After Years, Only 50 Houses Built For Haiyan Survivors By Aquino Government
MANILA, Philippines - The government has built only 50 houses for the estimated one million fami...
MANILA, Philippines - The government has built only 50 houses for the estimated one million families displaced by Super Typhoon Yolanda years after the killer storm flattened many communities in the Visayas.
The joint Senate-House oversight committee on public expenditures received this information yesterday during a hearing it called to check on how agencies are doing with their rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction efforts.
Sen. Francis Escudero, as Senate finance committee chairman, and his House counterpart Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, presided over the hearing.
The joint panel also learned that of the more than P100 billion that Congress had appropriated for the Yolanda-devastated communities, only P3.7 billion has been spent.
“It has already been six months since Yolanda. Why are we so slow in helping the victims? There is a lot of money and yet we are not spending it. We have not heard anything that is good and promising,” Escudero said after hearing reports from several agencies.
He also said the concerned agencies “do not have the sense of urgency that our people are clamoring for” and President Aquino should tell these agencies to do their job faster.
National Housing Authority (NHA) general manager Chito Cruz reported that his agency has turned over 50 housing units to displaced families in Tanauan town in Leyte.
He said NHA is in the process of building an additional 1,000 houses out of the 220,000 units it has been tasked to build.
“Our problem is with the land. We can only build on public land. So far, out of the more than 1,300 hectares that we need, local government units have given us 125 hectares. We are suggesting that we be authorized to buy private land,” he said.
He added that they also have to secure the necessary clearances and permits from several agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources before they can begin building houses on public land.
Responding to questions, Cruz said it is the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that takes care of providing temporary housing to Yolanda victims.
But Escudero shot back: “No, they have stopped after they were investigated for their supposedly substandard bunkhouses. None of their contractors now want to build temporary housing.”
Undersecretary Eduardo Batac of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council told the committee that they have finalized the post-disaster needs assessment report.
He said it usually takes three to six months to prepare such a report, which details damage and reconstruction requirements.
Lawyer Karen Jimeno, who served as spokesperson for the defense panel in the Senate impeachment trial of ousted Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona, represented former senator and rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson in the hearing.
Jimeno said they have grouped concerned agencies into five clusters of which three have submitted their post-disaster reports.
She named the three as the infrastructure cluster led by Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, the resettlement group of NHA, and the social services group headed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
She said the Singson team was the first to submit its report.
Ungab said if all concerned agencies follow the example of the infrastructure cluster, the job of reconstruction and rehabilitation would be carried out faster.
Jimeno also said their office would come out with a comprehensive master plan for the reconstruction and recovery of Yolanda-damaged areas by the end of next month. The plan would guide agencies in doing their share of the reconstruction efforts. Budget Undersecretary Luz Cantor informed the committee that they have forwarded to President Aquino’s office for approval requests for the release of P1 billion for the repair of classrooms and another P1 billion for the rehabilitation of state colleges and universities.
By Jess Diaz ---------------------------------------------------------------
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