President Benigno S. Aquino III presides over the meeting on Yolanda rehabilitation updates at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room of the Malacañan Palace on Friday (May 16, 2014). (MNS photo)

President Benigno S. Aquino III presides over the meeting on Yolanda rehabilitation updates at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room of the Malacañan Palace on Friday (May 16, 2014). (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Former Yolanda rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson on Monday hit the government anew with what he said was a lag behind the release of funds that is holding back progress in the simultaneous programs for the victims of the super typhoon.

Lacson said even after the United Nations urged the Philippines to speed up its reconstruction efforts, the release of the funds remained “in trickles.”

“Nagsumite tayo ng plano… pero kung hindi naka-ready ang pamahalaan, talagang magkakaproblema,” he said.

He added: “’Yun ang hindi ko maintindihan. Ang laging lumalabas sa kanilang kadahilanan ay ‘yung absorptive capacity ng mga implementing agencies. Kaya nga may pagpa-plano. Noong isang taon pa naaprubahan [ang plano], dapat pinaghandaan pati ‘yung pondo.”

Lacson, a former senator, noted that the projects for different clusters of the rehabilitation plan were designed to run simultaneously.

“Hindi naman kailangang unahin ‘yung isa over the other kasi simultaneously, pwede silang magsabay-sabay, kaya hindi ko tatanggapin ‘yung dapat ito ang priority over the other… Kaya nga tayo may planong sinumite,” he said.

In a separate interview, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman defended the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), saying the release of funds has been swift as long as the proposal is clearly stated, particularly about how to execute the plan.

“Sa aking sariling karanasan, ‘yung pera naman ho ay inire-release agad. Kailangan lang maliwanag kung saan mapupunta ‘yung pera,” she said.

Soliman also pointed out that local government units (LGUs) were slow to liquidate funds, which may have contributed to the delay.

She added that they reach out directly to the “technical people” concerned for certain projects within the local governments. “However, siyempre, kapag hindi pumayag ang local chief executive, ‘yon ang nagiging problema,” she said.

On Saturday, Chaloka Beyani, UN special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, raised concerns over “funding shortfalls and political challenges” that she said hamper the government’s rehabilitation efforts.

In particular, she pointed to the slow pace of housing contruction for those left homeless by Yolanda, which killed more than 6,300 people and displaced 4.1 million in November 2013.

Lacson pointed out that there are 205,128 families who still need to be resettled.

“Ang kulang dito, based on a study, out of the P80 billion, wala pang P34 billion ‘yung nare-release,” he said.

“Hindi pa naman huli ang lahat, basta lamang matugunan ang pangangailangan ng mga ahensya,” he added.

Soliman said raw lands for relocation sites have to be developed first before construction of permanent housing begins, an effort that she said is ongoing. Thousands of units have been built, she added, but beneficiaries do not want to move in to them yet because there’s no power or water supply in the area.

“’Yung mga nakatayo, walang kuryente at tubig… Ang nangyayari, ‘yung mga nasa transitional shelters—single detached or bunk houses—may rasyon kasi doon ng tubig at kuryente, so ‘yung mga tao, ayaw nilang umalis doon hanggang meron doon sa kanilang lilipatan,” she said.

Soliman said they have also tapped LGUs to release the funds for victims with totally and partially-damaged houses by August 15, since only 45 percent of the P13 million distributed among affected local governments in Eastern and Western Visayas and Coron in Palawan have been handed out to beneficiaries.

Recipients will get P10,000 if their house was partially damaged, and P30,000 if totally damaged.(MNS)