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August 16, 2016

Social Watch Seeks Adequate Funding In NEP For Poverty, Unfinished Yolanda Reconstruction

“If genuine change is coming, there is no better evidence of this than to see this reflected in the national budget. It should be President Duterte’s starting budget for eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development.”

This was the statement of Social Watch Philippines (SWP) during the turnover of the National Expenditure Program (NEP) to the House of Representatives today.

The non-government budget watch group also criticized the dismal implementation of Yolanda reconstruction and rehabilitation as it urged the Duterte Administration to immediately start spending money that is already appropriated for the Yolanda victims.

“The implementation of Yolanda recovery projects is agonizingly slow and miserably falling short. The poor are far from building back and, in fact, poorer now than before the disaster,” said Isagani Serrano, Co-Convenor of SWP.

Based on the report posted in the website of National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), as of March 2016, the completion rate of houses for the Yolanda victims is only 9% and 42% of the target housing units has not even started. Only 19,330 out of the 205,128 intended to provide shelter to the victims were completed and 98,393 housing units are still being constructed.

According to Serrano, livelihood assistance to Yolanda survivors and making sure they have shelter and less vulnerable to disaster, are also lagging behind.

“We are rebuilding communities not to bring them back to the state of poverty and vulnerability previous to Yolanda. The reconstruction and rehabilitation should rebuild the communities, reduce their vulnerability and become more resilient to the negative impact of extreme weather events that will hit them in the future,” Serrano added.

SWP is conducting Public Expenditure Tracking Survey (PETS) of Yolanda reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in select municipalities in Leyte, specifically, Tolosa, MacArthur, Dulag, Mayorga, and Tacloban city in its resettlement program. The study was also conducted in Basey and Salcedo in Samar.

The figures in the NEDA website report reflect the situation in these areas. Only 8% of the housing requirements of the displaced communities in these municipalities have been completed.

The “emergency” nature of the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) lost its essence as these were dispensed one to two years after the calamity because of bureaucracy and political influences.

The ESA funds were downloaded to the DSWD Regional Office in Region VIII only on May 12 and 21, 2015 and were released to the LGUs from May 29, 2015 to September 30, 2015. The LGUs released the ESA to the beneficiaries from July 10 to December 2015, except for one LGU that immediately released the ESA the day after the fund was received.

The delayed release of funds affected the implementation of livelihood programs of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), reportedly, because of unliquidated cash advances.

SWP said the newly released 2015 statistics in Region VIII attest to this. The broad-based growth was not realized due to the limitations in agriculture and fisheries sector.

“President Duterte has astutely tapped into the people’s long-felt frustration for change, one that will make a positive difference in their lives. The 10-point agenda of the government is a welcome start, but as responsible and patriotic citizens, we will engage this agenda with a view to making it even more responsive to the needs of our people, especially for the poor and socially excluded,” said Marivic Raquiza, SWP Co-Convenor.

Raquiza said all good intentions and plans, oftentimes, rise and fall, on the basis of adequate provision of funding.

SWP, through its Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI), organized in 2006, has consistently engaged the various administrations towards ensuring a pro-poor, pro-environment budget.

Consistent with this mandate, SWP said it will continue to work with policy makers and ensure that the interests and welfare of subaltern groups are translated into significant budgetary allocations to address their needs.

Social Watch

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