More foreign aid eyed for post-typhoon rehab

By Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at Nov 30 2013 02:08 AM | Updated as of Nov 30 2013 10:09 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The government intends to seek more foreign grants and aid for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of towns and cities devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

It is scheduling before the end of the year a donor pledging session where multilateral agencies like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) and foreign governments would be invited, according to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad. “This will allow us to get more loans and grants,” he said.

The planned pledging conference is similar to a forum organized by the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino shortly after many Central Luzon communities were flattened by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991.

Mrs. Aquino subsequently created a commission to manage the funds and the rebuilding of Central Luzon.

Abad did not say how much the nation intends to raise from the planned donor pledging session.

However, he said the World Bank has already offered nearly $1 billion in “much more concessional than the usually concessional loans.”

“Repayment will be at least 30 years and the loans will carry an interest rate of less than one percent (per year). This means that they will be more in the nature of grants than loans,” he told congressmen.

He said the ADB, on the other hand, has offered $500 million in loans and $23 million in grants.

“Together, the World Bank and ADB offers would amount to P66 billion at P43 to the dollar,” he said.

He said foreign assistance that has arrived in the country for typhoon victims is mostly in kind and in the form of relief goods rather than in cash.

He stressed that the government would need cash for the rehabilitation and reconstruction program, which he pointed out would take years to finish.

National agencies involved in such program have proposed a funding of P109 billion.

President Aquino has authorized the use of an additional P39 billion for relief and rebuilding efforts.

Abad said distribution of relief goods would continue to “its fullest extent” up to the end of the year, but would start to “taper off” in January.

He said the government would then focus on providing typhoon victims with means of livelihood and rebuilding their communities.

On Thursday, Abad, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan met with an initial group of representatives of prospective foreign donors to brief them on the rehabilitation program and its funding requirements.

Treasury account

At the House of Representatives, members of the so-called independent bloc urged Malacañang yesterday to create a special “multi-currency” treasury account for all donations for calamity victims coming from foreign governments and private organizations.

“The public is calling for transparency and accountability, and concerns have been raised regarding the possibility of such donations being utilized for projects not related to relief and rehabilitation efforts for victims of Typhoon Yolanda and other calamities or worse, that the donations might be spent on some other unrelated purposes,” Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, the acknowledged leader of the bloc, said.

Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento, for his part, urged prospective donors to give cash instead of goods because of the varying requirements of the various devastated areas.

“There are some areas that are desperate for food and water but there are also some that would rather get some help for the repair of their boats and their homes. What we need to do is to provide them with what they need at this point,” Sarmiento said.


‘Overwhelming’ response

In Chicago, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. said the United Nations’ flash appeal for $348 million in aid for rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts in areas ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda is getting good response from the international community as “more donations are still coming in.”

In an interview over the weekend, Cuisia cited the “tremendous and overwhelming” response to the appeal and thanked the donors for their sympathy and generosity.

Cuisia received the International Award in Public Service and the Man of the Year 2013 award sponsored by Via Times publication and Chicago Philippine Reports TV.

Cuisia also appealed to donors to donate checks, not cash, and only online to selected organizations like the Philippine Red Cross, Gawad Kalinga, Filipino US Society and other non-profit organizations, which issue receipts.

Meanwhile, USAID assistant administrator Nancy Lindborg said she is worried about how typhoon survivors would cope when world attention on their plight wanes. Lindborg visited Leyte eight days after the disaster.

The UN is encouraging non-government organizations (NGO) to expand their work beyond Tacloban to other typhoon-affected areas. The flash appeal by UN was initially for $301 million and was later raised to $348 million. A flash appeal for more cash is expected on Dec. 9, depending on results of further assessments being made.

The UN World Food Program delivered 18 mobile storage units last week to Tacloban to increase warehouse space for relief goods.

More help arrives

Germany, meanwhile, has pledged P950 million (16 million euros) for reconstruction and rebuilding in addition to its earlier contribution of P1.35 billion.

The German government pledged the amount through its Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

BMZ federal minister Dirk Niebel said the funds committed were intended for medium- and long-term rehabilitation of several areas in the Visayas, specifically for rebuilding of schools, hospitals and municipal infrastructure, as well for the implementation of disaster prevention measures.

Some 20 disaster relief specialists also arrived from Japan to help in the humanitarian efforts. Composed mostly of doctors and nurses, the Japanese brought with them assorted medicine such as vaccines and medical instruments for Tacloban.

Also yesterday, 15 members of the Tzu Chi Foundation of Taiwan arrived with relief goods consisting of instant rice, vegetable noodles and assorted medicine for Tacloban.

The Turkish government, on the other hand, donated 40 units of tablet computers to the Department of Education (DepEd).

The DepEd received the 40 Samsung T2100 Galaxy Tab3 7.0 Wi-Fi tablets from the embassy of Turkey, which said that the units were “for the purpose of capturing, retrieving, and restoring files of employees and student records both in offices and in schools.” With Helen Flores, Rudy Santos, Pia Lee-Brago, Michelle Zoleta, Joseph Lariosa, Paolo Romero