World Bulletin/News Desk
The Philippines will spend 170 billion pesos ($3.89 billion) to rehouse some 200,000 families displaced by last year's super typhoon Haiyan that killed 6,100 people, the government said in a masterplan released on Friday.
It has taken a startling nine months to hammer out the plan because crippling bureaucracy entailed lengthy vetting, say government consultants, and sparse technical data on geological hazards and land use plans held up relocation decisions.
Thousands of displaced families remain in makeshift tents or substandard temporary shelter areas, but all-out reconstruction will begin soon after President Benigno Aquino approves the plan, although it is not clear when this will happen.
"We are confident the rehabilitation efforts will now shift to high gear," said Panfilo Lacson, presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery.
"We are hoping to achieve at least 80 percent completion of these priority projects before the end of the president's term," he added. Aquino's term runs until June 2016.
About a million homeowners will also receive shelter assistance under the plan for houses that were either destroyed or partially damaged, said Lacson, a former senator.
The effort will also help build sturdier government facilities, such as schools and evacuation centres, besides providing livelihood and training assistance for farmers, fishermen and those who raise livestock.
Lacson said the budget department had made available about 137 billion pesos this year, with the rest to be released in next year's budget, and promised transparency in project funding.
The slow pace of government reconstruction work has attracted criticism.
"It's alarming that as the typhoon season starts, we still see tents in Tacloban," said Prospero de Vera, a professor of public administration at the University of the Philippines.
Tacloban, the main city on the Philippines' central island of Leyte, was a wasteland after Haiyan destroyed about 80 percent of houses made of light materials, and is slowly returning to life.
"The normalcy in the lives of the people has not returned until now in Tacloban, and that is the biggest disaster of all," added De Vera.
By July, Manila had released more than 35 billion pesos in aid after Haiyan, the budget department has said, spent on food and temporary shelter areas for displaced families, as well as to rebuild some public buildings.
But that amount is just a drop in the bucket, with state funds and loans from lenders such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and bilateral sources committed to typhoon rehabilitation reaching at least $4 billion.
Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons to ever hit land, tore through the central Philippines last November, reducing most of what was in its path to rubble in tsunami-like surges and driving nearly 4 million people from their homes.
The pace of government reconstruction slowed after Aquino last year abolished congressional allocations, called "pork barrel" funds, because bureaucrats were too careful in signing contracts.
Last month, the Supreme Court declared illegal the president's stimulus fund, prompting impeachment cases to be filed against Aquino in the wake of the decision.
"At the UN, the leader of a country asked me which of the candidates I preferred. I responded: 'Do I prefer the bad over the worse, or the worse over the bad?" Rouhani said at a speech in Arak in central Iran.
In meetings at the exclusive Jingxi Hotel, safe from the public's prying eyes, nearly 400 top members of the Chinese Communist Party will confer for four days, discussing changes to how the giant party will be managed.
After Beijing visit, Philippine leader hopeful fishermen will be able to access area to which China has restricted access
The move follows complaints from conservatives that foreign energy companies are being allowed to take the lead on major projects as Iran emerges from international isolation following its nuclear deal with world powers.
Police say 17 men arrested while waiting to receive money from families to pay extra to be smuggled to Malaysia
Duterte’s comments in China lead to uncertainty about how Japan’s diplomats are expected to respond to Manila’s turnaround
Police say festival was underway at park in Tochigi prefecture, investigation ongoing
Culture and entertainment suffers as nationalistic sentiment stirred by India-Pakistan tension
Three senior members of the Afghan Taliban held a series of meetings with Pakistani officials in the capital to brief them about the recent secret talks with Kabul held in Qatar
Military says 19 people arrested this week admitted they were involved in fatal attacks on police outposts
A US warship sailed past the South China sea, with two Chinese naval vessels sending a warning to the ship
State union with 300,000 employees could strike over pro-independence workers being sacked
Day after Philippines leader declares separation from US, ministers say was merely signaling stronger ties with neighbors
Three-year plan aims to promote relations between two foreign ministries
Islamabad court orders police to arrest PTI leader Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri over 2014 protests
Military gov’t earlier said sought to seize Yingluck Shinawatra's assets to repay debt accrued under gov't scheme