VICTIMS STILL HOMELESS: YOLANDA HOUSING MIRED IN RED TAPE

The national government has not built a single permanent housing unit out of the 7,600 needed for the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda, nor has it released a single centavo to build 3,853 temporary shelters or bunkhouses, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Mayor Alfred Romualdez said Sunday. Mayor Romualdez estimated that some P3.35 billion will be needed to build the permanent and temporary houses at P200,000 and P40,000 each, respectively. Seven months after the killer storm struck, red tape is slowing down rebuilding efforts, despite the appointment of former senator Panfilo Lacson as the rehabilitation czar. Lacson on Sunday denied the charges. “Not true. They better check their facts. My office’s database says that of the 182,731 housing units that both the public and private sectors have pledged to build, 15,861 are either under construction or have been completed,” Lacson said in a text message. “In Estancia, Iloilo alone, Ayala Foundation is scheduled to turn over 120 housing units. In Tanauan, I was witness to the turn over of 20 units to direct beneficiaries last month. Another 20 units were likewise turned over a week later,” he added. Lacson said the slow pace of recovery in Tacloban City does not reflect the entire Yolanda corridor. “I was in Javier, Leyte last Wednesday. The traces of devastation from Yolanda are almost gone. There are other towns and cities along the corridor that are similarly rebuilding fast and with remarkable efficiency. Tacloban City is not the corridor. There are 170 other localities hit by Yolanda,” Lacson added. But the Romualdezes bemoaned the slow progress in Tacloban, which suffered the most during the storm. Records released by the city government show a total of 4,853 temporary housing units and 14,433 permanent housing units are needed for the city’s typhoon-affected population. READ MORE...

(ALSO) Palace: No red tape in Yolanda rehab

Malacañang yesterday denied allegations that red tape has delayed the rehabilitation of areas ravaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government is just complying with procedures required by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act. “There is no red tape. The procedures provided under the law are just being followed,” Coloma said. He said among the requirements set by the law is the crafting of post-disaster needs assessment by affected provinces and cities. Such assessment would allow local authorities to create work programs and allot funds for the rehabilitation program, Coloma said. Some lawmakers and local officials complained that red tape is slowing down the rebuilding of typhoon-hit areas. Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez said the national government should distribute to local government the cash donations to address the needs of typhoon survivors. Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., for his part, said the government should reduce red tape, noting the affected residents are suffering while officials are holding debates on rehabilitation efforts. Sen. Pia Cayetano, meanwhile, criticized the budget department for the supposed delay in the disbursement of funds allotted for the rehabilitation of schools damaged by the typhoon. Responding to critics, Coloma said even the World Bank, a multilateral lender that provides assistance to the Philippines, had cited the government’s progress in its rehabilitation efforts. “Perhaps they should reexamine the basis of what they are saying,” he said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Government urged to prepare for extended dry season

The government was urged yesterday to prepare for the extended dry season that could result in economic losses due to water shortage and power outages in the coming months. In his appeal, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said the rapid depletion of water supply in dams is causing huge damage to agricultural crops and farmlands in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. “A national disaster program to mitigate the effects of the El Niño phenomenon is imperative. Doing nothing and letting nature take its course is criminal negligence,” Albano said. He said other than seeking divine intercession, the government should step in now and put into place emergency water supply projects and assistance programs for farmers to counter the devastating effects of El Niño. Albano said aside from extended dry season, the government should prepare for typhoons that are projected to be stronger than usual because of El Niño. He said concerned state agencies such as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Departments of Agriculture and Energy have not announced any preparations that they are doing. Albano, whose province has been identified by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics as having experienced dry spells, expressed fear for rural farming communities all over the country, whose dependence on reliable water supply is now being threatened. He voiced concern for rice farmers not only in Isabela but those in Cagayan, Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija as well. READ MORE...

ALSO: Metro, Luzon heat eases but Pagasa warns of hot spell in June

Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon experienced a respite from high temperatures on Sunday but the weather bureau said that it could still grow hotter until the first week of June.
Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) forecasters said that with the easterlies still in effect, they have not seen the end of the dry season. Forecaster Buddy Javier said that on Sunday, the highest temperature in Metro Manila was at 34.5 degrees Celsius at 2:50 p.m. compared to Saturday’s sweltering 36.7 degrees Celsius. Javier explained that temperatures slightly dropped in Luzon, including the National Capital Region, because of partly cloudy skies and the formation of thunderstorms. He added that it was normal for temperatures to fluctuate during the dry season. The temperature at around 2 p.m. in Tuguegarao City, where it was historically hottest at 42.2 degrees Celsius in 1969, was recorded at 37.5 degrees Celsius on Sunday, while in Isabela, the temperature at 2 p.m. reached 35.3 degrees Celsius. Pagasa’s Subic station recorded a temperature of 34.9 degrees Celsius at around 2 p.m., while in Cabanatuan City, the temperature was at 33.6 degrees Celsius.READ MORE...

