Philippine leader approves $4.5b Haiyan reconstruction plan

Philippine leader approves $4.5b Haiyan reconstruction plan

MANILA - Philippine President Benigno Aquino approved Thursday a 160-billion-peso (S$4.5 billion) plan to rebuild areas ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan one year after the disaster, his spokesman said.

The plan includes reconstruction timetables demanded by Aquino who last week criticised the pace of rebuilding, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

Haiyan, the strongest storm ever to make landfall, packed winds of 315 kilometres (195 miles) per hour when it slammed the central Philippines in November last year, bringing tsunami-like storm surges that wiped out entire villages and left more than 7,350 people dead or missing.

"The work programmes, all the details have been inputted into the detailed rehabilitation plan," Lacierda told reporters.

An initial 52 billion pesos of the total rehabilitation budget had been released by the budget department, he added.

Aquino earlier this month said he wanted the rehabilitation programme "substantially completed" by the time his term ends in mid-2016, as ten of thousands of typhoon survivors remain without homes and vital infrastructure.

One year after the deluge, the mayor of one of the worst-hit cities said housing remained a problem with only 50 families in his area moved to permanent dwellings.

"Our priority is really shelter," Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez told reporters this week.

The government needs to build "transitional" homes for storm survivors while permanent ones, which should be able to withstand typhoon winds, are being built, he said.

"They have to be relocated to safer zones. We cannot say safe zones because there are no safe zones," he said.

Lacierda said the government had funding for housing but it was relying on local governments to identify relocation sites.

The new plan calls for the construction of 200,000 new homes.

Coca-Cola's bottling plant, a large shopping mall and fast food chains have reopened in Tacloban and another mall is expected to resume operations next month, Romualdez said.

"The local economy, we are back to almost 70 per cent," he said, adding the city in general was back to normal by "more than 50 per cent".

The region's main airport will reopen to jet aircraft traffic next month as the government searches for a site to build a new terminal that's safe from storm surges.

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