledged or given by countries and intergovernmental organizations.”

With Faith, we now know that the total foreign aid pledged for Yolanda has reached 23.798 billion, with P20.997 billion of it non-cash and P2.8 billion cash. Of the cash pledged, government has received as of December 30, a total of 592.58 million.

Our hope is that transparency with foreign aid received by the country would be extended to the billions of pesos the Aquino administration has set aside for the Yolanda rehabilitation effort.

The task of rehabilitation is formidable. But more formidable would be efforts to ensure that spending won’t be mired in partisan politicking and corruption.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 31, 2013.


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