Palace still fine-tuning Yolanda master rehab plan

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 16 2014 08:27 PM | Updated as of May 17 2014 04:28 AM

MANILA - It took over six months to come up with a master plan and total cost of rehabilitation for the areas devastated by super typhoon "Yolanda." Even then, it remains a work in progress.

As of now, total assessed needs stands at some P104.6 billion.

Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma told reporters in Malacañang that the post-disaster needs assessment, which details the needs and costs of rehabilitation, was finally presented Friday to the Cabinet and is expected to be approved by the end of the month.

"Presentation iyon e ni Undersecretary Pama kung ano na iyong nakumpleto nung lahat ng cluster covering all the provinces. So approved na iyon in principle kasi marami ding mga supporting programs. Pero dahil the President was seeing most of those reports for the first time, there are aspects of the report na pinapa-fine tune niya. There are aspects of the report that require further coordination that's why he said: 'Mag-meeting ulit before the end of May,'" Coloma said.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Alexander Pama presented the post-disaster needs assessment covering 4 regions, 11 provinces and Tacloban City.

Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) secretary general Cecilia Alba and National Housing Authority (NHA) general manager Chito Cruz reported that since March 2014, construction has begun on 2,844 new permanent housing units, with another 5,760 units to be constructed by June.

A total of 214,367 new houses will be built until 2016, covering 1,301 hectares.

Land acquisition and development are expected to accelerate after the President approves the allocation of funds for the acquisition of private lands through expropriation or direct purchase.

Coloma said the full blast rehabilitation work will commence after the approval of the post-disaster needs assessment and master plan.

"President Aquino directed the Cabinet to act with an increased sense of urgency in finalizing the post-Yolanda rehabilitation plan, especially in view of the expected onset of the rainy season in June.

"As reported by [Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery] Secretary Ping Lacson, rehabilitation plans have been completed for Leyte province, Western Samar province and Cebu province as well as Tacloban City. After a final review session within a week, each cluster will be asked to sign off so that full implementation will commence on all fronts upon the President's approval; resettlement, infrastructure, social services and livelihood," he said.

Quoting Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Coloma said some P65 billion is immediately available for spending from the 2014 and 2013 budgets. Of this amount, P32.2 billion has been released.

Another P80 billion is available from concessional loans from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Japan Industrial Cooperation Agency.

Another P15 billion has been received from foreign governments. This is out of the P34 billion in pledges.

Coloma added that the resettlement cluster will meet again within a week to thresh out a new policy using science-based multi-hazard maps to determine safe and controlled and unsafe zones. This will address the problems posed by the strict implementation of the no-build zone policy especially in coastal and tourist-oriented areas.

Also approved by the President was the recommendation to allow local government units (LGUs) to realign downloaded funds for other rehabilitation projects.

Another Cabinet meeting will be convened by end of May to get progress updates as well as discuss specific contingency measures for the onset of the rainy season.

Today's Cabinet meeting lasted over 5 hours, from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Coloma clarified that the developments were not because of Lacson, who recently complained of the slow pace of the rehabilitation as well as the lack of cooperation from some Cabinet members he refused to name.

He said the delay was because the plans really needed to be completed first.

"Katulad nung ipinaliwanag ni Secretary Lacson, iyong pag-umpisa ay medyo matagal talaga iyon dahil inaayos iyong pagpaplano at nagi-gear up lahat nung mga government agencies. Tapos iyong nasa LGU level, binubuo kasi iyong plano -- katulad nung sinabi ko, binubuo for every province. Tapos iyong mga handa na, ano, may go signal na kaagad to reward them for their being conscientious. So iyon lang naman ang ano -- we expect that the implementation will accelerate and will be done at a much faster pace ngayon na nabubuo na iyong mga plano."

As for the uncooperative Cabinet members, Coloma said President Aquino reminded everyone to cooperate and intensify their coordination.

He also said the Department of Education (DepEd) is prioritizing the reconstruction of totally damaged classrooms in time for the school opening next month.

The government has been under fire for the slow pace of rehabilitation work after Yolanda left a swath of destruction in the last quarter of 2013.