Red tape haunts Yolanda rehab, say lawmakers

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 17 2014 05:14 PM | Updated as of Feb 18 2014 01:14 AM

MANILA - One hundred days after the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda, red tape continues to slow down government response to the disaster, according to Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez.

Romualdez, whose province was devastated in the typhoon, said the national government must empower local government units to conduct the rehabilitation of typhoon-hit areas.

"You cannot dictate from outside. Pinakamaganda download sa local, sila bahala mag implement subject to coordination," he said.

He also said he sees a slowdown of the entry of resources from national government due to red tape.

"Masyado marami red tape sa taas. Sila na lang dapat magsupervise. Download mo agad [ang resources], accountable naman yan. Masyadong hinahawakan ng line agencies," he said.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza echoed Romualdez's call to decentralize the reconstruction effort. He said the national government must learn to trust local officials to do the job themselves.

"The national leadership must devolve, decentralize and start trusting LGUs. That is the only way to do the job faster. Otherwise, aabutin ng siyam-siyam. We have to learn local autonomy. In this case, more than any time, let local officials handle the job. Not from Manila, not from the reconstruction czar and be accountable sila. Halal [sila] ng local communities nila. They will rebuild faster with full support of community, faster than anyone else. Kung ganun ang gagawin, matatapos ang trabaho kung hindi magtiyaga tayo."

Romualdez, who represents Tacloban City in the House of Representatives, said Malacañang has freely admitted that its effort to give relief and rehabilitate in the Yolanda scam has fallen short.

He thanked everyone who lent their support to the typhoon victims but said much still needs to be done.

"There will never be enough. It will never be as quick as we all want it to be. That doesn't mean we shall rest," he said.

The lawmaker sidestepped questions on how politics has shaped the rehabilitation efforts.

This, after his cousin, Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, earlier figured in a word war with Interior and Local Govermment Secretary Mar Roxas.

Romualdez also evaded questions on the propriety of government advertising overseas 'thank you' messages to all the foreign donors.

"Manifestation of gratitude, of thanks, normal yan sa Pilipino magpasalamat," he said.

Missed opportunity

The congressman said government missed an opportunity to get more foreign aid because of alleged substandard bunkhouses for victims.

Romualdez said donor agencies like the United Nations Development Programme could have donated more if the construction was well done.

The lawmaker said that until now, there is no final count on the number of casualties. He said corpses continue to be recovered today, more than 100 days after the disaster.

Romualdez pointed out that until now there is no count on the casualties, even as bodies continue to be recovered till this day. He said additional K-9 units could help solve the problem.

"As you're picking up the pieces, matatagpuan mo talaga yan yung ibang bumabalik, hahanapin ang kamag anak, kaibigan nila," he said.

He added: "Hindi natin naintindihan bakit dina-downplay. Ayaw maalarma. Ito pinakamalakas na bagyo, expected na mataas ang casualty. I'm scratching my head. At the very least, bigyan natin ng dignidad yung namatay," he said.

He also lamented the relief of Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria, Eastern Visayas police director, after he gave an estimate of 10,000 fatalities in the super typhoon.

Separately, Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Emmi De Jesus echoed today's calls from Yolanda typhoon survivors who marched to Malacanang to get more help.

"Sa pagpapatuloy ng One Billion Rising for Justice na inilunsad ng Gabriela noong Pebrero 14, kasama natin ang Yolanda survivors sa paniningil sa disaster president na dagliang ipatupad na ang nabinbing rehabilitasyon sa nasirang kabuhayan, at hindi sa pamamagitan ng pagnenegosyo ng Public Private Partnerships," De Jesus said.