PNoy orders Cabinet to work together on rehab
MANILA - President Aquino has instructed Cabinet members "to work together" in efforts to rehabilitate communities affected by typhoon Yolanda.
Presiding over a meeting of relevant Cabinet members working on the reconstruction, Aquino also clarified the role of Secretary Ping Lacson as Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery.
"The President called on everybody to work together given this perspective so that we will be able to, well, in his words, 'Secretary Lacson’s role is to assist all of us to do everything that needs to be done,'" Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said.
There was no discussion, however, of the alleged collusion to get kickbacks in the construction of bunkhouses.
Coloma said Lacson has referred the matter to the Philippine National Police for investigation, and that the President is waiting for the results of the probe.
Coloma also doused talk that Lacson and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson may be at odds with each other following Singson's insistence that there was no overprice of the bunkhouses.
He said the two are on speaking terms and pointed out that they were actually seated beside each other during the meeting.
“Magkatabi po sila at wala pong tigil ‘yung kanilang pakikipag-usap sa isa’t isa,” Coloma said.
“Ang gabinete po ay kumikilos na isang nagkakaisa at determinadong pangkat na walang ibang nais kundi paglingkuran ang sambayanan sa pinakamahusay na paraan.”
During the meeting, President Aquino directed the budget department to study the possibility of giving financial assistance to national government employees affected by Yolanda, “similar to assistance given” to those affected by typhoons Pablo and Sendong.
Budget Secretary Butch Abad asked Cabinet members to submit recommendations on the possible realignment of department and agency departments to address effects of Yolanda and other calamities which were not considered in the 2014 budget.
Aquino also directed the budget department to provide additional funds to speed up the cadaver identification and burial process.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima presented the NBI report’s on the identification and burial of typhoon victims in Tacloban City.
Aquino asked Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas and Secretary Singson to implement the rebuilding program for damaged local government facilities such as town halls, public markets, and civic centers. Coloma said that the project, which was approved last December, will cost P4-billion.
Aquino directed Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Mario Montejo to submit by the end of the month the DOST report on “simulation studies” of effects of possible storm surge occurrences. The DOST is also a doing a “simulation study on flood-prone areas along 18 major river systems,” Coloma said.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje said the DENR has completed the mapping and identification of a 40-meter no-build zone in Yolanda-affected areas.
Lacson spoke of the need to speed up the clearing of debris in Tacloban City to allow unimpeded rebuilding and minimize exposure of residents to health hazards. Paje said there are 30 shredders available ready to be shipped to crush the debris for “disposal and possible recycling.”
The deployment of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) rescue battalion is also being considered.
On the damaged schools, Singson said 832 school sites have already been “cleared for rebuilding” while the DPWH is awaiting from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) the proposed design for the “upgraded school facilities” designed to be “disaster-resilient.” The design is expected to arrive before the end of month.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona said “massive fogging operations” are being conducted in Yolanda-hit areas as the Department of Health (DOH) monitors and checks the reported spread of Chikungunya.
Aquino directed the DENR and DILG to coordinate with the Department of Tourism in the rebuilding of tourism facilities along the coastlines, including the jetty port in Leyte.
Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Jun Abaya said that his agency is also awaiting the JICA’s study on the renovation of the Tacloban City airport.