‘Yolanda-hit areas rehab may take 7 years’

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THE British Embassy in Manila on Wednesday expressed confidence that the Philippine government is on track with its rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas greatly damaged by super Typhoon Yolanda.

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British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad said it will take seven years to fully rehabilitate Yolanda-hit areas particularly the Eastern Visayas.

“We are looking at seven years. That’s how long it will gonna take to get livelihood and replace coconut trees that were damaged by the typhoon,” Ahmad told reporters at the sideline of the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Seminar in Makati City.

Ahmad issued the statement amid observations of Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Representative of the United Nations secretary general for disaster risk reduction, that the reconstruction for Yolanda– affected areas is “never fast enough”.

Because of this, Wahlstrom urged the national and local governments to work closely on speeding up the rebuilding and rehabilitation of areas hit by Yolanda in 2013.

But Ahmad said in some cases where the damage is extreme, it takes a longer time to restore.

He explained that rehabilitation efforts have three stages namely the immediate, medium term, and long term rehabilitation.

“In the intermediate phase, some of the controversies laid are how fast were the bunkhouses replaced with permanent houses. Was water supply created in Tacloban? Those are legitimate issues,” he said.

Those questions and concerns, Ahmad said should be addressed by people who could hold the government into account.

He added that government officials and lawmakers should regularly monitor the status of the rehabilitation efforts to prevent any delays.

“In countries where the response is stronger, they go back six months later, a year later, two years later, to see what happened. They should go back to disaster hit areas to know what happened and to know what are the things still needed,” Ahmad said.

According to him, the Yolanda experience taught them the “real value of preparation.”

“In the case of typhoon Yolanda, we used existing protocol of the United Nations and our partners but we have greater experience in terms of working in the Philippines,” he said.

The envoy added that because of the attitude of the Philippine government, they were able to act effectively from day one, with President Benigno Aquino 3rd himself authorizing the presence of British ships and aircraft and military personnel.

The United Kingdom and Japan co-hosted the seminar on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR), an important issue in South East Asia.

The seminar facilitated sharing and learning best practices from both countries.

There were also observers from Australia, Canada, China, South Korea, New Zealand and the United States.

Major Toshiaki Suzuki, Deputy Defense Attachè of the British Embassy in Tokyo, said that as major donors and partners in Asean, the UK and Japan are working to build deeper understanding and capability in Asean— between governments and other organizations.

Both countries contributed to assisting the Philippines during the international response to Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013.

During the recent UK-Japan 2+2 Foreign and Defense Ministers meeting in Tokyo, ministers confirmed that both countries would deepen cooperation in South East Asia, noting that the seminar is an example of their first joint capacity-building collaborations in the region.

Ahmad said the output of the seminar will be presented during the Asean Regional Forum framework in Myanmar that will co-host with China.

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