One last service from P-Noy, for ‘Yolanda’ survivors
As President Aquino prepares to hand over the presidency to his successor, may we ask for this one last service on behalf of some survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan).
The Citizens’ Disaster Response Center Foundation Inc. (CDRC), a 32-year-old NGO advocating community-based disaster management, has started a project, with assistance from Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe (DKH) of Germany: the construction of 303 typhoon-resistant houses in Barangays San Roque, Buenavista and Macanip in Jaro, Leyte. This is Phase 2 of CDRC’s shelter project. (Phase 1 involved the construction of 297 houses in six barangays of the same town; these houses have been turned over last November to the beneficiaries.)
For Phase 1, we got an exemption from taxes and duties, pursuant to Presidential Memorandum Order (PMO) No. 36, for the shipment of pinewood used to construct the houses in 2014. The processing of the exemption took only one day—at a one-stop-shop (OSS) set up by the government for donations to Yolanda survivors.
So, for Phase 2, we are also asking for such exemption. But there is no longer an OSS this time, and so the exemption has to be processed through different government offices. For this project, DKH sent three shipments of pinewood to the Port of Cebu, from where they will be sent to Jaro via the port in Ormoc City. The first of the shipments arrived on Dec. 9, 2015, the second on Feb. 3, 2016, and the third last May. We started working on the exemption for the first shipment through the Department of Social Welfare and Development on Dec. 14, 2015. We updated our request to include the exemption for the second and third shipments as we waited for approval.
From the DSWD, our request was endorsed to the Presidential Management Staff which in turn endorsed the same (Barcode: ES 1600229) to the Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) on Feb. 12, 2016. In April the OES referred our request/documents to the Office of Civil Defense (OCD).
This prompted Civil Defense Undersecretary Alexander Pama to meet our representatives and the concerned officers of DSWD on April 19, during which he explained that donated materials/equipment for recovery and rehabilitation are not the DSWD’s concern but the OCD’s/National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s (NDRRMC); thus the request for exemption under PMO 36 had to be endorsed by the OCD/NDRRMC/Department of National Defense. Still, the project implementation has to be monitored and evaluated, and this will be done by the DSWD, thus the need for the DSWD’s endorsement.
Social Welfare Assistant Secretary Vilma Cabrera was in the April 19 meeting and assured us of the DSWD’s support. The officials of the two departments agreed they will expedite the process. Considering that the shipments were for a shelter project for Yolanda survivors, the DSWD representatives expressed support to the call for the appropriate agency to waive the accumulating port storage fees. We have requested the Cebu Ports Authority as well to waive the storage fees. We have since made similar requests for the third shipment. An agreement has been arrived at in principle; we just had to provide the necessary documents (bill of lading, etc.).
Almost six months have passed since we made our first tax exemption request. Meanwhile the houses under construction are awaiting completion and the rainy season has begun; and the beneficiaries, Yolanda survivors, still have no permanent homes.
It is our fervent hope and prayer that our requests for tax exemption, as well as for the waiver of storage fees, be granted so that the shipments of pinewood to be used for their shelter project can finally be released—soonest. We and our donor (DKH), and its benefactors, have patiently waited for immediate, favorable action on our requests; Yolanda survivors in dire need of shelter have waited long enough. Please grant the exemption and help build their houses.
—CARLOS PADOLINA, deputy executive director; MALEN SERATO, coordinator, research, publication and information department, Citizens’ Disaster Response Center Foundation Inc.
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