ALSO: Pope takes pilgrimage to Bethlehem

Pope Francis arrived in Bethlehem Sunday to begin the most sensitive part of his three-day Middle East tour aimed at easing an ancient rift with Orthodox Christians and forging regional peace.He made the short trip from Amman, where he began his visit Saturday, aboard a Jordanian military helicopter.The pontiff appeared tired as he was helped down the steps to a red carpet welcome from local Palestinian officials and priests.Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas received him at his palace with a warm embrace. Francis, who made an urgent appeal Saturday to end the bloodshed in Syria, has now taken his “pilgrimage of prayer” to the Palestinian territories. There he was to celebrate mass with 10,000 people in Bethlehem’s packed Manger Square, near the site of Jesus’ birthplace. He was scheduled to travel to Israel later Sunday. Although Francis himself has said it will be a “purely religious trip,” both Israel and the Palestinians will be looking to use the visit to score a few political points.
The Vatican said the main reason for the visit was a meeting in Jerusalem with Bartholomew I, the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, seeking to heal a nearly 1,000-year rift between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. But ahead of the trip, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin defended the Palestinians’ right to a “sovereign and independent” homeland and said he hoped Francis’s visit would lead to “courageous decisions” for peace. Since dawn, Catholic pilgrims filed past security barriers into Manger Square. The scene was dominated by stage where the pope was to say mass, decked with huge Palestinian and Vatican flags and adorned with a giant tableau depicting the birth of Jesus. To get there, the crowd-loving pope will drive through the city in an open-top car, raising security concerns in a region racked by political and religious strife. READ MORE...


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Victims still homeless;
Yolanda housing mired in red tape — LGUs

TACLOBAN CITY, MAY 26, 2014 (MANILA STANDARD) By Christine F. Herrera, Joyce P. Pañares, Macon R. Araneta—The national government has not built a single permanent housing unit out of the 7,600 needed for the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda, nor has it released a single centavo to build 3,853 temporary shelters or bunkhouses, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Mayor Alfred Romualdez said Sunday.

Mayor Romualdez estimated that some P3.35 billion will be needed to build the permanent and temporary houses at P200,000 and P40,000 each, respectively.

Seven months after the killer storm struck, red tape is slowing down rebuilding efforts, despite the appointment of former senator Panfilo Lacson as the rehabilitation czar.

Lacson on Sunday denied the charges.

“Not true. They better check their facts. My office’s database says that of the 182,731 housing units that both the public and private sectors have pledged to build, 15,861 are either under construction or have been completed,” Lacson said in a text message.

“In Estancia, Iloilo alone, Ayala Foundation is scheduled to turn over 120 housing units. In Tanauan, I was witness to the turn over of 20 units to direct beneficiaries last month. Another 20 units were likewise turned over a week later,” he added.

Lacson said the slow pace of recovery in Tacloban City does not reflect the entire Yolanda corridor.

“I was in Javier, Leyte last Wednesday. The traces of devastation from Yolanda are almost gone. There are other towns and cities along the corridor that are similarly rebuilding fast and with remarkable efficiency. Tacloban City is not the corridor. There are 170 other localities hit by Yolanda,” Lacson added.

But the Romualdezes bemoaned the slow progress in Tacloban, which suffered the most during the storm.

Records released by the city government show a total of 4,853 temporary housing units and 14,433 permanent housing units are needed for the city’s typhoon-affected population.

It said that of the total temporary houses needed, some 1,000 units had been committed to be built by private donors.

Of the permanent housing needed, 1,233 have been committed through memoranda of agreement and 5,600 units have been pledged by various groups.

“Majority of the bunkhouses that you see here were built by the private sector and international donors. We are grateful to them,” Mayor Romualdez said.

The city government said a total of P3.35 billion would be needed for the construction of the remaining units -- 3,853 temporary houses and 7,600 permanent houses -- plus shelter kits.

Romualdez explained the computation was based on an estimated amount for the construction of the housing units -- P200,000 for each permanent houses and P40,000 for each temporary units.

