DBM: Big part of Yolanda rehab fund not yet released

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014


A HUGE portion of the fund that will be used for the continuing relief and rehabilitation efforts after the devastation of super typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas has not been approved yet by the Office of the President.

In a hearing of the Joint Oversight Committee on Public Expenditure Wednesday, Undersecretary Luz Cantor of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) admitted that only P4-billion out of the total P100-billion has been released and spent for the rehabilitation of the Yolanda-hit areas.

Cantor said that they are set to spend P517 million for rescue operation, P1 billion for 2,800 classrooms and P912 million for core shelter.

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She clarified however that the DBM cannot release the funds since it is still pending for approval in the Office of the President.

"The President's approval depends on the completion of post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA), which will be the basis of the master plan," Cantos said

The 2014 National Budget includes a P20-billion rehabilitation fund for areas devastated by typhoon Yolanda and P80 billion in the "unprogrammed fund" to serve as standby fund.

Last week, rehabilitation czar Secretary Panfilo Lacson admitted in a Senate hearing that the National Government has yet to come up with a "final, official plan" for rehabilitation, even as six months have already lapsed since the disaster.

Lacson said that the delay in the creation of the rehabilitation master plan is largely caused by the failure of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to submit a final PDNA, which is a requisite for the creation of the final rehabilitation plan.

The typhoon ravaged most of the Central and Eastern Visayas, leaving 6,200 dead and destroyed some 1.1 million houses.

Meanwhile, Senator Francis Escudero expressed frustration over the failure of some government agencies to reconstruct areas hit by typhoon Yolanda despite the approval of a multi-billion peso post-disaster fund by Congress.

Escudero, co-chairman of the joint panel, noted the lack of sense of urgency among national government agencies tasked to put together a massive rehabilitation program for provinces devastated by Yolanda as well as other disasters.

"We have fast-tracked the appropriation of funds for reconstruction and rehabilitation specifically to immediately address the needs of the affected families and communities and yet up until this minute the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) cannot even come up with the post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA)," Escudeo said in an ambush interview.

The lawmaker said the PDNA is necessary in order to come up with a consolidated rehabilitation plan, but the NDRMMC admitted it is still in the process of collecting assessments.

"Six months after Yolanda, more than a year after the previous disasters we don't even know what exactly the affected communities need? It is not about what we can give or what we will to give. This lackadaisical attitude is prolonging the anguish of victims. It is bordering on criminal already," said Escudero.

He added that the agencies that act with "unreasonable protracted effort" will be called to task and will be exacted compliance to speed up the rehabilitation efforts through the power of the oversight committees.

Escudero cited that only about 10-percent of the total 2014 post-disaster budget has been utilized since it was approved last December.

"Congress has appropriated a total amount of P40 billion for 2014 and only P4 billion has been spent as of date. It's already been four months after the budget has taken effect and yet the blue print for rehabilitation is still blue or even blank. We are now entering a new cycle of rainy season, and plans and projects will be again halted by the bad weather. How slow can our agencies get?" he said.

The national government agencies invited to the oversight hearing were the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Budget and Management and the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR).

Meanwhile, besides Escudero, the Senate panel members include Senators Ralph Recto, Loren Legarda, Sergio Osmena III, Teofisto Guingona III, Grace Poe, Vicente Sotto III and Gregorio Honasan while the house contingent was led by Davao City Representative Isidro Ungab, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, and Representatives Rahman Nava, Ma. Zenaida Angping (Manila), Thelma Almario (Davao Oriental), Dakila Cua (Quirino), Rolando Andaya Jr. (Camarines Sur), Eric Singson (Ilocos Norte) and House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora (San Juan City). (Sunnex)

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