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Abad: No lack of ‘Yolanda’ funds, scale of disaster was ‘extraordinary’

05:02 AM November 13, 2018

I wish to clarify the matter on the Supertyphoon “Yolanda” rehabilitation and reconstruction funding mentioned in the article “Lacson, ex-rehab czar, decries lack of ‘Yolanda’ funds” (11/7/18) by DJ Yap.

In the article, Sen. Panfilo Lacson was quoted as saying, “[Very] little budget support was appropriated to help the typhoon victims in the affected areas.” He also complained about how the Department of Budget and Management, under my leadership, “released funds in piecemeal and trickles.”

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I would like to point out that there was sufficient funding allocated for Yolanda rehabilitation and reconstruction. Before my term ended, we were able to release at least P105 billion for the Yolanda Comprehensive Recovery and Rehabilitation Plan for 2016.

In addition, we also provided funding allocations in the 2016 budget such as P19 billion under the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund specifically for Yolanda.

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Additionally, P25 billion was appropriated for the National Housing Authority for permanent housing and resettlement, P991 million for the Local Water Utilities Administration, and P659 million for the National Electrification Administration.

On foreign aid, we tracked pledges and donations by foreign governments and international NGOs through our website, Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH).

As of 2016, the total aid pledged by foreign governments and international NGOs amounted to P73,307,438,834.36.

The actual foreign aid received amounted to P17,233,297,910.67, of which only P2,472,099,943.79 went through government, while P14,761,197,966.88 went straight to NGOs.

It is possible that more funds were coursed through NGOs by foreign governments and international NGOs that were not reported to the Philippine government. We had no information, much less control, about how the funds were used by the NGOs.

While it may be true that the Yolanda rehabilitation and reconstruction wasn’t as fast as we would have liked it to be, I wish to point out that the slowdown was not due to lack of funds.

It is not true that the DBM refused to release funds to the agencies or that the department “released funds in piecemeal or trickles.”

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The implementing agencies themselves were also faced with a number of challenges in implementing Yolanda-related rehabilitation projects.

For instance, there were challenges in terms of logistics and accessibility, which delayed the shipment of goods and supplies to Leyte as the port and inroads were extremely damaged.

The extraordinary emergency situation in the aftermath of Yolanda also left agencies grappling with procurement issues, lack of adequate personnel on the ground, and many other problems peculiar to specific agencies involved in the massive rehabilitation effort.

Regarding housing provisions, for example, the beneficiaries wanted a location close to the shore, which the government couldn’t afford. The readily available and affordable sites were, however, too distant for the beneficiaries, so deadlock ensued.

We were fully aware of the urgency of responding to this unprecedented disaster, and we made every effort to provide funding support for the rehabilitation program despite the limited resources of government.

However, even when there were funds released to agencies, the reality is that Supertyphoon Yolanda was an extraordinary disaster situation.

The magnitude of devastation and the concomitant reconstruction work it required posed a lot of challenges that slowed down agency implementation.

FLORENCIO B. ABAD, former budget secretary

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TAGS: Florencio B. Abad, Inquirer letters, typhoon `Yolanda, Typhoon Haiyan, Yolanda funds, Yolanda rehabilitation
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