“The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and other international groups trusted us. They gave us the mandate. We can work in partnership with the UN. There really is red tape and confusion as far as the national government response is concerned,” the mayor said.

The national government, he added, should make the cash donations from international and local groups available to the local government.

“If the national government downloaded the donated money from foreign donors to us, we would have finished already. People need the shelter, people need safety,” Romualdez said.

Some 800 families have been living in tent cities while 400 more families have been staying in evacuation centers and ill-equipped bunkhouses.

Congressman Romualdez, leader of the House independent minority bloc, urged the national government to “empower the local government to speed up the reconstruction and rehabilitation because they have the structure, network and manpower to get things done fast.”

As of May 15, the national government said it has already received pledges of P11.076 billion in cash donations.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said Thursday that as of May 14, the government already released P32.2 billion for infrastructure rehabilitation and reconstruction in devastated areas.

But the Romualdezes said Tacloban City, the worst hit by Yolanda, has yet to receive a single centavo from the P11.07 billion in cash donations from foreign countries and the private sector and the P32.2 billion that Abad said had already been released.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., a cousin of the Romualdezes, demanded that Abad account for the P120 billion in supplemental budget that was allocated by Congress shortly after Yolanda flattened the Eastern Visayas provinces on Nov. 8.

“Congressman Romualdez and I authored and pushed for the release of P120 billion. Seven months after Yolanda, not a single centavo had been released to the local governments by the national government. Where did this money go? Where did the billions in cash donations from international community and private sector go? We demand to know.” Marcos said.

Senator Pia Cayetano, meanwhile, deplored the sluggish release of money for the reconstruction and repair of school buildings, noting that many state universities and colleges that were damaged by Yolanda were still awaiting the release of funds for their rehabilitation.

She said this has become even more urgent since the opening of the new school year is just a few weeks away.

Abad said the request for the release of funds for the rehabilitation of 35 state universities and colleges was already submitted by the Department of Budget and Management to the Office of the President in April.

He said the funds would be released once these were approved by President Benigno Aquino III.

“I understand that plans and budget proposals for rehabilitation have to be reviewed, but summer has come and is almost gone, still we have yet to see the funds released to our SUCs,” Cayetano said.

She said Congress allocated more than P100 billion for the repair of the areas devastated by Yolanda and the powerful earthquake that struck the region. She said the amount was on top of a P14.6-billion supplemental budget.

“And yet, according to the DBM, only P32.2 billion had actually been released,” Cayetano noted.

Cayetano said the fund allotted for the reconstruction of SUCs is P1 billion, which is not even 1 percent of the total rehabilitation budget.

“What’s holding up its release, considering that the school year is about to start?” she asked.

Citing data from the Commission on Higher Education, she said 26 SUCs have already submitted requests for up to P826.5 million to the DBM with seven more waiting for the second round of validation by engineers from the Department of Public Works and Highways and another 18 still to be assessed.

In calamity stricken areas, she said the government’s priority for the youth is to encourage them to resume their schooling.

She said the re rehabilitation of their schools would greatly help the youth recover from their ordeal triggered by the super typhoon.

Seven months after super typhoon Yolanda struck killing 6,200 people, the government has yet to complete its master plan for rehabilitation.

FROM PHILSTAR

Palace: No red tape in Yolanda rehab By Alexis Romero, Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 26, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang yesterday denied allegations that red tape has delayed the rehabilitation of areas ravaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government is just complying with procedures required by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act.

“There is no red tape. The procedures provided under the law are just being followed,” Coloma said.

He said among the requirements set by the law is the crafting of post-disaster needs assessment by affected provinces and cities.

Such assessment would allow local authorities to create work programs and allot funds for the rehabilitation program, Coloma said.

Some lawmakers and local officials complained that red tape is slowing down the rebuilding of typhoon-hit areas.

Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez said the national government should distribute to local government the cash donations to address the needs of typhoon survivors.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., for his part, said the government should reduce red tape, noting the affected residents are suffering while officials are holding debates on rehabilitation efforts.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, meanwhile, criticized the budget department for the supposed delay in the disbursement of funds allotted for the rehabilitation of schools damaged by the typhoon.

Responding to critics, Coloma said even the World Bank, a multilateral lender that provides assistance to the Philippines, had cited the government’s progress in its rehabilitation efforts.

“Perhaps they should reexamine the basis of what they are saying,” he said.

Agencies involved in the rehabilitation efforts are expected to present progress reports to President Aquino within the month.

