US vows more assistance

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The US government will provide comprehensive technical assistance for Philippine disaster victims, including insurance coverage for people and establishments in disaster-prone areas.

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Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. made the announcement at a briefing Sunday, a day after United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon assured typhoon victims of sustained international aid.

Coloma said Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima had met with US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in Washington to discuss the details of the assistance.

Included in the talks, Coloma said, is “how to deal with and how [the US]can help in the area of recovery and reconstruction because we have been struck with many calamities.”

“They discussed how to mitigate the bad effects of natural disasters through what they call fiscal risk management in the concept of insurance. The reason for the insurance concept is to prepare for the onslaught of disasters and to speed up the recovery of those affected,” Coloma said.

He said Purisima himself will explain the details of the technical assistance as soon as he arrives.

He described the deal as “one of the most comprehensive technical assistance given by the US.”

“This is after the partnership for good governance where a huge amount was granted to us in the Millennium Challenge Account,” Coloma said.

The account is part of the fund for the country’s Millennium Development Goals.

Coloma said the technical assistance could still not be quantified because it is primarily the introduction of new systems and techniques.

“Having new equipment is possible but technical assistance is primarily for new systems and methods and personnel training, among others. That is normally what technical assistance covers,” he said.

President Benigno Aquino 3rd spent the entire Sunday visiting disaster areas in the Visayas and Mindanao.

In the morning, Aquino flew to Compostela Valley to inspect the permanent shelters for victims of Typhoon Pablo last year under the Department of Social Welfare and Development Modified Shelter Assistance Program.

“This is part of the 1,266 houses that were built for the people of Baganga, Boston, and Cateel in Davao Oriental and the towns of Compostela, New Bataan, Monkayo, Montevista, and Laak in Compostela Valley,” Coloma said.

He proceeded to Zamboanga City for a heads-up on the recovery efforts following the deadly attacks by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters led by Nur Misuari last August.

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson briefed the President on the Zamboanga City Roadmap to Recovery and Reconstruction.

With the President were Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras and Secretaries Panfilo Lacson, Carlos Jericho Petilla, Singson, Corazon Soliman and National Housing Authority General Manager Chito Cruz.

From Zamboanga City the President flew to Tacloban and visited the town of Palo, Leyte to oversee the turnover of the bunkhouses that will serve as temporary shelter for Yolanda victims.

“The President strongly believes that recovery will be fasttracked and the return to normalcy of the local economy in the said town and the entire province would be swift following the signing of the 2014 budget,” Coloma said.

More than 37 percent of the P2.265 trillion budget, or P841.8 billion, was earmarked for social services, and P593.1 billion for economic pump priming.

The government also allocated P100 billion for the rehabilitation of areas that were worst-hit by recent disasters. This is besides the P13 billion calamity fund that ballooned from the previous P7.5 billion.

The account is now called the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund.

Coloma said that by next week, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) will be releasing a result matrix on the performance of each government agency in 2012.

Over a month after Yolanda lashed the Visayas region, more bodies are being recovered.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Sunday reported that the death toll from the typhoon rose to 6,109.

Most of the fatalities were from Eastern Visayas, with 5,755.

Others came from Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon provinces), 3; Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), 19; Bicol, 6; Western Visayas, 250; Central Visayas, 74; Zamboanga Peninsula, 1; and Caraga,1.

The NDRRMC said 27,665 people were injured and 1,779 remain missing.

Close to 3,500,000 families in 12,139 villages in 44 provinces were affected, while 890,895 families were displaced.

The NDRRMC put the number of damaged or destroyed houses at 1,140,332.

WITH A REPORT FROM RITCHIE A. HORARIO

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