• Tacloban mayor unveils P3B rehabilitation master plan

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    A P3-billion master plan for the full recovery of Tacloban City, said to have been the hardest-hit by a super typhoon last year was presented on Tuesday evening by its mayor, Alfred Romualdez.

    The master plan, Romualdez said, will involve mainly the construction of permanent houses for survivors of Yolanda in a resettlement area that will be procured by the city government.

    It will also cover the rehabilitation of city hall and other government buildings with the help of the Department of Interior and Local Government, which has set aside P240 million for the purpose.

    The master plan, according to Romualdez, will also target economic revival, agricultural diversification and industrial and tourism development.

    Its cost, said Maria Adelaida Cea, regional head for United Nations Habitat, was based on “initial computation . . . that can be adjusted given the different resiliency features we want to introduce in projects [under the master plan].”

    The amount, Cea added, will only cover the projects to be bankrolled by the city government and does not include airports and highways whose rehabilitation, according to her, will be shouldered by the national government.

    “There are other self-recovery initiatives that can be supported by the national government and international NGOs [non-government organizations] to lower the cost,” Cea said.

    “But for the city to do its role, it needs about P3 billion,” she added.

    Six months after one of the strongest tropical storms ever recorded hit the Philippines, the government apparently has not come up with its own master plan for the full recovery of Tacloban City.

    Though physical signs of recovery from the devastation caused by Yolanda are impressive, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) said, much needs to be done to prevent the storm from continuing to exacerbate suffering in the country.

    “The Philippines authorities at all levels and affected communities have played a powerful role, both in the immediate response to the disaster, which included successfully evacuating hundreds of thousands of people to safety, and in spearheading recovery,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark in an opinion piece published on Wednesday in The Huffington Post.

    Clark added that roads have been cleared, 15 percent of homes have been repaired, with over 120,000 households receiving help to rebuild, and nearly all the damaged schools and hospitals have reopened.

    But she cautioned that full recovery could span a decade or more, and called for long-term engagement from the international community that focuses on more than physical reconstruction but also on building disaster resilience and reducing vulnerability to future crises that could deepen inequality and poverty.

    “Recovery is about more than the vital task of building homes and structures. It is also about building greater resilience to natural hazards,” Clark said.

    After the immediate-relief stage, she added, “real recovery can be based on building back sustainably and improving on what existed before. This is very much what [Philippine] authorities are planning for.”

    Romualdez declined to comment when asked whether Tacloban, capital of Leyte province, has been “abandoned” by the national government.

    “You know, when it comes to being abandoned I think [the best thing to do is], let us ask the people. Let them be the one to judge, not me. All I am saying, this is our problem here, we need all the help we can get,” he told a news conference also on Tuesday evening.

    Since the super typhoon struck in November 2013, thousands of survivors are still huddled in tent cities, evacuation centers and in makeshift houses in the city.

    “We’re also not the only one [that was hard-hit by Yolanda], it’s the entire [Eastern Visayas] region, even Cebu and other places were also hurt. Let us [cut the national government]enough slack . . . to get all resources together,” Romualdez said.

    Expressing hope that the government and international organizations would continue to help rebuild Tacloban, he said, “The politics, leave it to the politicians. I just [want to]focus on this [rebuilding of the city].”

    Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd had been accused of politicking when he criticized Romualdez’s handling of the unprecedented disaster just days into search-and-rescue and relief efforts for Yolanda victims.

    The mayor apparently has buried political issues and instead expressed gratitude to the national government even if the assistance it has given to them, he said, was not enough.

    He also thanked the humanitarian agencies for their assistance to the city and typhoon survivors.

    Yolanda is said to have killed more than 6,200 people and displaced four million from their homes.

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