PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he was dismayed over the government’s inept response to recovery efforts, particularly on the insufficient housing for victims three years after Super Typhoon “Yolanda,” which devastated large portions of Eastern Visayas and left more than 7,000 people dead.
Speaking before hundreds of Yolanda victims at Tacloban City, Duterte named Presidential Adviser for the Visayas Michael Dino to oversee all recovery efforts and for housing czar Vice President Leni Robredo “to finish her job on time.”
“I came three years ago when this incident happened and I was sad. I’m not mad, I’m not offended. But three years after, there are only a few who live in relief houses provided by the government. I don’t want to offend anybody but I’m not satisfied,” Duterte said in a speech Tuesday. “As a matter of fact, it’s BS to me.”
Duterte said he would fire any government employee who further delays housing projects for typhoon victims, and focused his frustration on three agencies involved in the Yolanda reconstruction, the Local Water Utilities Administration, the National Housing Authority and the Department of Public Works and Highways.
“I’m not mad at LWUA, NHA or DPWH [but] you do that again and I will fire all of you,” he said.
“When you are paid to do your work for eight hours, work for eight hours. Do not shortchange the public,” the President said.
Duterte then asked Dino, his adviser for the Visayas to oversee relief efforts in typhoon-struck areas.
“I want this thing completed—I will be back. I’ll be back December,” he said.
On Monday, Robredo admitted that red tape is still slowing down the completion of more than 200,000 houses meant for victims of typhoon Yolanda, three years after the deadly cyclone battered the Philippines.
Robredo, who heads the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, said visits to affected sites and dialogues with local leaders showed government regulations were slowing down Yolanda resettlement projects.
“So if you look at the figures, there is a need for so many houses but only a handful of them have been completed. The delay was caused not by construction but by documentary requirements,” she said.
The government’s resettlement cluster targeted 205,128 housing units for construction under the leadership of the NHA. The agency received P39.2 billion, one of the largest releases to government agencies.
According to a June 2016 National Economic and Development Authority report, only 23.2 percent or P9.1 billion of the amount has been disbursed. The report also showed that the NHA’s projects only had an overall weighted accomplishment of 12.3 percent. Some 45 percent was ongoing and 42.6 percent had not yet started.
A September 2016 Department of Social Welfare and Development validation report cited complaints by Yolanda survivors that affirmed the snail’s pace of housing projects. In Guiuan, Eastern Samar, transition houses were demolished to make way for the construction of core shelters. No temporary abodes, however, were provided to survivors while the core houses were being built.
As of August 2016, 62 percent of 3,112 target core shelter units have not been started. Only 57 perent of the 1,410 target units of transition shelters have been built. The distribution of the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) has also been reported to be quite problematic.
Duterte asked Robredo to immediately finish housing efforts immediately.
In the same speech, Duterte ordered the Social Welfare Department to give P5,000 as monetary recognition to more than 2,000 victims of the super typhoon.
“The P5,000 the DSWD will release is a monetary recognition of the validity of the complaints or claims of those qualified victims of Yolanda,” Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said in a Twitter post.
“The P5K announced by President Duterte is not ESA but is in recognition of the Yolanda survivors who fought the injustice for three years, “ she added.
The President said the Trade Department would add another P5,000 as livelihood assistance.
Also on Tuesday, Malacañang vowed that politics would no longer play a role in the government’s response during disasters .
“Politics and disasters, as they say, is always a bad mix. So we will have none of that in this administration,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
“The concerned department is now formulating new guidelines for the distribution of the employment shelter assistance to facilitate the speedy delivery of aid,” he added.
Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno said that the first batch of post-rehabilitation projects under the Recovery Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) program was already 99.66 percent complete.
In a statement, Sueno said that the first batch of projects, which included the repair and rehabilitation of 308 provincial, city and municipal halls, public markets and civic centers, mostly in Eastern Visayas, which incurred the worst damage from the super typhoon were now almost finished. All 305 projects have been completed while some remaining three projects were on-going.
About 81.5 percent of the second batch of RAY projects, involving the rehabilitation of barangay halls, day care centers and other facilities, have also been completed, he said.
Some 27.98 percent of the third batch of RAY projects, involving the rehabilitation of water supply and drainage systems, transport terminals and halls of justice, were complete three years after Yolanda, Sueno added.
A new alliance of Yolanda survivors on Tuesday called for an audit of the P25.6-billion fund that had been earmarked to help them.
The Community of Yolanda Survivors and Partners (CYSP), a newly formed alliance of 163 community organizations and nine non-government organizations, also urged the government to scrap the tide embankment project.
The group reacted to Senator Loren Legarda’s privilege speech at the Senate last Monday that out of the P25.6 billion housing assistance for the typhoon victims, P20.7 billion remained unreleased as of June 2016 under the Aquino administration.
Legarda said Congress allocated the P25.6 billion fund under the 2016 budget of the National Housing Authority.
A thorough audit and accounting of the Yolanda funds, including over P100 billion worth of foreign loans, must be conducted, CYSP said.
Due to mounting complaints, the group also urged the Duterte administration to look into the implementation of Yolanda relief and reconstruction projects “that were very late, slow, inadequate and riddled with allegations and incidents of anomalies and irregularities.”
Leyte’s First District Rep. Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt-Romualdez on Tuesday thanked local and international donors for showing compassion (to them during the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda three years ago.
“You have inspired us and lifted our spirits. As you can see we have come a long way. But, we still have to work together,” said Romualdez, who urged President Duterte to provide “dignified shelters” for the victims of calamity.
The Leyte lawmaker also urged the government to strengthen its disaster preparedness and its fight against climate change.
“This is why there is a continued need to create more durable solutions so that the human calamity that happened after typhoon Haiyan [Yolanda] will not happen again. We need to prepare more effectively and respond more efficiently to natural disasters and other emergency situations. With this in mind, we have filed once again House Bill 344, which proposes the creation of a Department of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, originally authored by former congressman Martin Romualdez,” she said.
Earlier, Tacloban City Mayor Cristina Gonzales-Romualdez said that 70 percent of Tacloban City has fully recovered.
“Business is restored in the downtown area. New hotels, malls, and restaurants have mushroomed and this is a very good sign,” Gonzales-Romualdez said.
Senator JV Ejercito, meanwhile, proposed the creation of a new Task Force Yolanda Rehab under the Duterte administration to expedite and complete the resettlement efforts in Yolanda-stricken areas.
“I am distraught by the fact that as of June 30, 2016, only 25,967 housing units were completed and only 15,498 were partially completed out of the 205,128 target houses for the Yolanda survivors,” said Ejercito.
At this rate, he said, it would take 14 to 15 years for all typhoon victims to settle into new houses.
“This is very unacceptable,” said Ejercito, chairman of the Senate committee on urban development, housing and resettlement.
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