Batangas governor: Funds for Taal Volcano evacuees accounted for

BATANGAS, Philippines – Amid calls for transparency on donations for evacuees affected by the Taal Volcano eruption, Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas said all funds received by the provincial government are accounted for.

Records show that from January 15 to February 5, the Batangas provincial government received a total of P33,748,234.05 in cash donations.

"Marami pa ring fake news na nakakasira. 'Yung mga evacuees wala namang reklamo. Kung mayroon dapat pumansin at unang dapat dumaing...'yung mga napinsala. Ang unang dapat dumaing ay ang mga nagdo-donate kung hindi tama, subalit nakita naman nila na ginagawa natin [ang tama]," Mandanas said on Thursday, February 6.

(There's fake news going around try to destroy the reputation of the provincial government. But the evacuees have no complaints. If there's anyone who should call our attention or complain...it should be those who were affected. The ones who can also complain are the donors if there's an anomaly, but they've seen that we're handling the funds properly.)

Mandanas also reiterated that he has not received any direct complaints from any municipal or city mayor.

"In fairness to the mayors, nauunawaan nila that they have a calamity fund, may direct din silang natatanggap from the national government, at mayroon din silang donations. Kung ayaw 'nyo gamitin ang calamity fund, ako ang magbibigay.  Kung may nagamit na kayo, I will reimburse," he added.

(In fairness to the mayors, they understand that they have a calamity fund, they also directly receive aid from the national government, and they also receive donations. If they don't want to use their calamity fund, the provincial government will provide money. If they've used it, I will reimburse.)

A few weeks ago, the League of Mayors sent a letter to Mandanas asking for P2 million in assistance for each municipality and city, a request that the governor said he would study.

As of Thursday, they were processing an advance of P200,000 each for the most affected municipalities of Agoncillo, Laurel, Lemery, Taal, San Nicolas, and Talisay.

"If you compare expenses, pinakamaliit sa lahat ang gastos sa quick response...rehabilitation malaki," Mandanas said.

(If you compare expenses, the smallest budget would be the one for quick response, and bulk would be for rehabilitation.)

Rehabilitation efforts

Mandanas said they are preparing temporary resettlement areas where evacuees can stay for 6 months to 2 years. The provincial government will continue supplying them with food and basic necessities while they are in these areas.

Rehabilitation will include the building of no less than 2,500 new houses for those who live within the 7-kilometer danger zone, and the setting up of their livelihood.

The Batangas provincial government owns several properties which are being eyed as relocation sites. These include 30 hectares in Ibaan, 600 hectares in Nasugbu, 400 hectares in Rosario, and a portion of land in San Juan. (WATCH: Temporary shelters eyed for residents displaced by Taal eruption)

"Kung saan sila sanay na livelihood, doon sila ilalagay (We'll relocate them to where they can resume their livelihood). For those who are used to fish cages, sa San Juan malaki ang frontage na may palaisdaan (San Juan has vast frontage for fisheries), so we can have fish cages there. In Ibaan, we can build a garment factory and nurseries for seedlings of high-value crops because they have agricultural lands," Mandanas said.

The governor gave an assurance that they will provide seed money to help affected residents get back on their feet.

A total of 83 schools will also have to be repaired or reconstructed in Batangas due to damage caused by heavy ashfall. (READ: Batangas sets up 'ash for cash' program for Taal eruption victims)

Taal Volcano remains under Alert Level 3. The unrest began last January 12 and is not yet over. (READ: Phivolcs: Fissures along Taal Volcano tourist trail emitting steam– Rappler.com