Nov 162013

After reports began trickling in showing the overwhelming loss of lives and damage to property from super typhoon “Yolanda,” President Aquino announced a state of national calamity and approved the initial release of P1.1 billion as “quick-response funds” to enable the government to immediately bring relief to victims of the tragedy.  He also said that P18.2 billion in savings, calamity and contingency funds had been identified and could be used to help rebuild towns and provinces affected by the monster storm.

But with the death toll feared at over 10, 000 in Leyte alone, P1.1 billion in quick-response funds and the additional P18.2 billion seem like peanuts and can only go so far in rehabilitating areas devastated by Yolanda, considering that we have yet to get a full picture at this point of the loss of lives, property and crops in all typhoon-affected provinces.

In the farm sector, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has announced an initial farm damage estimate of at least P3.7 billion.

In these difficult times, the President’s contingency and other forms  of  discretionary funds truly serve their primary purpose of collectively being a standby facility to swiftly provide aid to those urgently in need of government assistance.

The losses suffered due to monster Typhoon Yolanda, which slammed the Visayas region only a few weeks after Bohol and Cebu reeled from a massive 7.2 magnitude earthquake,  has given Malacañang a strong argument on the necessity of the President’s discretionary funds.  The catastrophic Yolanda struck at a time when relief operations in the quake-hit areas of Bohol and Cebu were still ongoing, sending the allocation of government resources on overdrive.

The political opposition in the House has proposed a P25 billion rehabilitation program for the entire Central Visayas region ravaged by the earthquake, which  left over 200 people dead, close to a thousand injured and more than 348,000 displaced. More than 73,000 structures, including centuries-old Catholic churches and other historic sites, were destroyed or damaged.

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Yolanda, one of the most powerful typhoons recorded in history,  is believed to have killed at least 10,000 people in Leyte alone—making it the country’s deadliest natural disaster in history.

Nobody can give a respectable estimate at this time because roads remain impassable, communication lines are down and even regional and local officials on the ground responsible for rescue, relief and monitoring operations have themselves become casualties.

The humanitarian arm of the United Nations estimates that some 4.3 million people in 36 Philippine provinces were affected by the monster storm. Similar to initial estimates by officials here, the UN agency also believes that more than 300,000 were displaced when Yolanda ripped through the Visayas region.

And to think that one or two more typhoons are expected to hit the Philippines before the year ends.

The President’s discretionary fund, much like the Calamity Fund, serves the purpose of funding projects and programs that require the government’s immediate attention. If the President had no discretionary funds as his disposal, then the people of Bohol and Leyte would have to wait for either Congress to pass a law to fund the rehabilitation efforts in their respective provinces, or worse, wait for the next budget to be approved and enacted in 2014.

The President’s discretionary funds include savings generated by the government  and unprogrammed funds, as well as other excess funds that were the result of windfall revenue collections, remittances from GOCCs and government financial institutions, and sale of state assets.

Not so hidden agenda

Millennium Challenge Account-Philippines (MCA-P) extends its deepest sympathy to the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda, including the people of Eastern Visayas where their Secondary National Roads Development Project and some KALAHI–CIDSS sub-projects are located.  These projects, funded by the American people through the US Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), are focused on reducing poverty through economic growth in the project areas. MCA-P has started working with its contractors to help clear sections of the Samar road.

Mike Toledo of the MVP Group of Companies has just relayed this good news. Maynilad has ordered five new water treatment machines arriving in the next few days. These will be deployed in Tacloban right away and Maynilad is working closely with the local water districts. In the meantime, the company has sent water as well as experts to rehabilitate their water treatment plants. The term goal is to fix the water system.

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