MANILA, Philippines – While the crisis in Zamboanga City between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels and government troops is not yet over, President Benigno Aquino III gave assurances the government has the necessary resources to rehabilitate Zamboanga City.
According to Aquino, the government’s estimated amount needed to rebuild Zamboanga is P3.89 billion.
“This will go to housing, continuing relief assistance, for those who want to return to their homes, education assistance for students whose parents have lost their jobs, cash for work, supplementary feed program, temporary bunkhouses while permanent houses are being built, shelter assistance [and] livelihood assistance,” he told reporters on Thursday, September 19.
He said the amount would be taken from the contingency and calamity fund as well as other lump sum funds — which currently amount to P6.1 billion.
“This is just a rough estimate and what I’d like to assure the people is we have the necessary funds on hand already to take care of that,” he added.
Plans for rehabilitation between the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the National Housing Authority and the local government unit under City Mayor Isabelle “Beng” Climaco are ongoing, he said.
As of Thursday, or Day 11 of the crisis, DSWD reported a total of 23,794 affected families or 118,819 individuals. Of this, 89% were displaced and are staying in 57 evacuation centers throughout the city, while 1,790 families opted to stay with family and friends in safer places.
The President said the government plans to rebuild an even better community especially for informal settlers, that will include complete facilities such as classrooms, health centers, and common spaces like basketball courts and other sports facilities.
“So in a sense, it is possible that the community will be better planned because of what happened,” he said.
Aquino emphasized they are also prioritizing the “general welfare” of those who have been affected — making sure those who need to live on the coastline for their livelihood can somehow remain there, and ensuring the homes that are still standing are safe for residents to return to.
“We understand they want to go back to their homes. But are we sure there are no more ammunition left in their homes? Maybe there were mortars left behind. If they find mortars, do they know what to do?,” he said.
“So I’m asking for understanding from [residents], we know how wide the affected area was — we’re talking about 5 barangays. There is still some action there. But after that, our security forces will need time to ensure that when they return to their houses that are still standing, that they are safe.”
Return to Manila
This is Aquino’s 6th day in Zamboanga, after arriving on Day 5 of the crisis on Friday, September 13.
Before facing the media on Thursday, Aquino had been missing from the public eye for 4 days. He was last seen on Saturday, September 14, visiting refugees.
The Palace earlier said Aquino has had 3 meetings a day in Zamboanga: a morning meeting with Cabinet secretaries to discuss the events of the previous night, a midday meeting on updates of the day’s developments, and an evening meeting with the security team and his secretaries to assess security and humanitarian concerns.
Aquino said he will try his best to stay in the city until the crisis ends.
“I think I will return once the detailed plans to explain these are done: what is government going to do, for who, where and when. And I don’t expect that to take too long,” he said.
“I am both Commander-in-Chief and the President. Therefore, at the end of the day, everything is my responsibility, so I am very involved.” – Rappler.com