1,000 new homes

Private donors like the retail giant SM is spearheading efforts to build 1,000 disaster-resilient houses in five areas devastated by Yolanda.

Teresita Sy-Coson, SM Investment Corp. vice chairman, said they have launched the SM Cares Housing Project which aims to raise P200 million to build five villages in typhoon-hit towns of Bogo, Cebu; Concepcion, Iloilo; and the cities of Palo, Tacloban and Ormoc in Leyte.

“Each village will have 200 houses specially designed to be disaster-resilient. The village will have utilities, basic amenities like streetlights, community center and basketball court,” she said.

Sy-Coson said their group recognizes the need for safer structures for people’s homes, which is why every unit is designed to weather events or effects that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled.

Designed to be above the requirements of the Building Code and mandated standards, each house is composed of 5,000 psi pre-cast walls and roofs, which can withstand the winds and strength of a Category 5 super typhoon without any major material damage.

In addition to its disaster resiliency features, the houses will also have heat resistant painted roofing to help lower interior temperature and increase energy efficiency. The windows and doors will be made out of aluminum frame and PVC to provide high level of resistance to corrosion, rot, chipping, fading, insect assault, discoloration, and severe conditions.

Government urged to prepare for extended dry season By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 26, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


AP photo

MANILA, Philippines - The government was urged yesterday to prepare for the extended dry season that could result in economic losses due to water shortage and power outages in the coming months.

In his appeal, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said the rapid depletion of water supply in dams is causing huge damage to agricultural crops and farmlands in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

“A national disaster program to mitigate the effects of the El Niño phenomenon is imperative. Doing nothing and letting nature take its course is criminal negligence,” Albano said.

He said other than seeking divine intercession, the government should step in now and put into place emergency water supply projects and assistance programs for farmers to counter the devastating effects of El Niño.

Albano said aside from extended dry season, the government should prepare for typhoons that are projected to be stronger than usual because of El Niño.

He said concerned state agencies such as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Departments of Agriculture and Energy have not announced any preparations that they are doing.

Albano, whose province has been identified by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics as having experienced dry spells, expressed fear for rural farming communities all over the country, whose dependence on reliable water supply is now being threatened.

He voiced concern for rice farmers not only in Isabela but those in Cagayan, Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija as well.

“Small canals and irrigation systems in these major rice producing provinces are running dry, threatening rice production and the stability of rice supply. The concerned agencies should tell our farmers what they can do to help them,” he said.

The lawmaker said the threat of El Niño imperils power supply as some dams double as power generators.

He said there are power plants in the Ambuklao, Binga, San Roque, and Magat Dams in Northern Luzon, and in Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija, he said.

He said if these structures run out of water, there would be no irrigation water for farmers.

“Is the Department of Agriculture and the National Irrigation Administration prepared to supply irrigation water to our farmers through deep wells? Is the Department of Energy preparing for the possibility that dams will run short of water to run power plants?” he asked.

Albano suggested that it may be time for both the Senate and the House of Representatives to consider bills requiring the construction of smaller but more impounding dams to trap excess rainwater so this could be used for irrigation during extended dry periods.

“We should learn from Taiwan, where small water impounding structures were built around farming communities,” he said.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Metro, Luzon heat eases but Pagasa warns of hot spell in JuneBy Jeannette I. Andrade Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:21 pm | Sunday, May 25th, 2014
 


A group of children frolic in Manila Bay along Navotas to beat the summer heat. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

MANILA, Philippines — Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon experienced a respite from high temperatures on Sunday but the weather bureau said that it could still grow hotter until the first week of June.

Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) forecasters said that with the easterlies still in effect, they have not seen the end of the dry season.

Forecaster Buddy Javier said that on Sunday, the highest temperature in Metro Manila was at 34.5 degrees Celsius at 2:50 p.m. compared to Saturday’s sweltering 36.7 degrees Celsius.

Javier explained that temperatures slightly dropped in Luzon, including the National Capital Region, because of partly cloudy skies and the formation of thunderstorms. He added that it was normal for temperatures to fluctuate during the dry season.

The temperature at around 2 p.m. in Tuguegarao City, where it was historically hottest at 42.2 degrees Celsius in 1969, was recorded at 37.5 degrees Celsius on Sunday, while in Isabela, the temperature at 2 p.m. reached 35.3 degrees Celsius.

Pagasa’s Subic station recorded a temperature of 34.9 degrees Celsius at around 2 p.m., while in Cabanatuan City, the temperature was at 33.6 degrees Celsius.

