• Onsite probe on spoiled Yolanda aid eyed


    A congressional inquiry on the reported spoilage of relief goods for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda has been proposed in the House of Representatives.

    Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list noted that there should be an onsite investigation on reports of “truckloads of rotting relief goods” meant for Supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) victims that were allegedly being buried discretely in several dumpsites in Visayas, considering the account of a Municipal Welfare and Development officer from Palo town, Leyte that truckloads of expired and spoiled relief goods were dumped and buried in an open dumpsite in Brgy. San Jose, Palo on February 5 and March 6.

    Secretary Dinky Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development has denied the allegations, but Ridon argued that Soliman’s denial should not be taken as gospel truth.

    “The DSWD is hiding behind smoke and mirrors. We need to see first-hand what’s happening on the ground. Billions of public funds are being pooled for Yolanda victims yet little improvement has been observed. By Monday, I will file a House Resolution tasking the House Committee on Good Governance and Public Accountability to conduct onsite investigation on the matter,” Ridon, a lawyer, said Friday.

    “Even if Congress is in recess, there is nothing in the rules that could hinder us from holding investigations. And as the issue at hand is of paramount importance, we will urge members of Congress to investigate it during the break,” Ridon, a neophyte lawmaker, added.

    “The month-long session break will enable legislators to come to typhoon-ravaged areas and conduct marathon onsite investigations,” he added.

    Congress is in recess from March 14 to May 4, 2014.

    Ridon pushed for the probe just a day after President Benigno Aquino 3rd apologized for the slow paced relief and rehabilitation efforts in Yolanda-affected areas in a speech before Hope Christian High School in Manila.

    Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar, whose province was greatly damaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda, also disclosed on Thursday that the Department of Public Works and Highways is yet to secure fund releases for Yolanda rehabilitation operations because government agencies such as the National Housing Authority (NHA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), among others, lack coordination and have failed to address the choke points in resettlement and infrastructure building areas.

    “As for resettlement, there are those who were already able to buy the lot. The problem is the land title. It takes a lot of time to secure a land title with the DENR. The NHA cannot develop the lot for resettlement if the land is not titled. This is one of the bottlenecks,” Evardone, a party-mate of President Aquino under the ruling Liberal Party, said in a press conference.

    “Under such policy, how can you develop the farm-to-market roads, bridges and the water system when the land is not titled? Besides, the MGB, OCD have very few engineers who can validate the proposals for infrastructure projects made by the local authorities and even the SUCs (State Universities and Colleges). You can see why there are no releases yet for the DPWH,” Evardone added.

    Considering these factors, Ridon argued that the President’s apology cannot be enough.

    “Thousands of typhoon victims have already suffered and continue to bear the brunt of the government’s slow response to Yolanda. An apology this late in the rehabilitation period is not enough. What Aquino should do is to listen and grant the immediate demands of typhoon victims,” Ridon said.

    The Kabataan lawmaker was referring to the demand of People Surge, a group of Yolanda victims pushing for a P40,000 cash assistance from the government per family of six which People Surge claim would enable them to get back on their feet and save resources before rainy days come again.

    The P40,000 per family of six, per People Surge’s computation, would be good for two months alone.

    “If Aquino continues to deny these even-handed requests of typhoon victims, then his apology bears no weight at all,” Ridon added in closing. LLANESCA T. PANTI





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