• Cabinet told: Start rebuilding plan now

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    PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd on Wednesday issued an “overarching” directive to his Cabinet to start working to rebuild areas struck by Super Typhoon Yolanda based an action plan being crafted by Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.

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    In a statement, Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Balisacan presented the Yolanda Recovery and Action Plan during their meeting but it will need another round of discussions on Friday to finalize it.

    “The President’s overarching instructions to the Cabinet was: ‘Dapat gawin, kayang gawin, ngayon na [What should be done, can be done, must be done now]’,” he said.

    Lacierda said the Balisacan task group presented a three-phased plan: to provide immediate assistance to affected areas, expand initiatives and programs in the medium term, and reach full recovery and rehabilitation in the long term.

    The Friday meeting will take up “further refinements to the plan, especially to the immediate actions to be taken,” Lacierda said.

    On Tuesday, Malacañang said the government has shifted operations from relief to recovery and reconstruction in the affected areas.

    The first step is to build bunkhouses that will temporary shelter typhoon victims.

    “The transfer of affected families from tents and evacuation centers to temporary bunkhouses signals the transition from relief to early recovery and reconstruction,” said Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.

    The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) began putting up bunkhouses in identified sites in Tacloban, Palo, and Ormoc in Leyte, and Basey and Marabut in Samar over the weekend, and “starting yesterday [Wednesday], construction of bunkhouses began in Guiuan, Hernani and Borongan,” Coloma said.

    At least 2,400 families will be resettled in the first phase, he said.

    The DPWH is stockpiling construction materials such as coco lumber, wooden frames, and GI sheet roofing ahead of the reconstruction efforts, Coloma said.

    It’s too soon for the government to shift to reconstruction, retired archbishop Oscar Cruz said on Wednesday.

    “There have been donations from all over the world in cash or in kind. There are organizations in the Philippines that are using money for the victims and that is a big shame if the government and the DSWD will stop giving relief to the devastated people after December. For me that is cruel,” Cruz said.

    Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman said that as of November 25, the government has received cash donations amounting to P44.4 million or $1.6 million from local and foreign donors.

    “It would be a shame on President Benigno Aquino 3rd if the international charity organizations will do the relief operations that is supposedly to be done by the government,” the prelate said.

    “I thought this government is serving the people because the people are the boss? It would be shameful, there has been a flood of donations and yet they said that they will stop distributing relief goods in January,” Cruz said.

    Soliman explained that relief operations are being concluded to help “victims find their jobs” so that they would be able to buy what they need.

    She said they will still provide relief goods and other basic necessities to individuals who will not be able to find work or a livelihood by next month.

    Amid the government’s plan to stop the distribution of relief goods, the Catholic Church is planning a “long term solution” for typhoon survivors.

    Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said the Manila archdiocese is constructing a long-term assistance for the people and areas affected by the monster typhoon.

    According to Fr. Anton Pascual, the executive director of Caritas Manila, they have distributed at least 85,000 relief goods in 10 provinces hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

    Caritas Manila said there are still more than a million families in Palawan, Samar, Leyte, Iloilo, Aklan, Antique, Naval and Cebu who need basic necessities like rice, biscuits, bottled water, coffee, canned goods, soap, toothpaste, new underwear, cooking ware, beddings, tool boxes, working/school clothes and crucifix/rosaries.

    The group, with the help of the city government of Marikina, will provide 500 family sacks containing broomsticks, dust pans, sleeping mats, water pails, tea pots and cooking pans. Each sack costs about P1,000.

    Through the Diocese of Borongan, these sacks will be given to Eastern Samar’s towns of Hernani and Lorente, and its capital Borongan City by Friday.

    Marikina adopted the towns of Hernani and Lorente through the Adopt-a-Town program of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority last week.

    A Marikina shoe company donated about P1.159 million worth of children’s and adults’ shoes, equivalent to 4,758 pairs. A donor also gave six huge boxes of slippers.

    WITH REPORT FROM GHIO ONG

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