Binay: Yolanda rehab a 'management disaster'
LEYTE, Philippines (UPDATED) – Vice President Jejomar Binay decried the slow rehabilitation program for victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) as a "management disaster."
On the eve of the 2nd anniversary of the typhoon's landfall, the opposition standard-bearer campaigned in Leyte to highlight what he called a "slow, disorganized" rehabilitation effort.
In a sortie in Tolosa, Leyte, Binay mocked the statement of the Aquino administration that resettlement and reconstruction programs are 51% done two years after the tragedy. (READ: Super Typhoon Yolanda recovery halfway done – NEDA)
"Ipinagmamalaki pa nila na 51%. This is a disaster in terms of management," said Binay on Saturday, November 7. (They are even proud that it's just 51% done.)
Yolanda devastated the Visayas on November 8, 2013, killing over 6,000 and leaving thousands homeless. Two years later, less than 10% of permanent houses have been constructed in Tacloban City, ground zero of the disaster.
To explain the gap, the administration stressed that Yolanda was then the worst storm to hit land, and pointed to policies and procedures that delay rehabilitation.
In a press statement, presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe said she wants government to come up with "immediate and long-term rehabilitation plans" for areas ravaged by Yolanda.
“The government should avoid a repeat of the slow process that we saw in the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts for those affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda,” Poe said.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, a ruling party stalwart, said it took the US 10 years to recover from Hurricane Katrina.
Yet in a press briefing in Tacloban, Binay rejected Abad's statement as an "excuse."
"Iyon ba ang paparisan natin ang matagal? Ipakita natin na mabilis at magagawa. Dapat agad-agad, mas mabilis," he said (Do we follow slow rehabilitation efforts? We must show that we are fast and we can do it. It should be faster.)
Despite commendation from the UN on some aspects of the rehabilitation program, Binay said it lacked leadership.
"[Cabinet] Secretary [Jose Rene] Almendras told me nagkasigawan pa diyan. Walang tumayong leader at the time it was needed most," Binay said. (Almendras told me there was even a shouting match. No one stood as a leader at the time it was needed most.)
Budget not released?
Housing has been a key problem, with only 1,128 permanent houses built out of the 16,331 target in Tacloban. This left 2,000 families in bunkhouses and temporary shelter, vulnerable to more storms.
Binay harped on the problem, even if he was housing czar up until his resignation from the Cabinet in June.
Administration candidate Manuel "Mar" Roxas II headed the DILG during Yolanda.
The Vice President said the National Housing Authority could not immediately address the need because the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) supposedly did not release the funds.
"The explanation is multiple choice: a) maybe we don't have money; b) there was money but it was diverted to other agencies like the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government); or c) underspending is really the policy of the administration," Binay said.
Binay said President Benigno Aquino III repeatedly followed up on the funds in Cabinet meetings.
The problem, said Binay, was implementation by those under Aquino.
Abad has said that the DBM already released P93.87 billion ($1.998 billion) out of the P150 billion ($3.195 billion) required for rehabilitation.
While DBM balance is set to release more funds in November and through the 2016 budget, Binay still questioned the way the agency releases the money.
"Bakit pautay-utay? Kung ikaw ang decision-maker, may priorities ka. Apparently hindi ito priority kasi may perang dumating. Priority ay puwede kang kumuha sa ibang department. Kita mo ang naging problema ay paggastos ng pera," he said.
(Why delay the release? If you are a decision-maker, you have priorities. Apparently this is not a priority because there was money. You can get funds from other departments. You see the problem was underspending.)
Binay and his UNA senatorial candidates have been in Eastern Visayas since Tuesday and will leave on Monday, November 9.
The Binay camp repeatedly uses the slow disaster response and rehabilitation against Roxas, calling the region "Yolanda country."
In 2010, Binay won against Roxas in Region VIII or Eastern Visayas with 655,360 votes against 591,243.
Besides Binay, independent vice presidential bet Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr will join the commemoration of the Yolanda anniversary on Sunday.
Styling himself as a candidate of the masses up against "elite" rivals, Binay said he knows the suffering of the typhoon victims because he rose from poverty as an orphan.
"Alam ko. Dama ko. Laki ho ako sa mahirap," he said. (I know it. I feel it. I grew up poor.) – Rappler.com