TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – Half a month after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) destroyed billions in crops and infrastructure, the Palace began to study the budget for perhaps the Philippines’ biggest reconstruction after World War II.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday, November 21, convened a task force “for budgetary implications.”
Roxas said Aquino formed this team after meeting the Cabinet as well as the National Economic and Development Authority Board, “the highest policy-approving body in our system for the undertaking of projects.”
In a media briefing Friday, November 22, Roxas said it is “too early to tell” the amount needed, and any number now “is just a wild guess.”
“I expect it is going to be very large, and it’s going to take very long, because the damage, the destruction, is extensive, and the people will need to be sustained with their food and shelter while they are rebuilding their lives and beginning to plant,” Roxas said.
The killer typhoon damaged at least P12.65 billion in crops and infrastructure, killed at least 4,015, and affected over 10 million people, including over 536,000 with homes reduced to rubbles.
In a media briefing in Manila on Friday, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said Aquino formed a task group “that will present a comprehensive rehabilitation program.” The Cabinet will tackle this not later than November 27.
Petilla as coordinator
Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, a former governor of typhoon-hit Leyte, will serve as the group’s coordinator.
The following Cabinet officials will handle different priorities:
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson – shelter and reconstruction;
Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla – power restoration;
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, and TESDA Director-General Joel Villanueva – livelihood and employment
Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman – resettlement and psychosocial care;
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje – environmental protection; and
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Budget Secretary Butch Abad, and Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario – resource generation and allocation
“Local government involvement is a key component of the rehabilitation program and this will be coordinated by DILG Secretary Mar Roxas. The President also called on the active participation of all governors, mayor, and local officials,” Coloma said.
Funds available but…
This hurdle comes in the face of outrage over alleged fund misuse.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday, November 19, declared as unconstitutional the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund, allegedly a major source of kickbacks. (READ: SC junks PDAF as unconstitutional.)
The public has protested Aquino’s own discretionary funds. In its decision, the SC also struck down a phrase in the law that created the President’s Social Fund, which allows presidents to use the fund “to finance…priority infrastructure development projects.”
“We know that the monies are available,” Roxas said. “We don’t know how or what or from which departments, but the money is there. If there is in fact a need for a supplementary budget, they will make the proper appropriate filing.”
Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said international groups can also help in the funding the massive reconstruction.
“In addition to what the government can actually provide, there are many other people, other organizations, especially bilateral, who are very interested,” Soliman said.
Lawmakers have suggested using the scrapped PDAF to help survivors of Yolanda, typhoons Santi (Nari) and Labuyo (Utor), the magnitude-7.2 earthquake in the Visayas, and the Zamboanga siege. (READ: Use scrapped PDAF for disaster aid – solons).
Aquino has also broached the idea of using the Malampaya Fund, another alleged source of corruption, to restore electricity in affected areas. (READ: Appeal to Luzon: Conserve energy.) – Rappler.com