• East Visayas needs a vision and program of rebuilding, not a czar



    First, a point of disclosure, so readers will know where I am coming from.

    I’m native to East Visayas, Leyte province specifically, and a small coastal town there.

    I was schooled and raised in Leyte by a family of schoolteachers. Until I left my hometown for College studies in the metropolis, Leyte was the only place I knew as home. the small circle of people I knew there—family, friends, relatives, neighbors, townmates— formed the boundaries of my world, until it was enlarged by marriage and children, new relations and professional associations built over the years.

    Growing up, I learned that typhoons were part of our natural heritage, visiting almost every year. Foolishly, as a young boy, I secretly welcomed the occasional visit of a typhoon or two, because they usually meant no classes and some special comfort food Mother would prepare to compensate for nature’s fury.

    To my lasting shock, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan internationally) was nothing like the storms of my youth. If you sum up all the destruction inflicted by typhoons of my boyhood, youth and adulthood, they would still not equal the devastation and pain wrought by Yolanda on November 8. That is how massive this disaster has been for East Visayas.

    A perfect storm
    To me, among so much excellent reporting on the event, the prestigious Economist provided the most concise and expert description of the typhoon, enabling us to comprehend why it was so devastating and overwhelming. It says in its report;
    “For once it was no metaphor but the real thing—a perfect storm in terms of its sheer size, its circular symmetry and the tightness of its eye. When it hit land, in Leyte and Samar provinces in the Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan’s ferocity set records. Sustained winds were 250 kilometres (160 miles) an hour with gusts of over 300kph—like standing behind the revving engine of a jumbo jet. But it was a 5-meter (16-foot) storm surge—an intense low pressure at the storm’s centre sucking the sea level upwards—that caused the worst damage.

    “The devastation is wide, spread across six Philippine islands. Some 11million Filipinos have been affected, many displaced or left homeless. With precious little aid so far coming in, it is the plight of the living that now matters.”

    We were battered senseless by a perfect storm. And now, we are challenged to come up with a perfect response in rebuilding our lives, our homes and our communities.

    Words are small beside the lives that were taken, the loss that so many families have endured and the deprivation that they have suffered, and the awesome task of rebuilding that faces the region and the authorities.

    Some of the grief and pain have been assuaged by the great outpouring of compassion from our people and from nations and charitable organizations from all over the world.

    The expert and effective foreign intervention heightened the anger and bewilderment of many over the inept, sluggish and chaotic response of the national government to the scary super-typhoon alert and to the massive national emergency in its aftermath. President Aquino’s careless words did not wipe a single tear or lift a sagging shoulder.

    The dead must be mourned and honored with dignity and respect, but the primary challenge now is how to care for the living, and rebuild homes, infrastructure and entire communities.

    Commendably, the government is turning urgent attention to the task of reconstruction and rehabilitation, in contrast to its earlier inertia.

    But President Aquino may have moved precipitately in appointing former senator Panfilo Lacson as rehabilitation CZAR, whatever that term means.

    Putting the horse before the cart
    Executives, engineers and professional managers with experience in crisis management, construction and program management, wonder if there is a clear program and mission for Mr. Lacson to implement and execute. at this point there is only talk about a task force, and rumblings about a supplemental budget.

    It looks, they say, like a case of putting the horse before the cart.

    Perhaps the President expects Senator Lacson to build the cart. He will articulate the vision, shape the strategy and write the program

    That’s a lot to hope for, because nothing in Lacson’s career suggests that he has the expertise and experience for a rebuilding effort of this magnitude. His biggest credential is a negative one—as senator, he did not use his pork barrel, as chief policeman he made the knees of criminals go limp.

    With respect to vision, East Visayans will say to a man that we have to shape a new vision for the future. We must not spend our time and energy looking back to the past; we have to look forward to a new day, to a stronger, dynamic and more progressive regional community. With adversity as our spur, we will venture to change our world.

    In his fine book, Turnaround, former Governor Mitt Romney discusses his key ideas as a specialist (Harvard MBA) in rescuing failing companies and managing challenging projects from start to finish, including a troubled Olympics.

    At the outset Romney stresses the imperative of articulating a vision. He then lists four key steps in his formula for a successful turnaround:

    1.Strategic audit – a complete review of every aspect of the challenge. The object of the audit is to get a good map of what is right and wrong in the project or business, what has to be fixed, and which things are urgent.

    2. Building the team – both in terms of selecting the right people and building unity and motivation;

    3. Focusing on what is critical – focus, focus, focus, and avoid doing too many things
    4.Securing a budget – raise the needed financing for the project.

    At the minimum, East Visayas today needs a program of rebuilding that encompasses the goals of regional development, disaster reduction and flood control, job generation and housing development, agricultural development, and the engagement of the private sector (domestic and foreign) in the rebuilding effort.

