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Victims still homeless

Yolanda housing mired in red tape — LGUs

TACLOBAN CITY—The national government has not built a single permanent housing unit out of the 7,600 needed for the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda, nor has it released a single centavo to build 3,853 temporary shelters or bunkhouses, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Mayor Alfred Romualdez said Sunday.

Mayor Romualdez estimated that some P3.35 billion will be needed to build the permanent and temporary houses at P200,000 and P40,000 each, respectively.

Seven months after the killer storm struck, red tape is slowing down rebuilding efforts, despite the appointment of former senator Panfilo Lacson as the rehabilitation czar.

Lacson on Sunday denied the charges.

“Not true. They better check their facts. My office’s database says that of the 182,731 housing units that both the public and private sectors have pledged to build, 15,861 are either under construction or have been completed,” Lacson said in a text message.

“In Estancia, Iloilo alone, Ayala Foundation is scheduled to turn over 120 housing units. In Tanauan, I was witness to the turn over of 20 units to direct beneficiaries last month. Another 20 units were likewise turned over a week later,” he added.

Lacson said the slow pace of recovery in Tacloban City does not reflect the entire Yolanda corridor.

“I was in Javier, Leyte last Wednesday. The traces of devastation from Yolanda are almost gone. There are other towns and cities along the corridor that are similarly rebuilding fast and with remarkable efficiency. Tacloban City is not the corridor. There are 170 other localities hit by Yolanda,” Lacson added.

But the Romualdezes bemoaned the slow progress in Tacloban, which suffered the most during the storm.

Records released by the city government show a total of 4,853 temporary housing units and 14,433 permanent housing units are needed for the city’s typhoon-affected population.

It said that of the total temporary houses needed, some 1,000 units had been committed to be built by private donors.

Of the permanent housing needed, 1,233 have been committed through memoranda of agreement and 5,600 units have been pledged by various groups.

“Majority of the bunkhouses that you see here were built by the private sector and international donors. We are grateful to them,” Mayor Romualdez said.

The city government said a total of P3.35 billion would be needed for the construction of the remaining units -- 3,853 temporary houses and 7,600 permanent houses -- plus shelter kits.

Romualdez explained the computation was based on an estimated amount for the construction of the housing units -- P200,000 for each permanent houses and P40,000 for each temporary units.

“The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and other international groups trusted us. They gave us the mandate. We can work in partnership with the UN. There really is red tape and confusion as far as the national government response is concerned,” the mayor said.

The national government, he added, should make the cash donations from international and local groups available to the local government.

“If the national government downloaded the donated money from foreign donors to us, we would have finished already. People need the shelter, people need safety,” Romualdez said.

Some 800 families have been living in tent cities while 400 more families have been staying in evacuation centers and ill-equipped bunkhouses.

Congressman Romualdez, leader of the House independent minority bloc, urged the national government to “empower the local government to speed up the reconstruction and rehabilitation because they have the structure, network and manpower to get things done fast.”

As of May 15, the national government said it has already received pledges of P11.076 billion in cash donations.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said Thursday that as of May 14, the government already released P32.2 billion for infrastructure rehabilitation and reconstruction in devastated areas.

But the Romualdezes said Tacloban City, the worst hit by Yolanda, has yet to receive a single centavo from the P11.07 billion in cash donations from foreign countries and the private sector and the P32.2 billion that Abad said had already been released.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., a cousin of the Romualdezes, demanded that Abad account for the P120 billion in supplemental budget that was allocated by Congress shortly after Yolanda flattened the Eastern Visayas provinces on Nov. 8.

“Congressman Romualdez and I authored and pushed for the release of P120 billion. Seven months after Yolanda, not a single centavo had been released to the local governments by the national government. Where did this money go? Where did the billions in cash donations from international community and private sector go? We demand to know.” Marcos said.

Senator Pia Cayetano, meanwhile, deplored the sluggish release of money for the reconstruction and repair of school buildings, noting that many state universities and colleges that were damaged by Yolanda were still awaiting the release of funds for their rehabilitation.

She said this has become even more urgent since the opening of the new school year is just a few weeks away.

Abad said the request for the release of funds for the rehabilitation of 35 state universities and colleges was already submitted by the Department of Budget and Management to the Office of the President in April.

He said the funds would be released once these were approved by President Benigno Aquino III.

“I understand that plans and budget proposals for rehabilitation have to be reviewed, but summer has come and is almost gone, still we have yet to see the funds released to our SUCs,” Cayetano said.

She said Congress allocated more than P100 billion for the repair of the areas devastated by Yolanda and the powerful earthquake that struck the region. She said the amount was on top of a P14.6-billion supplemental budget.

“And yet, according to the DBM, only P32.2 billion had actually been released,” Cayetano noted.

Cayetano said the fund allotted for the reconstruction of SUCs is P1 billion, which is not even 1 percent of the total rehabilitation budget.

“What’s holding up its release, considering that the school year is about to start?” she asked.

Citing data from the Commission on Higher Education, she said 26 SUCs have already submitted requests for up to P826.5 million to the DBM with seven more waiting for the second round of validation by engineers from the Department of Public Works and Highways and another 18 still to be assessed.

In calamity stricken areas, she said the government’s priority for the youth is to encourage them to resume their schooling.

She said the re rehabilitation of their schools would greatly help the youth recover from their ordeal triggered by the super typhoon.

Seven months after super typhoon Yolanda struck killing 6,200 people, the government has yet to complete its master plan for rehabilitation.

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