Pork barrel scam ghost affecting Yolanda rehab

By Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 25 2014 06:37 PM | Updated as of Mar 26 2014 02:54 AM

Funds, lack of 'master plan' major hindrances

Photo by Fernando Sepe, Jr. for ABS-CBNnews.com

TACLOBAN - The ghost of the pork barrel scam is greatly affecting the seamless distribution of funds for the rehabilitation of Yolanda-battered areas.

During the Donors Forum here organized, among others, by Germany-based aid agency GIZ, Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla said: "It's quite a challenge, what with the investigations on the [pork scam] so everyone is nervous to sign a check and with the private sector getting different perceptions."

Petilla said the slow process of channeling the funds to the needed rehabilitation programs is getting frustrating.

"We admit that it's slow…but I still have some patience."

He also noted "this is why we have to have a professional plan so that things will be orderly."

No one from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Rehabilitation and Recovery was present during the forum on Tuesday.

Petilla noted the funds for rehabilitation are available, but the requirements need to be threshed out before agencies, such as the Department of Budget and Management, are able to release them.

Kasper Engborg – the head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)– said it’s also for the government to “come back to us [with a plan], and how they want to see this coordination [so that] we can integrate ourselves into this national system.”

“We just have to wait for a bit to get answers from the top. We know who we can work with, but not yet how,” he added.

Discussions


In a separate interview, Engborg explained that there is no lack of coordination among stakeholders.

"The humanitarian coordination has clearly identified leads and colleagues," he said.

He believes that everything has to be taken "step by step. It’s only natural in these kinds of disasters. It takes time. Not any country, not even my country will be prepared for that kind of situation."

What he hopes now is for more funds from all sectors to come in. These are needed to support the rehabilitation towards a more "sustainable living" for the victims and their families.

OCHA was tapped to coordinate funds for shelter support. Of the targeted 300,000 emergency housing, the agency was even able to go beyond at 500,000.

It’s more of the transitional housing that needs to be filled up.

Only 30% of the target number has been filled up and the agency would need more funds.

Transitional housing is an expanded housing package for families. It’s a complete housing unit where families can “do so much more.”

He said these transitional houses are not actually permanent and “under no circumstance are they disaster-proof.”

Petilla does not see the housing aspect as a problem, especially with many donors coming in. He said there is also a lack of land property that can be used for the housing projects.

Nonetheless, both officials said the resilience of the people has helped the Yolanda areas come a long way.

“If you look at the transition, we’re far, far advanced than how Haiti was. The resilience we see here is far greater than other countries,” Engborg noted.