    Congress must pass a law
    Moving this forward will require the passage of a law, the approval of a sufficient budget, and the creation of an authority that will have the power to act. Congress must step in, and do right by the people of East Visayas, spurred on by the representatives of the region and the lone senator with roots in east Visayas—Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

    In the wake of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo and the damage it wreaked on Subic Bay and Clark Air Base, Congress passed the Bases Conversion and Development Act to empower government to implement a plan for the takeover and development of the baselands abandoned by the US military. The law created the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) as the implementing arm of the government for the development of the 262 square miles of Subic into a freeport and duty-free zone. The policy worked, with impressive results. Clark also thrived after Pinatubo.

    East Visayas needs a similar empowering law for its reconstruction and development Subic is one model to draw from. But There are even more compelling models from other countries that can be mined and replicated. There is also a pool of engineers, managers, economists and professionals who can be tapped to take part in the massive rebuilding effort.

    This will be the focus of my next column.



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    1. Ping is obedient toMalacañang that is why he is rewarded to such position after his stint in the senate, however his position is non monetary responsible post courtesy of Sen. Chiz Escudero who suggested that Ping Lacson can’t touch the money intended for these undertaking.

    2. Mr. Makabenta, your comparison with regard to the success of Subic and Clark reconstruction or redevelopment, can not be applied in the Typhoon Yolanda devastated areas. The area consists of mostly private properties, Subic and Clark are not. The government properties can be rebuilt, the way it is approriate and legal. The private owners have to agree whatever the government plans, or according to the National Building Code. A Czar is not needed, because we have the concerned government agencies to

      do their respective jobs. In other words, redundant position was
      created by Pnoy, for whatever reasons.

      created by P Noy. Consider the ADB plans to make a model
      community from the devastated provinces. This institution was orgznized helping other countries, financially, and I believe our government

    3. Gloria M. Kuizon on

      I liked “East Visayas needs a vision and program of rebuilding, not a czar” until the part where Mr. Makabenta mentions “the lone senator with roots in east Visayas–Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.”
      That sent shivers up my spine. The Dictator’s son and namesake may have literal roots in Leyte because he is the soon of Imelda Romuladez. But he has not spent any serious time with Warays, as I’m sure Mr. Makabenta knows. And it still strikes me and millions of other Filipinos that the Marcoses and Romualdezes are brazenly enjoying and abating our undemocratic political-economy by keeping their dynasties alive everywhere in the Republic. Mrs. Imelda Marcos is the congresswoman for one of the Marcoses’ fiefdom in the Ilocos and Bongbong is being presented as a Waray!
      I must, however, honestly accept that President Marcos’ vision (I don’t think martial law and corruption were originally in that vision) for the Philippines was basically correct. I should not have been torn up by Cory Aquino when she became president.

      G M Kuizon
      Novaliches, QC

    4. Mr. Makabenta is correct that there should be a vision for East Visayas, not just a rebuilding activity. But this does not mean that the kamay na bakal na tulad ni Panfilo Lacson is not needed to be the czar in implementing the master plan.

      Eddie de Leon

    5. wilmer andrada on

      We need Mr. Lacson not for his expertise in rehab but for his integrity , proven leadership and honesty . He can always form a team of experts and the best in urban as well as rural plannners, environmentalist, engineers, architects, landscapers and city scapers etc. All he need is to brainstorm his team and lay down a Marshall plan or a Blueprint for every area. that need to rehab.He will be at the command center and he make sure that all the projects are done with utmost transparency, proper audit, insured delivery,and free from under the table deals. However in the housing area where Vice Pes. Binay is the Chief , I doubt it if he has any vision and leadership on how to lift the lives of our jobless and hopeless victims .I have been pushing the use of our Army Corp of Engineers to help in resettlement and adopting the Israel model of kibbutzim. It is a form of a collective and cooperative system of settlements.This has been very successful during the early days of Israels struggle. I hope some politician will catch this suggestion . i think it will be the real solution to our country’s poverty..

    6. egfestin@gmail.com on

      Yes, Mr. Makabenta, “East Visayas needs a vision and program of rebuilding” but I don’t agree that it does not need “a czar.”
      I agree almost 100% with all the correct management and governance analysis you have made. But you miss an important point that was in the Manila Times editorial the other day “Wise and necessary.” There are very few Filipinos who have proved their ability and skill to focus on the work to be done and have the will to carry it out no matter. Lacson will even commit human rights abuses to get the work done! God forbid he is not prevented from that in Leyte and Samar.
      He has also been untainted by pecuniary corruption.
      The vision can be written by people like, Mr. Makabenta, and Urban Planner Palafox, with the help of wizards from the ADB, World Bank and even the Ibon Foundation and the latter’s opposites in the University of Asia and the Pacific.

      E. G. Festin

    7. I concur with your view, why is Mr. Aquino appointing a career politician for this herculean task. Visaya needs a builder and a visionary to take charge in rebuilding the lives and the community affected by the strongest storm in recorded history. May I suggest to employ the services of the US Army corps of engineers, there track records of success in rebuilding is outstanding.