“It is still possible that the temperature can surpass Saturday’s 36.7 (degrees Celsius) in Metro Manila because we still have the dry season that could last until the first week of next month,” Javier said, adding that the ridge of a high pressure area has been affecting parts of Luzon.

Based on Pagasa records, the highest temperature was at 42.2 degrees Celsius in Tuguegarao City on May 11, 1969 while Metro Manila was hottest on May 14, 1987 at 38.5 degrees Celsius.

Meanwhile, the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) is anticipated to bring light to moderate rains over Mindanao and keep the region cool.

The average highest temperatures in Mindanao and in the Visayas are between 32 degrees Celsius and 33 degrees Celsius, according to Javier.

On Monday (May 26), Mindanao will experience cloudy skies with light to moderate rains and thunderstorms while Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms mostly in the afternoon or evening, according to Pagasa.
 

Pope takes pilgrimage to Bethlehem Agence France-Presse 3:59 pm | Sunday, May 25th, 2014

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Pope Francis inspect an honor guard as Francis arrives at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. AP
BETHLEHEM
— Pope Francis arrived in Bethlehem Sunday to begin the most sensitive part of his three-day Middle East tour aimed at easing an ancient rift with Orthodox Christians and forging regional peace.

He made the short trip from Amman, where he began his visit Saturday, aboard a Jordanian military helicopter.

The pontiff appeared tired as he was helped down the steps to a red carpet welcome from local Palestinian officials and priests.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas received him at his palace with a warm embrace.

Francis, who made an urgent appeal Saturday to end the bloodshed in Syria, has now taken his “pilgrimage of prayer” to the Palestinian territories. There he was to celebrate mass with 10,000 people in Bethlehem’s packed Manger Square, near the site of Jesus’ birthplace.

He was scheduled to travel to Israel later Sunday.

Although Francis himself has said it will be a “purely religious trip,” both Israel and the Palestinians will be looking to use the visit to score a few political points.

The Vatican said the main reason for the visit was a meeting in Jerusalem with Bartholomew I, the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, seeking to heal a nearly 1,000-year rift between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.

But ahead of the trip, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin defended the Palestinians’ right to a “sovereign and independent” homeland and said he hoped Francis’s visit would lead to “courageous decisions” for peace.

Since dawn, Catholic pilgrims filed past security barriers into Manger Square. The scene was dominated by stage where the pope was to say mass, decked with huge Palestinian and Vatican flags and adorned with a giant tableau depicting the birth of Jesus.

To get there, the crowd-loving pope will drive through the city in an open-top car, raising security concerns in a region racked by political and religious strife.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, police arrested 26 Jewish extremists protesting at a site on Mount Zion where the pope will celebrate mass on Monday. Earlier this week, police imposed restraining orders on 15 extremists barring them from sites the pope will visit.

Overnight, police with sniffer dogs combed the narrow streets of the Old City, closely examining the stone alleyways down which the pontiff was to walk later Sunday.

In a separate development, Israel’s foreign ministry confirmed that two of the three people shot dead in an attack Saturday on the Jewish museum in Brussels were Israeli tourists. The incident has drawn condemnation from top Israeli and European officials.

‘Charm offensive’

John Allen, an expert on the Vatican at the Boston Globe, said the pope was likely to “charm” both sides during the Israeli-Palestinian leg of his visit.

“Francis comes in with a lot of political capital. He’s sort of a new Nelson Mandela, a new moral authority on the world stage.

“The question is: can he spend that moral capital to shame both sides into talking to each other? You might be able to get a public commitment to resume dialogue. It’s the most we can expect.”

US-led peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators collapsed last month amid bitter recriminations, ending a nine-month bid to reach a negotiated solution, with no political initiative on the horizon.

Travelling with the Argentine pontiff are two of his old friends from Buenos Aires — Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Islamic studies professor Omar Abboud — in a symbolic gesture of openness.

Contribution to peace

After celebrating mass, the pope will have lunch with several Palestinian families then meet with refugee children at the entrance to Dheishe refugee camp.

During the afternoon, he will take a short flight to Tel Aviv where he will be formally welcomed to Israel by President Shimon Peres before flying on to Jerusalem.

“I don’t think the visit is going to bring the signing of a peace deal tomorrow… but I am sure that it will make a substantial contribution, because the pope respects all cultures and all religions,” Peres told French daily Le Figaro.

It is inside Jerusalem’s walled Old City that he will attend a special joint prayer service with Bartholomew in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre — venerated as the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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