S$1.2bil for 'Yolanda' rehabilitation

S$1.2bil for 'Yolanda' rehabilitation

PHILIPPINES - Seeing a long and expensive rehabilitation process, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has increased the proposed funding for communities devastated by Supertyphoon "Yolanda" from P38.8 billion (S$1.1million) to P40.9 billion (US$934.4 million).

The funding for the "Yolanda Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan" will go to housing, infrastructure, livelihood and employment, local facilities and social services, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said in a radio interview on Saturday.

In a separate phone interview, Coloma said the entire P40.9 billion could be fully funded in the 2013 General Appropriations Act and the P14.5 -billion supplemental budget passed by the Senate early last week for the reconstruction of the provinces destroyed by Yolanda (international name: "Haiyan") on November 8.

"We saved for the rainy day because we have managed our national household-the finances of the country-well, so we have the buffer (funds) and the resiliency to make up for these disasters," Coloma said.

Although now tempered, the continued growth of the economy showed the country's resiliency in the face of calamities, he said.

The gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 7.4 per cent "year to date," while the deficit was kept at 2.3 per cent of GDP, he added.

Cabinet meeting President Aquino's decision to scale up the post-disaster budget was reached during a Cabinet meeting on Friday afternoon that lasted well into the night.

At the meeting, Science Secretary Mario Montejo-using a simulation of the storm surge that engulfed coastal cities and towns - said Yolanda devastated 171 municipalities, covering 4,971 villages in an area of 25,000 square kilometres.

Yolanda affected an estimated 6.6 million people.

As of yesterday, the death toll from Yolanda stood at 5,632, with 26,136 people injured and 1,759 others missing.

The P14.5 billion supplemental budget will be part of the P40.9 billion budget for the first phase of the long-term reconstruction plan of the government, Coloma said.

'Revised estimate' "The initial estimate of P38.8 billion for critical, immediate actions was revised upward to P40.9 billion after factoring in the verified requirements for local government buildings and facilities, police and fire stations, and public markets," Coloma said.

The bulk of the rehabilitation fund will go to shelter and public infrastructure and the rest will go to livelihood and employment, local facilities and social services.

According to Coloma, the "revised approximate sectoral allocations" are as follows: shelter and public infrastructure including roads, bridges, airport, port and other facilities (67 per cent); livelihood and employment, including support to agriculture and fisheries (12 per cent); local facilities (11 per cent); social services, including health services, education and training (9 per cent).

"These percentages will apply to the P40.9 billion revised estimate," he said.

But the tab could still go up as "these budget estimates will be subjected to further fine-tuning through on-ground validation of initial rapid assessment findings," Coloma said.

Asked about the sources of funds for the plan, Coloma said the P14.5 billion supplemental budget would come from the unspent portion of the Priority Development Assistance Fund.

"The supplemental budget is made available because of the abolition of PDAF. Then, we have roughly P16 billion in unused calamity funds from the 2013 budget that have been allocated before Typhoon Yolanda struck," Coloma said.

The balance of P10.4 billion would come from savings of other departments such as public works, which has outstanding funds for road repairs and maintenance, he said.

Coloma clarified that the P40.9 billion will cover only the "critical immediate actions," which will last "between now and end of the year, up to the first half of 2014."

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