PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd spent his entire Sunday visiting victims of previous disasters and inspecting ongoing rehabilitation projects in Tacloban City in the Visayas to as far as Zamboanga City in Mindanao.
Accompanied by a few members of his Cabinet, the president’s visits were aimed at determining the status of rehabilitation and recovery works in these areas.
“Most importantly, he [Aquino] would give [the victims]his sincerest wish for them to have Merry Christmas and more blessings in the coming New Year,” said Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
In the morning, Aquino flew to Compostela Valley to inspect the permanent shelters provided for victims of typhoon Pablo last year under the Department of Social Welfare and Development Modified Shelter Assistance Program.
“This is part of the 1,266 houses that were built for the people of Baganga, Boston, and Cateel in Davao Oriental and the towns of Compostela, New Bataan, Monkayo, Montevista, and Laak in Compostela Valley,” Coloma said.
After that, Aquino proceeded to Zamboanga to know the status of recovery efforts following the deadly attacks by members of a Moro National Liberation Front faction led by Nur Misuari last August.
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson briefed the president on the Zamboanga City Roadmap to Recovery and Reconstruction. Aquino also inspected bunkhouses that were constructed for internally displaced persons.
Accompanying the president were Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras and Secretaries Panfilo Lacson, Carlos Jericho Petilla, Singson, Corazon “Dinky” Soliman and National Housing Authority General Manager Chito Cruz.
From Zamboanga City the president flew to Tacloban City and visited the town of Palo, Leyte to oversee the turnover of the initial bunkhouses that will serve as temporary shelter for Yolanda victims.
“The President strongly believes that recovery will be fast tracked and the return to normalcy of the local economy in the said town and the entire province would be swift following the signing of the 2014 budget,” Coloma emphasized.
Under the P2.265 trillion budget, more than 37 percent or P841.8 billion was appropriated for social services while P593.1 billion was allocated for economic pump priming.
The government has also allocated a total of P100 billion for the rehabilitation of areas that were worst-hit by recent disasters. This is besides the P13 billion calamity fund that ballooned from the previous P7.5 billion.
The account is now called the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund.
Coloma explained that budget reforms instituted in the General Appropriations Act include a performance-informed budget system where every peso would be spent on projects that can be easily scrutinized by the public.
“Part of the reforms is the ‘budget as released document’ wherein 90 percent of the total budget has been distributed among line agencies to speed up implementation of important project in the beginning of the New Year,” Coloma pointed out.
Strong will, determination
The Palace official also described the Aquino government’s performance in two words: Strong will and determination.
“We know that we all experienced and suffered a series of calamities and other pressing challenges and problems,” Coloma said.
He noted that following the Zamboanga siege by rogue members of the MNLF, the Bohol earthquake happened. In November, supertyphoon Yolanda ravaged Central Visayas while typhoon Santi destroyed billions worth of crops in Central Luzon. A year earlier, typhoon Pablo caused a similar amount of damage in Mindanao.
“Indeed we are faced with many challenges but we remain strong… as we look to the future, there is determination not only to get over these challneges but to build even better,” Coloma stressed.
By next week, the official said the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) would release a result matrix on the performance of each government agency in 2012.
The “year ender report,” Coloma explained, is anchored on the implementation of the Philippine Development Program (PDP) which serves as a guide to all agencies to identify which projects have already been completed, ongoing or are “ready for picking.”
“[These are] low-hanging fruits that are ready for picking,” he said.
Coloma also explained that the Executive branch has lined up several measures for legislation that would be submitted to Congress.