We are three weeks away from the anniversary of Yolanda and almost three months since the plan rushed by Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery Panfilo Lacson. Lacson submitted to BSA3, last August 1, 2014, the P170.9 billion Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (CRRP) for communities devastated by Typhoon Yolanda.
The comprehensive plan, which has a total of 8,000 pages, allots the P170.9 billion to the following four sectors: Resettlement-P75.6 billion; Infrastructure – P35.1 billion; Livelihood – P33.6 billion and Social services – P26.4 billion. The plan covers 171 typhoon-hit municipalities and includes the P98-billion rehabilitation fund for Tacloban City, Cebu, Iloilo, Eastern Samar, and Leyte that was already approved by BSA3 earlier. Even a review of the proposed GAA for 2015, one can conclude that the budget framework does not take into consideration resiliency. The needed funding for rehabilitation and reconstruction is not even included in the budget submitted by BSA3 to Congress. Why is it that under the Aquino administration, Congress is rarely consulted?
Two and a half months after, nothing has been implemented on the plan and nothing has been made public re extension of Lacson’s office and vesting the same implementation powers or the creation of an Action Team to implement the plan. Nothing has come out of the submission, thus some sectors in Tacloban were saying what DILG Secretary Mar Roxas uttered during those crucial times said a lot in the kind of response the national government undertook in a province headed by a brother of Energy Secretary Icot Petilla with the highly urbanized city, Tacloban, under Mayor Alfred Romualdez.
Tacloban ranked among the Top 10 Most Competitive Cities in the country per the extensive survey conducted by the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center and released in July 2010. Tacloban ranked fifth overall, and second in the emerging cities category pre Yolanda. Truly, when compared with the support and reaction of the national government to the Province of Albay, with the impending explosion of Mayon Volcano, one can readily say the Aquino Government moves fast when the province is headed by a Liberal and an active supporter of Aquino and Roxas.
We are not even comparing capabilities of local chief executives. We are merely observing the differences in reaction and support by the national government. In Albay, no destruction has happened but in Leyte destruction is everywhere and yet reconstruction has been on a slow drag. It is safe to say that if a natural calamity hits Tarlac, expect all assets of government will be on the line. Lessons learned, if you are a loyal supporter of the BSA3 and Roxas, you get full complement. If you are a Romualdez, the doctrine to be invoked is “we have an Aquino as president.”
Such political doctrine was best laid out by Roxas when he stated, as a matter of fact, several days after Yolanda: “you are only a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino. He is being very careful in just taking over because he does not want anything to be misconstrued.” And the spin that was made was that the local government is the first responder (to read: blame Romualdez). True, but Secretaries Roxas and Gazmin knew the preparations made by the local government because they were there before Yolanda hit land. They were even incommunicado to BSA3 for the first 24 hours.
With Albay, evacuation has been made since mid September among residents within a five-mile (8km) radius. Authorities expect to evacuate almost all of the 50,000. Twenty-four days since alert level 3 was hoisted over Mayon Volcano in Albay, the national government pledged to augment the dwindling funds of the province. More than 12,000 families, totaling over 55,000 individuals, are in 45 evacuation centers all over the province. Albay needed P118 million a month for evacuation alone. By 8 October, Roxas announced in a presser that BSA3 approved the augmentation of funds to support the evacuees for at least 90 days, or 3 months. Over the weekend, six Cabinet secretaries landed with supplies, goods, etc. The difference from Leyte is that Gov. Joey Salceda is a Liberal and a loyal supporter of his “classmate” and Secretary Roxas. Even Salceda characterized the augmentation as “unprecedented.”
Will the visit of Pope Francis change the way the Aquino administration is foot dragging rehabilitation and reconstruction in the damaged areas caused by Yolanda? Will the Pope see the real situation or would there be window dressing?
As Charles Dickens aptly said, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
And someone said Makati was built by the Ayalas not by Binay. True, but there is another side of Makati, which the Ayalas never bothered building for decades. Why? So, are the Ayalas responsible for the yellow health card, the innovative education system where students only pay a thousand to get their college degrees? How about the adult education given for a very reduced rate? Truly the edifices of the Ayalas give one something to be proud of. But edifices are not social investments on human capital and they sneer at the other side of Makati.