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Solons blast PNoy over appeal to US

Score lack of rehab plan, inability to use funds

THE Aquino administration is pressing Washington to make a long-term commitment to help in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas damaged by super typhoon Yolanda, but critics say the move is unnecessary because the problem is not the lack of foreign aid but the government’s inability to use it.

“The problem really is the implementation of rehabilitation by the national government. Foreign aid is not a problem,” said United Nationalist Alliance secretary general and Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco.

Senator Gregorio Honasan II also criticized the government for having no long-term plan.

“We can only ask for long-term commitment from donors if we have a long-term rehabilitation plan,” Honasan said.

Apart from this plan, there’s a need to put in place a sound foreign policy, said Honsanan, a member of the opposition.

“Economic security must go side by side with land, and water use plans,” he said.

Honasan made the comment after Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. expressed hope that the US long-term commitment would be achieved during the visit of US Senator Marco Rubio to Manila this week.

Rubio is a ranking member of the subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the Senate foreign relations committee.

“We hope the visit of Senator Marco Rubio will further convince Washington to commit to a long-term involvement in the rehabilitation of areas devastated by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan),” Cuisia said.

Rubio will be received by President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday as part of a week-long Asian swing that includes stops in Japan and Korea.

The US lawmaker, who will also meet with Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, is expected to visit Tacloban City.

Cuisia said Rubio’s visit will focus on defense and economic cooperation and regional issues as well as to find out how US assistance related to super typhoon Yolanda is being used.

“We are hoping that Senator Rubio will be one of the advocates for a long-term US commitment in the reconstruction of Haiyan devastated communities in the Philippines,” Cuisia said.

“A huge challenge remains and the Philippines is preparing seriously for the reconstruction of affected communities. The Philippines is therefore turning again to the international community, especially the

US, in seeking official development assistance to support reconstruction efforts,” the Philippine ambassador to Washington added.

Cuisia told Rubio that the Philippines would also like to see an expansion of the US Southeast Asian pivot policy in terms of economic ties.

Earlier, the government’s Foreign Aid Trasparency Hub or FAiTH website showed that only about 21 percent or P592.5 million out of the P2.8 billion cash pledge from foreign donors have been remitted to the Philippines.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said there was a “big disparity” beween what foreign donors said at the height of the relief operations after super typhoon Yolanda struck and what they are delivering now by way of cash.

“I think many of them made those statements so that they can actually influence (those) back home because you have to show the situation here,” Abad said.

Of the P23.79 billion pledged by local donors, P20.9 billion were in kind while P2.8 were in cash.

“Knowing the fiscal process, it is also possible that most of their (foreign donors’) funds have already been committed since the calamity happened during the latter part of the year,” he said.

“A lot of the fund raising would have to be done at the start of this year, when new funds are available. So that may likely explain the huge disparity between what we read in the papers during the height of the relief operations, versus what is now appearing in the Faith website,” Abad added.

Abad earlier asked Cabinet members to identify projects that can be deferred so that the budget can be re-aligned for reconstruction.

The 2014 budget only included the following funds for the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in areas hit by recent calamities: P13 billion calamity fund, up from last year’s P7.5 billion; P20 billion rehabilitation construction program; and P80 billion for construction projects under the unprogrammed fund. With Macon Ramos-Araneta

 

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