‘More needs to be done’

 UN relief chief revisits Yolanda-hit areas

THE UN secretary general for humanitarian affairs said Wednesday that more needs to be done to help the victims of typhoon Yolanda, and just before she flew to Guian and Tacloban to assess the agency’s response four months after the killer storm struck.

“Despite massive scale-up of aid efforts immediately following Haiyan (Yolanda’s international name), a lot more needs to be done. People need durable solutions,” said Valerie Amos on her Twitter account.

Helping the victims help themselves. The Baroness
Valerie Amos, United Nations Undersecretary-General
for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief
Coordinator, shares a photo moment with residents
of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, as she checks on how
the victims were rebuilding their own homes.
The UN officials posted the picture on her
Twitter account.
Amos visited the World Food Program tent city where survivors of the typhoon continue to live, as well as a “woman-friendly” facility in Tacloban.

“While the government-led relief operation has made marked progress, millions of people still require urgent assistance to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. More than a million homes were damaged or destroyed and over 4 million people were displaced with many still in need of support to find durable housing solutions. Farmlands and fishing equipment were decimated, limiting people’s ability to produce food or earn an income,” the UN Development Program said in an earlier statement.

“Restoring livelihoods is at the heart of UNDP Yolanda recovery work. With 33 million downed or damaged coconut trees, there is an influx of raw materials with which new carpenters can now get hands-on training. The logs are cut into the desired sizes for use in the different projects like furniture making, food cart, and house construction,” the UN Development Program said in its social media account.

Amos visited the country twice in November 2013 in the two weeks following the typhoon to see for herself the impact of the disaster and to ensure adequate support for humanitarian assistance.

Olive Tiu, regional director of the Philippine Information Agency announced that US Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg is scheduled to turn over 1,500 metric tons of rice to representatives of World Food

Program and the Department of Social Welfare and Development on Feb. 27.

The rice assistance is part of the 5,000 metric tons of rice announced by US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Tacloban in December 2013, Tiu said.

Amos is expected to fly back to Manila for a press conference.

In the House of Representatives, opposition lawmakers kept up their criticism of the administration’s slow response to the plight of the storm survivors.

Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate and Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz hit the lack of a detailed rebuilding and rehabilitation plan.

Protests greeted President Benigno Aquino III in Tacloban early this week, when he flew there to break ground on a handful of resettlement projects.

Ilagan chided the government for allowing contractors to build substandard bunkhouses that are used for temporary shelter.

“Everything has been politicized and corruption has seeped in and woe to our survivors,” Ilagan added.

Ilagan said the Aquino government should be held accountable for its neglect.

Zarate said it has been more than three months since the typhoon, but the government has provided no significant help to the survivors.

Dela Cruz said the Yolanda survivors were so despearate they had to join protest rallies to get the government’s attention.

“I cannot blame them. They are victims, they need to bring out their concerns and seek help from all quarters, including the government,” Dela Cruz said.

But Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, a member House minority bloc, renewed his appeal to the Yolanda survivors to be more patient.

“The government can only do so much,” Albano said. “Let’s just do what is right to the best of our ability,” he added.

On Tuesday, protesters festooned the streets with violet ribbons and carried placards to demonstrate their displeasure at the slow government response to the plight of typhoon Yolanda survivors as

President Benigno Aquino III arrived to visit the storm victims in Eastern Visayas.

Responding to the government’s inability to restore power in 24 barangays in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, which were battered by typhoon Pablo in December 2012, Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla again imposed a deadline on himself to bring back electricity to the affected communities.

Petilla last year offered to resign when he failed to meet his self-imposed target to restore power to the communities affected by typhoon Yolanda by Christmas Day, but the President rejected his resignation.

Petilla said he decided to step into the picture after the National Electrification Administration and the Department of Budget and Management blamed each other for the delay in the restoration of power in some parts of Cateel.

The finger-pointing drew the ire of the President, who was in the Davao Oriental town on Monday.

“This is really the concern of NEA and DBM. But I am now taking full responsibility for this and I have committed 45 days to restore power in the remaining 24 barangays,” Petilla said in a phone interview.

“As to who was in the wrong - whether it was NEA or DBM - that can be investigated and settled later and that is beyond me. The bottom line now is I have given a deadline and I intend to meet it,” Petilla

Added. Petilla said the electric cooperatives in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley have had a hard time restoring power.

“These are basically small cooperatives owned by the people and their budgets are not that big. So they asked for a calamity loan from NEA. Initially it was P51 million but it has now ballooned to P83 million – and that does not include yet the remaining 24 barangays,” he said.

Petilla said NEA sent a letter to DBM asking if the loan could be treated as a grant so as not to burden consumers with high power rates.

“NEA submitted a request to the DBM and the latter agreed but there were several legal requirements that had to be met because these cooperatives are privately owned and we will be channeling government funds into them,” Petilla said.

“The government legal team said there was no problem because the cooperatives are owned by the people, making them public in nature, but somewhere along the way, the paper trail went cold and they are now looking for the papers,” Petilla added.

Petilla said eventually, he will work to transform the entire loan – which could reach P103 million to include the 24 barangays – into a grant.

“Of course NEA does not have unlimited funds, but we will try our best,” he said.

On Tuesday, Aquino warned NEA administrator Edita Buena and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad that they must address the problem or resign.

“I was not happy with them. That means next time that I follow it up with them, my question would be: when will there be electricity or when will you submit your resignation letters? They only have two options.” – With Sara Susanne D. Fabunan, Maricel V. Cruz and Joyce Pangco Panares



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