For traveling to Manila to protest slow govt aid
PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday criticized survivors of super typhoon Yolanda who trooped to the Palace Monday to protest the government’s response to their plight, saying they should be able to help themselves.
“To those who are saying that we have been slow in responding... it seems to me that if they are capable of attending to their trip to Manila, perhaps they can also attend to their livelihood,” the President said.
“Let us not forget: 1.4 million families were affected; 918,000 will need housing assistance,” President Aquino added.
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, whom the victims had criticized for grabbing credit for international assistance, agreed.
“Instead of coming here, they could have used the money to help themselves,” Soliman said.
The President was also cool to the demand of the survivors that the government release P40,000 in cash assistance per family.
“If we have 1.4 million affected families at P40,000 each, that would amount to P56 billion. In our 2014 budget, we have about P600 billion that we can use for expenses outside of the personnel services and the maintenance and other operating expenses. That P54 billion is already 10 percent of P600 billion,” he said.
“More importantly, will the P40,000 be a long-term solution? I cannot see that...But we will read their petition once it reaches my table,” the President added.
Aquino also defended the government’s policy of establishing a no-build zone near the coastline, saying this would keep people away from danger zones during storms.
Members of People Surge, a broad alliance of Yolanda survivors, submitted their petition to an official of the Palace records office Monday.
Aquino did not meet with the Yolanda survivors who went to the Palace, but he later assured the public that the government would expedite its rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in calamity-hit areas.
“Continuing our rehabilitation efforts is our number one priority.
We are devoting our resources to guarantee not the mere subsistence of the survivors, but their genuine recovery,” Aquino said on Tuesday during the 3rd Euromoney Philippines Investment Forum.
“We will complete the rehabilitation and improvement of the affected communities sooner rather than later; and all of you will see those areas brimming with more opportunity than ever before,” Aquino added.
Sister Edita Esloper, chairperson of People Surge, questioned the plans announced by presidential assistant on rehabilitation and recovery, Panfilo Lacson, saying they were tainted by politics with an eye on the 2016 elections.
“There is reason to be skeptical that the Aquino government will be wheeling and dealing, with the 2016 elections just around the corner and the funds for reconstruction vulnerable to disappearing to political pickpockets,” said Eslopor.
She slammed Lacson for failing to consult with the typhoon victims, and for tapping private businesses to do the government’s work.
“The Lacson-led reconstruction program is anti-people and pro-big business in diminishing what is needed by the people and hyping what is favorable to the private sector, which is given a bigger role than the government,” she said.
In an earlier interview, Lacson denied the government had been slow in responding to the needs of the calamity survivors.
He also spoke of “improvising a bottom-up approach” to speed up the post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA).
“We do this by going down to the local government units and not wait for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to finish the PDNA,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, Borongan Bishop Crispin Varquez criticized the government for failing to address the needs of typhoon survivors three months after Yolanda struck.
Varquez said the only concrete sign of government help in Borongan City, one of the hardest hit by Yolanda, were the bunkhouses, which are meant to provide survivors with temporary housing.
In a report posted in the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines website, Varquez said there were no other signs of rehabilitation in the city, and no attempts to provide livelihood to survivors.
“I don’t know when it will start of if they are still in the planning stage. We have no idea,” he said. With Ronald O. Reyes and Vito Barcelo