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UN stresses more aid

 Plea spurs militants to march for action on Yolanda

IT will take at least nine months and $788 million to implement a United Nations strategic response plan for Yolanda victims and UN’s humanitarian aid chief, United Nations Undersecretary-General Valerie Amos said they “will continue to press donors for more resources for that plan.”

The UN aid chief, who visited disaster areas in the Eastern Visayas on Thursday, assured Yolanda victims that the UN will prioritize shelter and livelihood programs while continuing to provinde aid to the most vulnerable victims.

“Millions of people still require urgent assistance to rebuild their lives and livelihoods, and ensure that the gains that we have made thus far are not rolled back,” Amos said in a written reply to the Manila Standard at the end of her three-day visit on Thursday.

“Many in communities that were devastated are only now at the beginning of the difficult process of recovery,” she said, noting that the UN has developed a strategic response plan in coordination with the Philippine government.

Amos said donors have generously contributed in funding 46 percent of the UN’s call for $788 million in assistance and the Philippine government has formed its own multi-year recovery assistance plan.

But the activist women’s group Gabriela said on Saturday the government’s assistance plan was also a disaster and only showed the government’s lack of support for the typhoon victims in favor of big local and foreign businesses.

Gabriela secretary general Joanmey “Joms” Salvador said at least 10,000 women in Metro Manila are preparing to storm Malacañang Palace on International Women’s Day on March 8 to denounce the Aquino administration’s neglect of women, particularly Yolanda victims.

The protest will be the culmination of a week of protests against the government’s assistance plan which they described as another disaster that showed the government’s lack of support for the typhoon victims in favor of big local and foreign businesses.

“Not only the sorry state of the victims that has been neglected, but also the plight of the poor in favor of big local and foreign businesses,” Salvador said a the Anabel’s news forum on Saturday.

“We will barrage the government with protests for a whole week until March 8 to expose President Benigno Aquino III’s accountability for the worsening state of women,” Salvador said.

“Nationwide, there will be more and more women from Gabriela out in the streets for a series of protests,” Salvador said.

“Let it be remembered that women played a relevant part in replacing a dictator and a corrupt womanizer. We are getting impatient with Aquino’s incompetence, negligence and being ignored,” she added.

“Women will send a strong message to the President that he better get his act together or face the wrath of women scorned,” Salvador said.

But Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the assistance the government has extended since Yolanda should already be making some headway.

Baldoz said the Department of Labor and Employment has been hastening the release of DOLE Integrated Livelihood Assistance Program funds to typhoon Yolanda victims so that they can earn decent incomes and quickly recover from the calamity.

“My instruction during was to already roll out in the first month of 2014 the DILP funds given us by Congress, either for our regular programs or for rebuilding after Typhoon Yolanda,” Baldoz said.

“February is almost over, and March is coming, so I expect that our livelihood assistance to calamity survivors will already be making headway,” Baldoz said.

But Baldoz admitted she was also concerned at the seemingly snail-paced implementation of the program that aims to benefit 102,011 Yolanda victims with a budget of P883.98 million for 2014.

“We have targets to meet, or even surpass, so we better be prepared and be fast,” Baldoz warned DOLE program managers.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto also defended the government plan and said the Senate slashed the publicity budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development to enrol 100,000 Yolanda victims in the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program.

Recto said a Senate amendment in the 2014 national budget slashed P336 million from the DSWD’s publicity budget to enroll that many typhoon victims.

“Calamity victims should not live from one relief bag to another. One of the best forms of aid is the 4Ps because it is predictable, guaranteed and sustained,” Recto said.

With their enrollment in 4Ps, Recto said the 20,000 families will receive P16,800 this year, in monthly payouts of P1,400, provided that they comply with certain “conditionalities” like regular attendance of their children in school.

He explained that what the Senate did to fund the enrollment of 20,000 families is cut the 4Ps administrative expenses from the proposed P5.41 billion to P5.03 billion.

“Specifically, what was reduced was the budget for publicity, from P141 million to P40 million, and the budget for training, from P533 million to P218 million, and the cuts were mainly used to accommodate more 4Ps beneficiaries,“ he said.

As a result, the cash grant component of the 4Ps budget rose from P57.2 billion to P57.57 billion. If its administrative overhead of P5.03 billion is included, the total budget of 4Ps for the year is P62.2 billion.

This amount will be used to put 4,461,732 households under the regular 4Ps program. In addition, 4.3 million high school students will be enrolled in the “extended CCT” program in which each will be given a monthly stipend of P500. With Ronald O. Reyes and Vito Barcelo

 

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