VP tells mayors they can seek foreign help directly
NAGA CITY—Vice President Leni Robredo told mayors of towns in the Bicol region hit hard by Typhoon “Nina” (international name: Nock-ten) they can go directly to foreign aid agencies for help in the absence of a request by the national government for foreign assistance on behalf of local governments in the region.
Without additional funds from foreign aid sources, Robredo said funds for rehabilitation either from local government coffers or private donors would be insufficient.
She said she had talked with officials of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and European Union (EU) and was told that a request from the national government is needed for UNDP and EU aid agencies to get involved.
Robredo added, though, that she was also told that UNDP and EU agencies are open to requests from assistance coming directly from local government units. She relayed this to mayors.
QThat is our problem now. Many are willing to help but because there was a declaration that we don’t need others’ help, they are hesitant to help,” Robredo said, referring to foreign aid bodies.
The national government had committed P500 million for agricultural rehabilitation programs in Bicol areas that had been hit hard by Nina, which swept across the region with up to 185 kph winds on Dec. 25.
Houses, not food
But Bicol mayors told Robredo, during a consultation meeting with the Vice President on Friday, that their towns needed help also to rebuild homes and give people sources of income.
The mayors told Robredo that they considered aid in the form of building materials more urgent than food packs.
Robredo said the 10 Bicol towns most devastated by Nina are Bato, Baras and San Andres in Catanduanes; Tiwi in Albay; and Sagnay, Buhi, Bula, Ocampo, Pili and Pasacao in Camarines Sur.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) had committed P5,000 in shelter assistance, for distribution in February, for families who lost their houses.
Robredo, however, cited the experience of Camarines Sur’s third district after it was hit by Typhoon “Glenda” (international name: Rammasun). The district, she said, needed more funds to build sturdier houses in place of the ones that Glenda destroyed.
Donations from private sources, P20,000 in cash from foreign donations to selected families and “bayanihan” helped survivors of Glenda build semi-concrete houses.
Avenue for help
“When we came back after this typhoon (Nina), the houses are still standing,” said Robredo.
“I am saying this because every typhoon, the same families suffer the same—losing their houses,” she said.
Robredo said she held the consultation meeting with the mayors to help facilitate help in their towns’ rehabilitation.
The meeting, she said, was attended by representatives from the DSWD, Department of Agriculture, Office of Civil Defense, Philippine Coconut Authority, Department of Education and Department of Trade and Industry.
The agencies gave the mayors lists of documents they need to submit to receive assistance.
One of the mayors, Leo Rodriguez of Bato, said at least 1,700 houses had been destroyed by Nina in his town.
“We need iron sheets instead of canvasses to help families rebuild their homes,” Rodriguez said at the meeting with Robredo.
Rodriguez said his people also need jobs and crops that could yield quick harvests.
Margie Arguinillo, mayor of Buhi, said her town also needed help to rebuild people’s houses.