FORMER national treasurer Prof. Leonor Briones on Thursday said President Benigno Aquino 3rd should be held accountable for the messy implementation of the rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda.
Briones, convenor of budget watch group Social Watch Philippines (SWP), said the government failed in its bid to “build back” the lives of millions of families affected by Yolanda.
According to her, Aquino should designate a group or task force with the technical and administrative competence to implement the Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (CRRP).
“There is no clear source of funding and organizational structure,” Briones said when she presented to the media its report on the tracking of funds for Yolanda reconstruction. She said the group found significant delay in the release of funds by the Department of Budget and Management to the implementing agencies and local government units.
As of June 2015, the Budget department claimed to have released P84 billion or 49 percent of the P170.916 billion commitment for the CRRP.
But SWP said this amount was not dedicated to Yolanda-affected areas only but includes rehabilitation of areas hit by the Bohol earthquake and typhoons Sendong and Pablo.
The resettlement cluster of the CRRP has the highest investment requirement of P75.679 billion for recovery and rehabilitation. The National Housing Authority is the main implementing agency for resettlement, getting the highest allocation of P72.255 for the construction of resilient and build-back-better compliant housing for Yolanda-affected communities.
Briones said less than a third (28.3 percent) or only P21.438 billion of the P75.679 billion CRRP funding requirement for resettlement has been released as of June 15, 2015. Only 73,000 housing units out of the 205,128 requirements are currently being built.
“Snags in finding appropriate lands for resettlement areas continue to haunt the fast delivery of shelter to Yolanda survivors. Families who continue to stay in areas declared “unsafe” or those who refused to move to relocation or resettlement sites are not entitled to housing assistance and the government has no clear interventions for them,” she explained.
Briones noted that the bulk of funds for the delivery of Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) was reportedly downloaded to local government units as of June 30, 2015 but has not been received by the intended beneficiaries.
“It is equally devastating to find out that the guidelines on ESA effectively limited its scope, and excluded households who are poor and suffered destruction. The tool for assessment of houses damaged by Yolanda as “totally” or “partially” damaged was subjective,” she said.
The SWP also noted that politicians, mostly in local government units, treated the delivery of ESA as a platform to gain political advantage. The group attributed continued politicking to limited or lack of citizens’ participation in the planning and implementation of Yolanda programs and projects that directly affect them.
According to Briones, delays in the delivery of livelihood and social services projects were aggravated by poor coordination between and among the different agencies caused by lack of competencies and appropriate mechanisms to hasten implementation.
“We found out that the budget request of agencies were limited based on their capacity to implementation the program, projects and activities under their watch,” she added.
By law, the rehabilitation budget should come from the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund, regular budget and foreign donations.
The SWP said the budget allocation does not specify the programs, activities and projects intended for Yolanda reconstruction and rehabilitation. Some of the budget items were found to be part of the regular operations of the agencies for disaster risk reduction management and not specifically for Yolanda.
“It’s still business as usual for government and the agencies appear to have no sense of urgency in dealing with a humanitarian crisis. The absence of a clear central and authoritative agency or body that will implement, oversee, coordinate and have strong mandate to monitor all reconstructive and recovery initiatives is the problem,” Briones said.