• Govt allots P38.8-B budget for ‘immediate’ post-Yolanda construction in Visayas to be spent within the year


    Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Balisacan disclosed on Thursday that the president “conditionally approved” a P38.8-billion budget for immediate rehabilitation and reconstruction of the infrastructures destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) almost a month it hit the Visayas region.

    “These funds are only immediate and it comes from various sources. One component for it is from Congress [supplementary budget]…DBM [Department of Budget and Management] is also looking for [the PDAF]and they assured us that they have money for [the recovery]…it is purely government money,” Balisacan said.

    He also emphasized that the P38.8-billion “initial” rehabilitation budget would only be for immediate recovery needs, and it was only “conditionally approved” as it is subject to change because further additions to the budget will still be deliberated by the NEDA as they meet with international organizations and multilaterals for other possible sources of funding, as well as the president once again for approval.

    “We will have more next year when we have the 2014 budget,” Balisacan added, citing budget for short term rehabilitation fund to come in 2014 after the “immediate” P38.8 billion fund to be immediately spent this year.

    Aside from the P38.8 billion that will come from the government, Balisacan said, who is also the NEDA director general, that the international community were also providing immediate reconstruction efforts in Visayas at present.

    “The international community spends the resources directly, but we have an accounting system that serves as tool in monitoring [the international donations]. For some of the private donors and bilaterals, they go directly there,” Balisacan said citing the cash-for-work program that the International Labor Organization conducts that “goes directly” to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

    The NEDA director general said that they will give construction materials to families and households as “grants” from the fund, as he cited an example such as handing P10,000 worth of housing materials to families with existing homes for the reconstruction of their houses for “permanent settlements.”

    The director general said that the NEDA, together with the Department of Finance, are looking for the “cheapest source of funds” to be used for the short, medium and long term recovery plan not only from multilaterals offering long term and concessional loans like the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank, but also from other international organizations, bilaterals, international credit community and and all other financial sources possible.

    “It is cheaper to get from the likes of ADB and World Bank with long term loans and concessional loans rather than floating bonds, then you go for [multilaterals]…But we are looking [at]all possibilities. What is important is that the sources of funds are as favorable as possible to our macroeconomic picture because what we don’t want to happen is that the relief and the assistance we provide may turn out to be temporary because we wreck the economy,” Balisacan said, implying the government’s cautiousness on picking fund sources considering the macroeconomic fundamentals of the country.

    He said that if the government would not be “careful” on choosing the cheapest fund sources then it may lead to serious deficit and inflation problems, which can “collapse the whole economy.”

    “We want to continue the growth momentum as we speed up the recovery in Visayas, which means that we must look for the best sources of funds,” Balisacan said.

    Balisacan explained that there are four stages of recovery in Visayas: “immediate” which started initially after the rehabilitation and recovery plan was passed to the Malacañang on Wednesday—but is still subject for “refinements” and particular courses of action to be indicated in the plan—”short term” which will last six to twelve months by the start of 2014, “medium term” which occur 2015 to 2016, and “long term” recovery which would be undertaken beyond 2016.

    Asked if what will happen to the country if a Yolanda-like typhoon hits Metro Manila, Balisacan said that the flood problem is the “more serious” concern in the country rather than stronger typhoons, and that the metro should have “learned more lessons” from what happened in Visayas.  KRISTYN NIKA M. LAZO


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