Audit sought on foreign funds for Yolanda areas

By Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at May 13 2014 04:34 AM | Updated as of May 13 2014 12:34 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The leader of the independent bloc in the House of Representatives called yesterday for an audit of local and foreign funds allocated to areas that Super Typhoon Yolanda had devastated.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said people have not yet seen or heard of any breakdown on where the money and goods went.

“We, the public, have yet to see convincing documentary proofs of how the money has been spent so far,” he said.

“We don’t have any idea where the money and the goods are being kept, who are the custodians, how much has been disbursed or distributed and for whom or to where.”

Romualdez criticized the administration for lack of a master rehabilitation plan.

“We will also ask for inventories and audit reports on the hundreds of billions of pesos in aid, both in cash and in kind, which were poured in internationally for the survivors,” he said.

Romualdez said he sees no clear data on how many shelters have been built and for how many survivors.

“Most of all, we have not seen any assurance that the aid is not being misplaced or diverted to the pockets or into some vested personal interests of other people instead of the survivors,” he said.

Lacson speaks out

Presidential assistant on rehabilitation and recovery Panfilo Lacson said the two Cabinet members who were not cooperating in rehabilitation efforts are now closely working with him after he had reported to President Aquino.

“They are now cooperating in the rehabilitation work,” he said.

Speaking to reporters during the weekly Kapihan sa Diamond Hotel in Manila news forum, Lacson yesterday said their agencies are vital in implementing various rehabilitation programs.

However, he declined to identify the two Cabinet members.

Lacson said rehabilitation work will start next month and construction of infrastructure in December.

Yolanda-hit areas will be classified as high risk, controlled and safe areas, he added.

Lacson said he will also push for the planting of high-yield, high-value crops suitable for the typhoon-devastated areas as part of livelihood assistance to typhoon victims.

Victims of Typhoon Pablo in Compostela Valley are now earning at least P90,000 yield per hectare planting bell pepper, he added.

Lacson vowed to unmask saboteurs trying to derail government rehabilitation efforts in typhoon- devastated areas in the Visayas.

Before he assumed his post, one of his priorities was to strengthen intelligence networks at the grassroots so he would know what is happening, he added.

Lacson said substandard materials were used in some bunkhouses, and that he had discovered that protesters in Tacloban City are not typhoon victims.

“They are not from Tacloban but from other provinces who were hauled by buses to participate in the rallies,” he said.

Houses built and repaired in Negros

A farmers’ group together with its foreign partner organizations made possible the construction and repair of 324 houses for fisherfolk in Negros Occidental that Yolanda had displaced.

Task Force Mapalad (TFM) specifically pointed to residents of sitios Diot and Matabas in Barangay Molocaboc, Sagay City as beneficiaries of the newly built houses and those that underwent repair.

TFM’s foreign partners are the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) that belongs to a Dutch aid organization, and ACT Alliance, a consortium of European donors.

The ICCO of the Netherlands linked up with ACT Alliance in their effort to go directly to the grassroots and transform the humanitarian assistance into a long-term development initiative among poor fishing and farming communities hit by Typhoon Yolanda.

Lanier Factor of TFM said ICCO-ACT Alliance is also keen on looking into four suggestions advanced by the people themselves on how to make the initiative fruitful in the long run.

Among these are mangrove rehabilitation, construction of evacuation shelters, building of windbreakers and livelihood projects to enable 3,000 people to earn decently and live with dignity.

TFM said ICCO-ACT Alliance will be looking into these recommendations, evaluate them and perhaps venture into several more projects for the people of Diot and Matabas.

A total of 178 houses had to be subjected to major repairs, 132 in Sitio Diot and 46 in Sitio Matabas. – With Perseus Echeminada, Rhodina Villanueva