Finally, the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Recovery and Rehabilitation (Oparr) headed by former senator Panfilo Lacson is endorsing north Cebu’s rehabilitation plan to President Benigno Aquino III.
Lacson said Cebu was the first of the provinces affected by supertyphoon Yolanda to submit a comprehensive plan.
The work of Task Force Paglig-on, Lacson’s partner office in Cebu province, however, is far from over. The Cebu task force has to keep the pressure on Malacañang for the immediate release of funds needed to rebuild north Cebu need.
The task force needs to coordinate once more with Cebu mayors to find suitable plots of land to relocate residents from the 40-meter hazard zone from teh coast.
The sites need to be close to markets, roads, and schools. In other words, they should be vibrant communities in the making or else they become new slums.
While Lacson insists that it is the responsibility of local government units to purchase relocation sites, many of them have already run out of money to buy land.
This is not to say there is nothing to commend in the work of the task force. In fact it now has the responsibility of sharing with other Yolanda-struck provinces their data collection process so that these locales can fast-track the submission to Oparr of their own plans.
One useful tip for the other provinces is to make the plans cost-effective so that these do not have to be returned to them before approval, as Lacson did with Cebu’s P26 billion-plus package before the province scaled down the plan to P10.5 billion.
Oparr must also reconsider its decision of leaving the local governments, in Cebu and in the rest of Central Philippines to purchase the land for the relocation sites. Many local economies may not be capable of buying land.
We welcome the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) in the form of a P10 million package for an information system to keep the rehabilitation program transparent.
There must be enough money from the government and the foreign donors to offer assistance to the local governments in buying land, especially for people like fishers who lived in no-build zones before Yolanda cleared them out.
There is a bit more clarity for those who just need to rebuild on site. Now the government needs to make the future clearer for those who no longer havea land of their own.