Aquino seeks more rehab funds

November 27, 2013 3:55 AM

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President Aquino will ask Congress to amend the 2014 national budget to provide funds for the rehabilitation of provinces hit by disasters this year.

In an interview with the Inquirer on Monday, Aquino said the government did not have all the money it needed for the massive rehabilitation effort to repair the damage wrought by Typhoon “Santi,” the attack by Moro rebels on Zamboanga City, the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Bohol and Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

“There are funding sources and it will have an impact on our budget next year. That is why I will ask Congress to amend the budget,” Aquino said.

The President declined to give a “ballpark figure” to estimate the rehabilitation cost.

“We have to be as realistic and accurate as possible [than just give] an estimate,” he said, adding that he wanted a thorough work of determining the cost of the effort.

The Senate on Tuesday passed on second and third reading its version of the 2014 budget, approving P2.26 trillion in government spending, including P100 billion for the reconstruction of the provinces destroyed by the earthquake and Yolanda.

Explaining the P100-billion reconstruction fund, Sen. Francis Escudero, head of the Senate committee on finance, said P20 billion was carved out of the miscellaneous personnel benefits fund in the programmed funds, while P80 billion came from the items on infrastructure, debt management and risk management in the unprogrammed funds.

The Senate version of the budget is P3.2 billion less than the version transmitted by the House of Representatives, as the Senate deleted the pork barrel allocations for Vice President Jejomar Binay and 15 senators.

Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), which flattened entire communities in central Philippines and left at least 5,200 people dead on Nov. 8, is this year’s biggest disaster, and the government faces the staggering task of sustaining the provision of relief to hundreds of thousands of survivors as well as rebuilding the heavily devastated provinces.

Natural and man-made disasters struck almost every month in different parts of the country this year, killing thousands, and wiping out homes, livelihood, utilities and infrastructure.

The President acknowledged the help the Philippines had been receiving from all over the world.

He said he would likely take up the offer of a number of foreign leaders who had called him to say they were willing to help in the rehabilitation of the provinces destroyed by Yolanda.

“I want to give them the [accurate] figures. We also want to avoid donor fatigue,” Aquino said.

The President said he would address the nation again this week to speak about the government’s rehabilitation plan.

He said he expected the Cabinet-level task force to present to him on Wednesday the comprehensive rehabilitation plan.

But the master plan that would include the rehabilitation of other disaster-stricken areas would take a month to complete, the President said.

The master plan would, among other things, include legitimate land ownership for informal settlers who lost their homes and identifying opportunities, livelihood, and environmental considerations, he said.

Aquino said millions of families were affected by the calamities that came one after the other.

“We want to give them back their lives and perhaps something better than what they used to have,” Aquino said.

The President will meet his Cabinet Wednesday for a discussion of the government’s response to Yolanda, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, De Lima said she had postponed her meetings with science and disaster officials to attend the Cabinet meeting.

She said she would meet officials from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Thursday for a discussion of an approach to the investigation of the “extraordinary” death toll from Yolanda in certain provinces.

The NDRRMC initially estimated the death toll at 2,000-2,500, a figure that Aquino mentioned in an interview with CNN last week.


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