Soliman admits lapses in Yolanda relief, won't resign
MANILA, Philippines – No, she won't resign despite calls urging her to quit the Cabinet over spoiled food packs intended for survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
Secretary Corazon Soliman said she would rather work harder in the massive rehabilitation effort, while she admitted that her Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) at fault for the 7,527 food packs that got spoiled in transit from Cebu to Tacloban.
In a press conference on Monday, September 15, Soliman acknowledged that the packs, which cost P2.78 million ($62,775), got wet because the goods were not properly covered on the barge, which also got delayed in the docking.
The social welfare secretary took responsibility, but also appealed to the public to consider the bigger picture.
“These 7,000 food packs comprise 0.17% of the 4 million that we have given out,” she said.
“Sana maintindihan ng mga kababayan, noong kasagsagan [ng relief operations], lahat ng kumikilos sa departamento, sinisikap na maidala talaga,” she added.
(I hope our fellowmen would understand that at the height of the relief operations, everyone in the department was working hard to deliver the goods.)
Typhoon survivors have latched on to the incident to call for her resignation, but Soliman said she would rather work harder to respond to the survivors’ needs.
“Ayoko ma-distract dahil maraming kailangang gawin, patuloy kaming maglilingkod. Ipapasa-Diyos ko na lang ang mga kritiko," Soliman said.
She added, "Amin pong nakita, hindi naman po kami nagkukulang. Ang mga kakulangan namin ay tinatanggap namin at iwinawasto nang sa ganoon ay maunlad pa po ang serbisyo.”
(From our point of view, we have not lacked in effort. We accepted our lapses and we are correcting them in order to improve our services.)
90% of funds utilized
Soliman also said that the DSWD has already utilized 90% of the donations for the victims of the super typhoon – the strongest to ever hit land – that barreled across central Philippines in November 2013.
In a report released last week, the Commission on Audit (COA) said that a total of P782,012,090.71 ($17,660,260.84) in donations were sitting unused in the DSWD’s bank account.
Soliman confirmed the amount, but explained that the audit was conducted in November and December 2013, when the DSWD was still using government money to fund relief operations.
As of August 28, 2014, the agency has received P1.12 billion ($25.3 million) in local and foreign aid.
Of the amount, 90% have been allocated to different field offices to fund core shelter, livelihood services, and transitional shelters.
Of the balance of P117 million ($2.64 million), P54 million ($1.22 million) has been allocated as additional support, Soliman said.
“Ang nakita nila sa bank account namin, nagastos na namin iyon at p'wede naming i-account kung saan napunta. Wala silang sinasabing hindi namin na-account,” Soliman added.
(The amount they saw in our bank account has already been used, and we can account for that. COA did not say that we have not accounted for it.)
Service first, paperwork later
The COA report also noted that the DSWD Field Office VI did not provide daily and periodic reporting on the status of its operations. (READ: COA: Yolanda relief ‘chaotic, crazy’)
But Soliman said this was because the department’s social workers chose to render service first and file the paperwork later.
She added that the audit was conducted at the height of the relief operations, when the DSWD’s priority was to provide food and shelter to the 1.4 million people affected by the typhoon.
“Disyembre noon, kasagsagan ng operations. Ang mga tao namin po ay nasa mga naapektuhang lugar, namimigay ng tulong. Inuna po nila na sila ay lumabas ng opisina, magbigay ng relief goods, umikot para maabot ang lahat ng maaabot, at saka gagawin ang paperwork pagdating ng opisina," Soliman said.
([The audit] was in December, at the height of the operations. Our people were in the affected areas, providing help. They chose to go out of the office, give out relief goods, reach everyone affected, and then later do the paperwork when they get to the office.)
Even COA, Soliman said, acknowledged the difficulty of responding to the aftermath of the typhoon and the urgency to provide relief aid to survivors.
The social welfare chief also pointed out the ‘extraordinary’ nature of the disaster when explaining why the DSWD decided to use other available funds to purchase supplies for relief operations in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Region VI.
On page 35 of the report, COA said: “Due to the urgency of need, the DSWD resorted to the utilization of other available funds amounting to P116,352,088.04 and P373,187,252.42 to purchase supplies for the Yolanda Relief Operations in NCR and Region VI, respectively.”
Soliman defended the decision to funnel money allocated for what she called non-urgent items to the post-Haiyan rehabilitation effort.
“Dapat bang paghintayin ang mga nangangailangang kababayan na alam naman nating may perang pwedeng gastusin?” she asked.
(Should we have made victims in need to wait, knowing that there are funds we could use?)
Soliman akcnowledged that the DSWD did not follow protocol by doing so, but said that it was a decision necessitated by the circumstances. – Rappler.com
$1 = P44.2847