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Funds for storm survivors nearly depleted

/ 12:09 AM November 07, 2016
Many houses for survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” had been built by volunteers, like these men building a unit on behalf of the Prudence Foundation, which is building a total of 64 houses on Bantayan Island. —TARRA QUISMUNDO

Many houses for survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” had been built by volunteers, like these men building a unit on behalf of the Prudence Foundation, which is building a total of 64 houses on Bantayan Island. —TARRA QUISMUNDO

Government funds for thousands of survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” who have yet to get aid in rebuilding or repairing their homes, are nearly depleted and a ranking social welfare official said the administration of President Aquino is to blame.

On the third anniversary of Yolanda’s onslaught on Nov. 8, 2013, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) admitted that prospects are bleak for more funds for the emergency shelter assistance (ESA) program for Yolanda survivors.

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The DSWD said the budget for ESA is almost depleted and so far no new funds are coming.

Unassisted victims

“Many victims who have not received assistance are still coming forward three years later but the budget is almost gone,” said Assistant Social Welfare Secretary Hope Servilla.

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Servilla said ESA funds “will no longer be given” because only P30 million is left “and it’s not enough for all.”

“Of course the past administration is accountable for this,” she said.

Servilla said the DSWD would keep helping the survivors but in other ways, like providing them livelihood opportunities.

Families who lost homes to Yolanda are entitled to receive P30,000 each to help them build new houses. Those whose houses were damaged are entitled to P10,000 each.

Flood of complaints

The DSWD received a deluge of ESA-related complaints and appeals since Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo assumed office on June 30.

Assistant Social Welfare Secretary Aleli Bawagan, who headed the Yolanda funds internal audit, said more than a million victims received the funds totaling P20.7 billion, but hundreds of thousands of others have yet to receive the ESA.

She said the Department of Budget and Management has recently turned down a request for P1.17B for the ESA of 83,228 families in Central Visayas. At least 40,000 more families in Eastern Visayas are waiting for the funds.

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Bawagan said the P35.1 million remaining balance from cash donations and another P10.7 million in funds from the DSWD field office “may be used for ESA, but this will not be enough.”

She said the DSWD might ask the Office of Civil Defense for funds.

The DSWD released ESA funds in 2015, two years after Yolanda struck.

Then Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, however, imposed conditions through her Memorandum Circular No. 24 in November 2014 that disqualified families who live in areas tagged as “danger or no build zones,” who earn more than P15,000 per month and who have received help from nongovernment organizations.

Irregularities

A DSWD investigation found that discretion given to barangay officials in selecting beneficiaries led to irregularities.

There was also a failure to identify which families lost their homes and which needed help only for repairs. This led to families who lost homes getting only P10,000 out of P30,000 in ESA funds for building new homes.

Soliman’s memorandum was also interpreted in different ways by local government units, leading to the exclusion of many beneficiaries.

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Dona Z. Pazzibugan, DSWD, Emergency Shelter Assistance, ESA, Haiyan relief funds, Judy Taguiwalo, Noynoy Aquino, Yoland rehabilitation, Yolanda relief funds
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