Lacson 'breaks laws' to hasten Yolanda rehab
MANILA, Philippines – In the absence of a master plan 6 months after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) ravaged the Visayas, Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo "Ping" Lacson admits he has to improvise to make some progress in the rehabilitation of affected areas.
"We are in effect, to say it undiplomatically, we are breaking the law," Lacson told reporters on Wednesday, May 7.
Lacson said he is still waiting for Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to present President Benigno Aquino III and the Cabinet the Office of Civil Defense's Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), which would be the basis of the master rehabilitation plan.
The OCD is under the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
According to Republic Act 10121 creating the NDRRMC, the PDNA must be submitted by the OCD a month after a disaster strikes.
Because of the delay, Lacson said he has taken matters into his own hands.
"We cannot wait that long. We cannot just sit around and wait for the PDNA. So we've done a multipronged approach. We did a cluster framework approach, bottom-up approach – all types of approach we've practically done to speed up rehabilitation, implementation."
Lacson said he is hoping Aquino approves his proposal to do the rehabilitation on a per province basis, so that a province with a properly vetted plan can undertake rehabilitation work ahead of those who have none.
"We advised the provincial governors to submit their respective provincial rehabilitation plans," he said, adding that some provinces already have plans for their own areas while others still do not. "It's unfair for those who are hardworking, those who are proactive, to wait for those who are lazy."
The rehabilitation czar also said that in anticipation of the possible gaps which he saw as early as January, he had engaged and enlisted "the cooperation of the private sector."
He said at present, 48 different private companies and non-governmental organizations are helping not just in infrastructure but in restoring livelihood and resettlement.
Despite the delay of the PDNA, Lacson insisted the government is on schedule with its rehabilitation plans.
"Six months after ‘Yolanda’ struck central Philippines I can say without mental reservation that we are right on track," he said, citing the absence of widespread hunger, an epidemic, or breakdown of law and order in the areas.
Lacson was appointed Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR) by Aquino to lead coordination of rehabilitation efforts post-Yolanda.
The former senator said the biggest challenge in rehabilitation efforts right now is finding resettlement sites.
Of the 216,966 housing units needed, there is only land for 26,000 so far. He said part of the difficulty is finding land that can withstand various hazards.
But aside from physical challenges, Lacson said his job has also been made more difficult by uncooperative officials both from the local government and the Cabinet level, repeating what he told Rappler at a previous interview.
"There are some who are dedma (indifferent), as if they don't care," he said.
"No matter how many calls we make, they don't respond. They won't even say 'We can't.' They just don't reply. Is that not frustrating?"
Lacson refused to name any names and said he has held off on telling Aquino about these individuals, saying he does not want to add to the President's problems but conceded he will discuss it with Aquino soon.
He also said of the 5 clusters is working with, only the infrastructure cluster led by Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson has submitted an action plan.
The others are the social services cluster headed by Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, resettlement cluster headed by Vice President Jejomar Binay, support services cluster co-chaired by Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, and the livelihood cluster headed by Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo.
He said the submissions of each cluster will be consolidated and added as part of the master rehabilitation plan.
'Yolanda is new normal'
Lacson said in rehabilitating the affected areas, the government is keeping in mind that "Yolanda is the new normal."
"This is now what we're looking at as the new normal. We are heading in that direction. It is unfortunate, it is tragic, but we should really prepare for calamities as strong as Yolanda," he said.
For now, the government continues to work on normalizing the lives of victims, said Lacson, and praised the private sector for its significant help in efforts absent of a master plan.
Among their achievements, Lacson included the following:
- Housing: Of the more than 200,000 housing units that need to be resettled and/or rebuilt, 182,843 are currently in the pipeline, both of the National Housing Authority (NHA) and private sponsors. There are 14,873 ongoing construction while 130 units have been completed by the private donors and turned over to beneficiaries.
- Education: Out of 18,456 classrooms that need to be repaired and rebuilt, 51 units have been completed while 165 others are still being constructed, also by the private sector.
- Livelihood: The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has distributed materials for 12,000 fishing boats. Private sector groups on the other hand, have donated 877 fishing vessels. Additionally, the expanded operation that aims to convert 6 million felled coconut trees into usable lumber has so far yielded 26 million board feet of coco lumber out of 277,039 harvested and processed trees.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) meanwhile, continues to provide relief assistance and food packs to survivors, while 3,455 families have been temporarily transferred to 265 bunkhouses constructed by the government.
Shelter kits have also been provided to 10,795 families to help them construct emergency shelter. Other programs include cash-for-work and cash-for-assets rebuilding, and the Mobile Civil Registration Project which aims to provide free civil registration or reconstitution of destroyed or damaged civil records. – Rappler.com