Editorial: Before Malacañang’s help arrives

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Thursday, February 20, 2014


COMPLAINTS by mayors over the failure of the national government to give financial aid for rehabilitation work in parts of Cebu severely battered by super typhoon Yolanda last year are not new. The term “slow” has hounded the Aquino administration’s response to the disaster.

But with the mayors airing their “frustrations” directly to the office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR), the financial assistance may finally come soon. That is, if the mayors fulfill their end of the bargain.

Joseph Rañola of the PARR office has said funds can be had, but first the local government units should submit evaluation and final damage assessment. Obviously, the documents are needed so the national government can allocate rehabilitation funds fairly.

It is not only the northern parts of Cebu that were devastated by Yolanda. Also bearing the brunt of the typhoon were chunks of some provinces in Eastern Visayas and Western Visayas. Surely, the most devastated will get a big part of the funds.

Immediately after Yolanda struck, a Malacañang official who is from Cebu talked about the national government’s strategy in responding to the devastation. The focus was on the most devastated areas that also did not have the resources to adequately deal with the problem.

While the northern parts of Cebu were devastated, the attention was on places like Tacloban City in Leyte and Guiuan in Eastern Samar. The understanding was that the rest of Cebu province that were not devastated by the typhoon can provide immediate help to the victims.

Rehabilitation work is different from relief efforts in that it cannot be sustained by relying mainly on local government resources and pledges from foreign entities and non-government organizations. Billions of pesos are needed and the national government should contribute.

But that does not mean local government officials should not try to be creative in their rehabilitation efforts.

By local governments we mean the three levels, from the barangay to the town/component city to the province. Officials there have a bigger role to play in the rehabilitation effort than the national government.

In a way, Medellin Mayor Ricardo Ramirez may have hit the nail on the head when he said, probably in jest, “Pa-contest na lang ta on which local government will be the fastest to recover.”

Meaning that the slowness with which Malacañang is releasing rehab funds should be taken as a challenge by local government officials concerned. Perhaps they can do more while waiting for national government funds to arrive.

Can’t Capitol, for example, be more creative and focused in providing help, financial or by other means, and guiding the officials of affected towns and component cities in their rehabilitation effort?

Can’t it put in place a more unified and expansive rehabilitation campaign involving the entire province, including those places spared by Yolanda’s wrath?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 21, 2014.

Opinion

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