LEGAZPI CITY: The implementation of the P167-billion Yolanda rehabilitation fund failed because the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) did not release the funds, resigned rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson told The Manila Times.
Lacson, former head of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR), said the result is the snail-paced implementation of reconstruction in 171 cities and municipalities hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda two years ago.
“The problem with the rehabilitation is that the P167 billion rehab fund which will be implemented for three years is that the DBM did not release fund despite of P350 billion savings of the government,” Lacson said.
When asked by The Manila Times if President Aquino failed to execute rehabilitation and reconstruction work in Yolanda-hit areas, Lacson said that he is not blaming the President.
“I didn’t say that President Benigno Aquino failed to do his job as he (has) until 2016 to do and implement the project for total rehabilitation. But I’m questioning the slow release of funds by the Department of Budget and Management with P350 billion savings under spending what they will do to the big saving?” the former legislator reiterated.
Lacson was appointed in the Cabinet-level position by President Aquino in December 2013 to oversee the rebuilding of areas ravaged by the super typhoon.
Aquino approved the P170.9-billion Yolanda master plan crafted by OPARR. But the former rehabilitation czar told The Manila Times that he was powerless over the multi billion-peso budget allocated for the Yolanda-ravaged areas, without a budget.
“I don’t even have an office. No MOOE (Maintenance and Other Operational Expenses), without salaries for three months. I did not hold any single cent for the rehab but I never complain. When I accepted the post, I never asked the President what would be my power as this is humanitarian job,” Lacson told The Manila Times.
He said that when he left the Cabinet-level post, at least P19.7 billion out of P167 billion funds have been implemented.
The DBM was also recently criticized by Social Watch Philippines that pointed out rehab work in typhoon-hit areas may be delayed because of ‘political pressure.’
“Independent of media coverage and the approaching 2016 elections, the Aquino Administration continues the vigorous work of restoring normalcy in Yolanda-affected areas,” Budget Secretary Butch Abad said in a statement.
He added that as of June 30, 2015, the total amount of P88.96 billion has been released for the Yolanda relief and rehabilitation operations distributed through various government agencies.
“Our biggest concern lies in protecting the welfare of Yolanda victims, both in the immediate and long term. That is in fact reflected in the National Budget, which provides several funding sources for Yolanda aid. These fund sources are far from uncertain; they are at once generous and reliable,” he added.