Only 51% of ‘Yolanda’ rehab completed
Almost two years after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) flattened central Philippines, the government has completed only 51 percent of the projects aimed at rehabilitating and reconstructing affected communities.
Officials of the agencies implementing the various Yolanda rehabilitation initiatives nonetheless told a press conference on Thursday that the government remains on track to complete infrastructure projects such as housing as well as repairs of damaged roads and bridges, while the restoration of education and health services are “in full swing.”
Still, same old issues hound the delivery of housing units to Yolanda victims as the government could not find enough “safe” areas, coupled with local government regulations that are conflicting with national laws with regard to human settlement.
Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said that while Yolanda had left Eastern Visayas “a wasteland,” two years later there is now “optimism and vibrance of communities that are rebuilding their lives.”
“Local communities of affected areas have been restored; in fact, noticeable business recovery and expansion is evident in Tacloban City and many other areas,” Balisacan, who is also the Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), pointed out.
“We are now transitioning into the medium-term phase of recovery and rehabilitation efforts after surmounting the immense challenge of providing for the immediate needs of millions of affected people,” the Neda chief said.
According to Balisacan, the ongoing and largely completed Yolanda rehabilitation projects to date would likely compose 51 percent of what is needed to revive the livelihood of residents in the affected areas. Rehabilitation programs will go on until 2017, he noted, hence “most” of the projects would likely be finished next year.
A total of P150 billion in projects were earlier identified by the government under its Yolanda rehabilitation roadmap, of which almost P94 billion has been released to date, Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad said.
Another P10.2 billion will be released this month coming from government savings, while the remaining P46 billion had been allocated under the proposed 2016 national budget, Abad said.
“Funding issues are less of a problem now,” Balisacan said.
When asked if the government was satisfied with its Yolanda rehabilitation efforts, Abad noted that since the supertyphoon was said to be the strongest to hit Earth, there were no standards to measure if the Aquino administration responded promptly or belatedly.
“The government is doing its best. Even the international community was surprised at pace of recovery in affected communities,” the Budget chief added.
Balisacan said the government is “on track” to complete infrastructure projects. “Majority of the roads, bridges, ports and telecommunication facilities, which are key in restoring economic activity, have already been reconstructed and even upgraded for resiliency.”
Also, “education and health services have been restored, now with better facilities such as climate-resilient buildings,” the Neda chief added.
“As we look back to the last two years of rebuilding and improving government’s capacity to respond to natural disasters post-Yolanda, we saw that we still have quite a way to go towards the convergence that this kind of operation calls for. It is a process and we continue to work towards convergence and coordination as recovery and rehabilitation of this magnitude requires long-term commitment and support,” Balisacan said.
“We have accomplished much over the last two years, but there is still a lot that must be done in creating the enabling environment and ensuring that governance practices make it easier to build back better, safer and faster, as the times require,” according to Balisacan.