• Aquino: Lacson a ‘no-nonsense’ person

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    President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Tuesday expressed his confidence in former senator Panfilo Lacson who has been designated to lead the rehabilitation of areas hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

    Speaking at the Bulong Pulungan media forum, the President said that he chose Lacson as the country’s rehabilitation czar because he is a “no-nonsense person.”

    “Why Ping Lacson? Ping Lacson strikes me as a no-nonsense person,” President Aquino said as he underscored Lacson’s “unique capabilities.”

    Aquino believed that appointing Lacson who can focus on the relief efforts would hasten recovery.

    Besides, he noted that the other members of his Cabinet, who are helping in the post-Yolanda rehabilitation effort, also have their daily duties to attend to.

    “The members of the Cabinet have their normal functions, then you also have the imperative to get our people back in a better condition at the soonest possible time. So, the attention is divided between the two obligations right off the bat,” he said.

    “Now, having Ping Lacson at the center wherein he’s a no-nonsense guy, focused solely on Yolanda’s rehabilitation will undoubtedly achieve the targets sooner. And that is, I guess, why we look at the unique capabilities of Mr. Lacson or Senator Lacson to be able to deliver,” Aquino added

    On Sunday, the former senator said that the President had acknowledged his acceptance of the offer to oversee the rehabilitation efforts of the government that would cost more than P40 billion.

    As the rehabilitation czar, Lacson will manage not only funding from the government but also foreign assistance running into tens of millions of dollars meant for towns and cities in central Philippines.

    The Philippines has so far received P18.206 billion or $414.625 million in pledged foreign assistance.

    Malacañang earlier said that the President has increased the proposed funding for communities devastated by Yolanda from P38.8 billion to P40.9 billion. The money was expected to go to housing, infrastructure, livelihood and employment opportunities, local facilities and social services.

    Asked how the government will assure transparency in the use of international aid for recovery efforts, Aquino said that all donations coursed through the Philippine government can be checked in the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH) website, which he said “shows what has been received and where it has gone to and that has been up for, I think, about two weeks or so.”

    Meanwhile, President Aquino maintained he does not let himself get affected by survey approval ratings, saying that he thinks more of what is right for the people.

    “At the end of the day, the only criteria I have is: Did I do right? And sometimes the right decision may be unpopular. Sometimes… conversely the wrong decision is immensely popular,” he said.

    “But I really have to stick with doing what I believe is right. So our people, I believe, are fair judges. They have been a constant source of support all throughout when we had nothing… I expect that the numbers will rebound, in case they do go down, but that is not the important thing. The important thing is: Will our people see me as doing that which is right? And that is what is important to me,” Aquino added. CATHERINE S. VALENTE

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