Rebuilding begins

Aquino sets Tacloban revisit amid criticisms

Amid criticisms against his administration’s handling of the recent tragedy, President Benigno Aquino III leaves for Tacloban City today to oversee relief and rehabilitation operations.

The Palace announced Aquino’s second visit to Tacloban following criticisms that his administration’s handling of the situation  was “less than perfect,” in the words of  Palace minions.

Finally moving. Relief operations finally got moving as relief were delivered to the hardest-hit disaster areas in Leyte and Samar. Photos show (from top, clockwise) a victim beginning to rebuild his home in Tacloban City as Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez arrives to oversee the arrival and distribution of relief and a medical mission for the dozens of injured. A US Navy Seahawk helicopter  drops  goods that had just been unloaded from an Australian C-130 cargo plane. AFP, VER NOVENO

Even as disaster officials set aside an eight-hectare area for rebuilding the houses  of millions of those rendered homeless, the Budget department said as much as P40 billion can be tapped for the relief and rebuilding efforts.

 Disaster management officials said they would construct bunk houses initially to set  in motion what could be a slow and agonizing rebuilding efforts. A minimum of ten families for each bunk house is the ideal target, they said.

Vice President Jejomar Binay arrived in Tacloban ahead of Aquino to meet and consult with  local government officials on the  housing and other rehabilitation needs.

 Presidential Communication Operation Office secretary Herminio Coloma  and deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte took turns detailing the government’s relief and rehabilitation program. The government has already established a delivery schedule that specifies which town should be reached in a specific round of relief operations.

This would ensure, they said, that “all affected towns are provided relief goods everyday”.

Valte said that some 80 personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Development had been deployed to distribute the food, with help from village officials.

She also announced that 14 hospitals are now operational throughout Leyte, including seven in Tacloban City,  while the remains of 392 fatalities had already been buried.

Valte said that the Department of Health has deployed medical personnel to conduct vaccination missions for measles, typhoid, and other communicable diseases.

Budget  Secretary Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad, meanwhile, said that the government has an available budget of P26.84 billion to rehabilitate typhoon Yolanda-affected areas.

The P26.84 billion will come from P6.4 billion President’s Social Fund, P16.6 billion government savings, P1.74 billion Quick Relief Funds (QRFs), P1.28 billion Calamity Funds, and P824 million Contingency Funds.

”We have a space of about P26 billion and if the supreme court freezes the (TRO) of the legislator’s PDAF they have given up, then this will give us P40 billion for the remaining weeks of the year to be able to address the relief operations which I think is more than enough,” he said.

The remaining funds will be reserved for infrastructure rehabilitation even for temporary and permanent housing, he said.

Binay, meanwhile, said the National Housing Authority, which he chairs, hopes to finish its assessment on the extent of the damage to houses and other infrastructures in affected areas at the soonest time possible.

“Ground validation by the National Housing Authority (NHA) to assess the number of damaged houses is already on-going and we are closely coordinating with the city government of Tacloban to finish this at the soonest,” Binay, who chairs the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), said.

Binay said the NHA and the key shelter agencies will also discuss the resettlement of families living along danger zones in Tacloban.

The Vice President had pledged to give families whose houses were partially damaged by the typhoon P5,000 worth of construction materials coming from the NHA.

Before going to Tacloban, Binay also visited Guiuan in Eastern Samar.  Guiuan stood at the direct path of the typhoon and was cut off from the rest of the province after Yolanda practically tore past the island-town.

In a press briefing,   Executive Director Eduardo del Rosario said that workers would start leveling a portion of the eight-hectare land where the bunkhouses will be built.

Del Rosario said that they are eyeing alternative ports to ferry the tons of food packages for the victims in view of the bottle-neck occurring in Matnog port in Sorsogon.

As  of Saturday, the NDRRMC pegged the death toll at 3,633 from Friday’s 3,621 and 1,170 missing and 12,165 injured persons.

The  first batch of 300 survivors from the coastal village of Guian arrived in Manila via a US C-130 plane.  They were immediately given food as they waited for their relatives at the Villamor lounge in Pasay City.

In other developments, BUHAY party-list Rep. Lito Atienza  asked Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas not to sanction police officers in Leyte who have not yet reported for work up to now and are still looking for their missing relatives.

At a weekly forum at Annabel’s in Quezon City, Atienza said even policemen were also victims of the tragedy Yolanda, and that Roxas must not punish those who have failed to report to their precincts to help stop lawlessness in Tacloban City, Leyte.

“That’s pathetic coming from the secretary,” he said.

Citing the lack of police visibility in the typhoon-ravaged Leyte and Eastern Samar, he said Roxas must be in control of deployment of policemen from the other regions.

“The whole Philippine National Police and local government units are under the Department of Interior and Local Government,” he said.  “Why not order police contingency from other places?”

Former senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad,  for his part,  said Roxas was aware of the availability of 2,000 dumps trucks from Surigao province, saying there were only 20 military trucks, a payloader from Ako Bicol party-list, and six other trucks in the flattened areas.

“He (Roxas) knew the information, but he did not use it (for augmentation),” he said.

In Quezon City,  the city government said it would  provide infrastructure development assistance to help rebuild  Tacloban City and Eastern Samar. Francisco Tuyay, Rio N. Araja with additional reports from PNA, AFP


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