MANILA, Philippines – The world promised the Philippines at least P3.11 billion ($69.11 million) in cash for Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors, but nearly 4 months after the super typhoon, other countries have delivered only a fifth of their pledges.
It’s time to knock on these countries’ doors, Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo Lacson said Tuesday, March 4.
In an interview with reporters, Lacson said the Philippine government will soon appoint “evangelists” to follow up on unfulfilled pledges.
“We cannot force them because they are donors, in the first place, so we can just appeal to them to make good on their pledges,” Lacson said.
If foreign donors cannot deliver 100% of their pledges, the former senator urged them to donate “at least a substantial amount.” “Kailangang kailangan talaga ng mga tao,” he said. (The people really need it.)
Government data show Lacson’s “evangelists” have a long way to go.
The Philippine government has received only P648.18 million ($13.34 million) in cash from foreign donors, according to the government’s Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAITH).
This amount makes up around 20.8% of the total cash pledges.
Idea from Indonesia
Lacson, however, said a similar scheme worked in the past. (Watch more in the video below.)
He got the idea of running after pledges from the team of his Indonesian counterpart, Senior Minister Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, who supervised the rebuilding of Aceh, Indonesia, after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.
Kuntoro, director of Indonesia’s Executing Agency for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (BRR), visited the Philippines in December 2013 to advise the government on rebuilding.
In a report prepared by the BRR in 2009, Kuntoro’s team said 93% of pledged funds actually went to reconstruction efforts.
Up to $6.7 billion got “committed to specific reconstruction projects” out of $7.2 billion pledged by other countries.
This “pledged-to-committed conversion rate” is up to 3 times higher than the average 30 to 60%, the BRR said.
The agency said diplomacy helped. “BRR’s head went out of his way to meet donors, sometimes in their home countries, to ensure that their efforts were acknowledged and praised. He also coaxed and cajoled donors to honor their pledges and to adapt their priorities to unmet needs,” it said.
‘Zero tolerance’ vs corruption
More than this, the BRR said fighting corruption was key – even as the agency admitted “corruption is endemic” in their country.
“Disaster agencies often face a shortfall between pledges and the funds that actually flow into the disaster-affected areas. While Indonesia was blessed by a very successful post-tsunami appeal for funds, reports of corruption would have destroyed the confidence of donors and threatened the continued disbursement of committed funds,” the agency said in its report, “10 Management Lessons for Host Governments Coordinating Post-disaster Reconstruction.”
It explained: “BRR took a clear, zero-tolerance organizational stance against systemic corruption, put in place internal monitoring mechanisms, welcomed external scrutiny of its accounts, and promoted anti-corruption practices to its external partners.”
“The results were startling,” it added.
Like Kuntoro, Lacson started his work at the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery on an anti-corruption platform.
In fact, less than a week after he assumed office, Lacson revealed that “unscrupulous lower-ranking officials” had begun to take advantage of the daunting task ahead.
Nearly 3 months later, however, no politician has been investigated over this because, as the police admitted, Lacson “never mentioned any name” in the first place.
In any case, the police said Lacson’s earlier statements have had a deterrent effect.