Gov’t slow with cash for ‘Yolanda’–Escudero | Inquirer News
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Gov’t slow with cash for ‘Yolanda’–Escudero

/ 03:31 AM May 15, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—The government is awash in cash for the areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda, but designated agencies have been slow to use these to help the survivors, according to Sen. Francis Escudero.

Escudero expressed his frustration at the joint congressional committee hearing on public expenditures, noting that much of the amount that Congress had allocated for various rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts remained unreleased and unused.

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Addressing the administration officials at the hearing, Escudero said:  “Congress usually has no funds. This is the first time that Congress has been able to provide funds. In fact, we have given so much funds to you. All you have to do is use it. We have enough fiscal space for the first time in a long time, but you’re not using it, you’re not taking advantage.”

The 2014 budget includes P100 billion for the rehabilitation of provinces hardest hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda, the strongest typhoon to hit the country in recent memory.

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President Aquino should direct the heads of the executive agencies to step up and submit necessary reports or documents to get the projects going, said Escudero, adding that any delay was hard to accept.

“I don’t think it’s protocol, I don’t think it’s SOP (standard operating procedure);  I don’t think that it’s regular that it will take six months to come up with a post disaster needs assessment (PDNA) report,” he said.

The final draft of the PDNA has yet to be approved.

The Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) has also yet to come up with its master plan for the recovery and rehabilitation of the devastated provinces. OPARR Director Karen Jimeno said it intends to submit it to the President for approval by the end of June.

Escudero noted that in rebuilding homes for Yolanda survivors, the government still has a long way to go.

The National Housing Authority said 220,000 families need to be relocated.

But so far, it has turned over only 50 units to families, and is in the process of building 1,027.

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NHA General Manager Chito Cruz said the agency plans to build 150,000 houses, and intends to complete 20,000 by the end of the year. It hopes to turn over the remaining 130,000 houses by next year.

Cruz said the NHA has had problems in looking for land on which to build the houses. It is only using government land, he said. After identifying the land, it also has to survey the area and do a subdivision plan.

Escudero also pointed out that P1 billion each for school buildings, and over P900 billion for state colleges and universities have yet to be released as well because the projects are awaiting approval.

He said the funds need to be used posthaste, as the projects would really benefit the people.

“I hope the government officials find their sense of urgency,” he said.

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TAGS: cash, Sen. Francis Escudero, Super Typhoon Yolanda
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