P15 billion for rehab of Panay

PHILIPPINES NEWS SERVICE — Not P10 billion but P15 billion is needed to fully rehabilitate the typhoon-devastated provinces of Panay, said House Speaker Prospero Nograles. He assured Ilonggos that the Lower House will pass a bill creating a rehabilitation fund for the island.

Nograles met local leaders yesterday. Led by House Majority Leader Cong. Arthur Defensor Sr. (3rd District, Iloilo), they welcomed Nograles’ proposal.

Over the weekend, former Senate President Franklin Drilon called on Nograles to sponsor a bill that will set up a P10-billion “Bangon Panay Rehabilitation Fund” to rebuild Panay.

Drilon said the economy of Panay, the “food bowl of the Visayas,” was devastated by Typhoon “Frank” last June 21.

Nograles said more than P10 billion is actually needed, thus he increased the proposal to P15 billion.

He urged Ilonggos to support the rehabilitation programs of the government for the speedy recovery of Panay.

As Nograles was conferring with Ilonggo leaders here, in Manila Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita announced that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has begun implementing its intensive recovery and rehabilitation projects for Western Visayas, Bicol and Region 4-B or the MIMAROPA composed of the provinces of Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.

Ermita said some P33.9 million has been allocated under the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) for the repair of 1,243 shelters in Kalibo, 240 in Iloilo City, 100 in Iloilo province, and 35 in Antique.

These efforts are focused on the repair of totally damaged houses through the ESA and the Cash and Food-for-Work (C/FFW) and livelihood assistance programs, he said.

To date, DSWD has provided P40 million in relief augmentation to typhoon affected local government units in the form of relief, financial, livelihood and C/FFW, Ermita said.

In addition, the government, through DSWD, has released P70.47 million to the affected regions for, among others, the purchase of relief supplies, he added.

Earlier, Drilon urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to certify the bill on a supplemental budget for 2008 that will create the rehabilitation fund when Congress reopens on July 28.

In his draft bill, Drilon proposed that the fund be broken down as follows:

• P500 million to the Department of Agriculture to support the livelihood programs for farmers
• P500 million to the National Irrigation Administration to repair irrigation systems
• P500 million for the Department of Agrarian Reform to support affected communities
• P200 million for the Department of Education for the construction of new school buildings
• P400 million for repair of state universities and colleges
• P500 million for the rehabilitation of electrification infrastructure
• P300 million for the repair of public hospitals
• P200 million for the repair of roads, bridges, government buildings and other infrastructure
• P750 million for livelihood programs and the delivery of social services
• P750 million for the relocation of damaged housing units
• P500 million for local government units; and
• P1.3 billion to the Office of Civil Defense.

Drilon said the national government has enough funds, noting that it is currently enjoying an increase of P42.9 billion in the collection of the expanded value-added tax in the first five months of the year.

“It’s now time to rehabilitate Panay, the food basket of the Visayas. We urgently need this because given the fact that food prices and oil prices are going up, this will not only be a double whammy but a triple whammy to hit Panay,” appealed Drilon.

Last week, President Arroyo earmarked P1 billion for Task Force Bangon Panay for the rehabilitation of damaged infrastructures and other restoration efforts in the island.

Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias, the designated chief executive officer of the task force, said the fund will be taken from the “Katas ng Expanded Value-Added Tax.”

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), according to Banias, has also released an P800-million emergency fund for the repair of damaged infrastructures nationwide; P421 million is allotted for Panay.

Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr., chairman of the task force, said the initial P421 million is small but they have to be “satisfied for now.”