Debris clean-up, body identification still unfinished in Tacloban
MANILA, Philippines – Cleaning up debris and identifiying bodies of victims from Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) are only some of the tasks the government has yet to finish over two months since the world's deadliest storm to hit land lashed many parts of the Visayas.
On Thursday, January 9, President Benigno Aquino III gathered his Cabinet to "ensure that the post-Yolanda rehabilitation program is on track and to speed up its implementation," said Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma.
At the meeting, Secretary Panfilo Lacson, who is coordinating the government's efforts, said it is important to clear up the debris in Tacloban City, the hardest hit by the storm, since it impedes rebuilding efforts and exposes residents to health hazards.
Below are the updates on the administration's rehabilitation efforts:
- Debris clean-up: Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje said 30 shredders will be shipped to calamity areas to crush debris for proper disposal and possible recycling.
- Rebuilding of local government structures and public spaces: Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson were directed by Aquino to start rebuilding town halls, public markets, civic centers and local government facilities. The rebuilding program is expected to cost P4 billion.
- Rebuilding tourism facilities: The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will coordinate with the Department of Tourism in rebuilding tourism facilities along coastlines, which would help generate significant revenues. The DENR has completed the mapping of Yolanda-affected areas, which displays a 40-meter no-build zone.
- Rebuilding of schools: Singson said 832 school sites have been cleared for rebuilding; the Department of Public Works and Highways is awaiting proposed designs from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for disaster-resilient schools, which are expected before the end of January.
- Rebuilding the Tacloban airport: The Department of Transportation and Communications is awaiting submission of a JICA study by month's end on renovating the airport completely destroyed by Yolanda.
- Aiding government employees: The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is studying the possibility of extending financial assistance to national government employees affected by Yolanda.
- Health concerns: The Department of Health is monitoring the spread of a mosquito-borne disease called chikungunya, which causes body pains but is less dangerous than dengue. Fogging operations are ongoing.
- Identification and burial of bodies: Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) reported 2,249 bodies were recovered in Tacloban City, 448 of which have been processed and buried in permanent burial sites. A total of 1,801 were buried in temporary sites and will be exhumed later for further identification. Additional funds will be provided to complete the cadaver identification and burial process.
- Improving storm preparation: The Department of Science and Technology is finishing simulation studies on the effects of possible storm surge occurrences similar to those brought by Yolanda, due before the end of the month.
Given the updates, Budget Secretary Butch Abad has asked Cabinet members to submit recommendations on the realignment of agency budgets to address Yolada-related issues not considered in the preparation of the 2014 budget.
On Friday, November 8, 2013, Yolanda made landfall in the Visayas, killing 6,166 people and leaving 1,785 others missing, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
This made the storm, which also left 4.4 million people homeless, one of the deadliest natural disasters in Philippine history.
No discussion on collusion
Coloma said the reported collusion between contractors and a local official to receive kickbacks from bunkhouses being built by the government was not discussed in the meeting.
The alleged controversy has caused concern over the use of funds allotted for rehabilitation.
Coloma admitted "integrity in governance" is important but said it was not discussed in the meeting because it has since been assigned to the Philippine National Police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, which is currently probing the allegations.
He earlier said the President is awaiting the results of the investigation. - Rappler.com