Probe of post-Yolanda rehab programs sought

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A congressional inquiry into the multi-billion post-Yolanda repair and rehabilitation programs has been proposed in the House of Representatives.

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In proposing the investigation, Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list, on Tuesday cited the United Nations Special Rapporteur Chaloka Beyani raising the alarm that victims of the super typhoon remained vulnerable to future disasters two years after Yolanda–the strongest typhoon in history–devastated provinces in the Visayas provinces and left dead around 6,000 people.

Ridon suggested that the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Public Expenditures (JCOCPE) immediately convene and scrutinize the Aquino administration’s use of funds meant for the post-Yolanda repair and rehabilitation programs.

“Even the United Nations has taken notice of the snail-paced rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts in Yolanda-stricken areas. There is an immediate need for Congress to review how the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and our national government agencies are handling the rehabilitation funds,” he said.

Section 99 of the 2015 General Appropriations Act provides for the creation of the
JCOCPE to “monitor compliance by agencies with the requirements and/or conditions under pertinent laws in the utilization of public funds.”

The oversight committee is composed of seven members each from the Senate and the House of Representatives , respectively, with one seat allotted to the minority group in each chamber.

At least P88.96 billion released for Yolanda rehabilitation has been utilized.

“We need to particularly look at how DBM also tapped funds in unprogrammed funds for [the]rehabilitation. The DBM earlier said [the]unprogrammed funds were tapped to fund various housing initiatives under the Yolanda rehabilitation program since there were excess revenue collections certified by the Bureau of Treasury,” Ridon pointed out.

Of the P3 trillion proposed budget for 2016, P18.89 billion is earmarked for Yolanda rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.

Another party-list lawmaker also on Tuesday criticized the Aquino administration for having built only 500 housing units out of the 21,000 units that the government was expected to construct for Yolanda victims.

Rep. Fernando Hicap also cited reports that around 132,000 typhoon victims in Tacloban City (Leyte) alone continue to live in tents provided by non-government organizations and international aid groups.

Hicap had filed House Resolution 669 seeking a probe of sub-standard bunkhouses, HR 947 (implementation of the “no build, no dwell” zone) and HR 1950 (damage assessment of Typhoons Ruby and Seniang on Yolanda-hit areas).

Anakpawis has thrown its support behind a demand of Yolanda victims for full accounting of P73 billion in foreign donations for the victims.

WITH NEIL A. ALCOBER

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