Christmas in Lent: Roxas to give P4B for survivors
ROXAS CITY, Philippines—Christmas came during Lent for the survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in the Visayas.
Playing Santa Claus to his fellow Visayan, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said on Thursday the national government was making available almost P4 billion in financial assistance to the typhoon-ravaged communities of Western and Eastern Visayas.
The P4 billion is apart from the almost P1.8 billion in rehabilitation funds that the government has started distributing to typhoon-stricken cities and municipalities in three regions in the Visayas, Roxas said at an orientation seminar on the Recovery Assistance on Yolanda here.
“Advance Happy Easter. May you spend your money wisely to help your [constituents],” Roxas told local officials of Capiz as he handed over more than P200 million in rehabilitation aid for his home province.
The interior secretary, who flew here a day after distributing more than P800 million in rehabilitation financial assistance to Leyte province, announced a new initiative in which P1.88 billion for Western Visayas and P1.82 billion for Eastern Visayas in financial aid had been allotted by the Aquino administration.
Some towns in these two regions, which bore the brunt of the killer typhoon when it wrought havoc on the Visayas five months ago, are known to be among the poorest in the country.
Roxas said the almost P4-billion financial aid was part of the P20-billion Grassroots Participatory Budget Process (GPBP) project that is funded through the annual national budget.
The funds are meant to finance various poverty-alleviation projects identified and recommended by the local poverty reduction council composed of people’s organizations (POs) and nongovernment organizations (NGOs), he explained.
“Under this system, the projects to be funded by the government will not come from politicians and elected officials, but by the homeowners’ associations, NGOs and POs themselves,” he said.
“But not all proposed projects will be approved. They have to have a give-and-take system and prioritize projects that they have unanimously decided to fund,” Roxas said.
Asked why the multibillion-peso fund was released to the two Visayan regions at almost the same time as the rehabilitation aid, he said: “The GPBP is part of the General Appropriations Act. The fund will be allocated with or without Yolanda.”
“The GPBP is a new initiative that encourages people’s participation not only in project identification, but also in monitoring project implementation,” Roxas said in a statement.
“With the GPBP, no one will be left behind from the ‘straight path,’” he said, using President Aquino’s anticorruption slogan.
Roxas reminded the local officials that the rehabilitation fund should be used only for the repair and construction of public markets, city or town halls and civic centers such as gymnasiums.
He warned “epal” politicians—or credit-grabbing, publicity-seeking government officials who plaster their images and names on government projects—from financing the construction of welcome arches and other beautification projects bearing their initials.
“You should spend these funds only for their intended purpose. You should not use these to build welcome arches or other borloloy (gimmicks),” he stressed.
Roxas also reminded the local officials to observe utmost diligence and transparency in spending taxpayer money, saying President Aquino himself would be closely monitoring the use of the funds.
Tacloban got biggest aid
Mercedita Francisco, municipal treasurer of Dao town in Capiz, thanked Roxas and the President for expediting the release of the rehabilitation assistance fund.
“We are really very happy because we needed money to repair our municipal hall and public market. This is a big morale boost for us,” Francisco said.
A large chunk of the P1.8-billion rehabilitation budget went to 35 towns in Leyte province, which received more than P800 million.
Tacloban City, whose chief executive, Mayor Alfred Romualdez, engaged Roxas in a bitter dispute for allegedly politicking in leading the government’s relief distribution, got the biggest allocation among local governments, with P230.7 million.
Roxas clarified that all cities and municipalities nationwide and not just those in the typhoon-ravaged provinces were entitled to receive funding from the GPBP financial aid program.
Under the GPBP, each city and municipality may receive a grant of as much as P15 million to finance different antipoverty programs.
Roxas said the Aquino administration had this year allotted a total of P20.03 billion for 19,533 projects of 1,226 local government units.
He said the local government units “should be able to make the GPBP work as part of the rehabilitation and recovery efforts.”
Funds released on compliance
The program could also “boost local development through the active participation of community-based civil society and people’s organizations,” he said.
“[The] budget for the GPBP will be released upon full compliance and completion of the projects identified by the communities as most beneficial for them,” Roxas said.
In Western Visayas, Negros Occidental got the biggest allocation with P637.5 million. A total of P254.4 million was earmarked for Aklan while Antique will get P255 million.
Capiz, Roxas’ home province, was allotted P240 million, Guimaras, P72 million, and Iloilo, P426 million.
In the Eastern Visayas, Leyte will receive P632.3 million, while P75 million will be given to Biliran and P153 million to Southern Leyte.
A total of P272 million was earmarked for Eastern Samar, P369.44 million for Western Samar and P331 million for Northern Samar.
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