Transcript: Q and A of the press briefing on Yolanda rehab and recovery efforts, November 10, 2014

Abridged transcript of the press briefing by Vice President Jejomar Binay, Secretary Panfilo Lacson, Secretary Dinky Soliman, Secretary Babes Singson, NHA General Manager Chito Cruz, UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Haoliang Xu, and JICA Visiting Senior Advisor Kimio Takeya on Yolanda rehab and recovery, a year later

[PICC, Pasay City, on November 10, 2014]

On claims that Tacloban City did not receive funds from the national government 

Secretary Ping Lacson: Let the numbers speak for themselves because when we reviewed our files, they have actually received—not in cash but in projects, programs, activities, a total of P6.109 billion so far.

He actually received from the DILG [Department of the Interior and Local Government] the amount of P230.4 million; 80 percent was already downloaded to the city government to him to implement the repairs of city hall, public market, and civic centers.

When we say policy, it’s a standard policy of DILG to retain 20 percent. The moment the LGUs—let’s not talk of Tacloban only—once LGUs [local government units] present the completion of the 80 percent downloaded funds, the remaining 20 percent balance will be downloaded to them. As I said earlier, numbers don’t lie. It’s all there.

On alleged “hijacking” of projects by Tacloban Mayor Daniel Romualdez for his political gains

Lacson: He requested for funds to repair the city hall, the public market and the astrodome, the civic center. After he received the funds, he requested the funds to be realigned. The agreement between DILG and DPWH [Department of Public Works and Highways] is that, for repairs, DILG will take care of it. DILG agreed to just download the funds to the LGUs to fast track the repair of the government centers.

If he accepted and he submitted the requirements necessary for the downloading of the funds, then he could’ve proceeded with the repair of the government centers. But after he accepted the funds, he requested that those funds be realigned. He wanted to transfer the city hall and the public market to another site.

If that was the intention, he could have refused the downloaded funds and instead coordinated with the DPWH because DPWH is in charge of constructing totally damaged government centers. That’s the agreement. So that’s one example of, you know, as you mentioned, “hijacking” the rehabilitation efforts.

You know, we’ve been to so many areas yesterday, the other day, three days ago. We were all around the place, within the corridor. There was not a single protest rally in other area, except Tacloban. There were no issues. We witnessed local government executives commemorating one year of Yolanda: thanking the national government, thanking the development partners, multilateral, bilateral. But in Tacloban, they commemorated the Yolanda anniversary with protest rallies.

That makes Tacloban, as I said earlier, sui generis. It is in a class of its own. And it’s unfair for us, observers, and even foreign observers; to base their judgement on what’s happening on the ground, within the corridor, on what’s happening to Tacloban.

On whether the actions of Mayor Romualdez is a case of incompetence and politicking

Lacson: Please don’t put words in my mouth. Ano lang, I’m throwing back the question to you. You be the judge. That’s the gist of my presentation this morning. I gave you the facts and it’s up to you make the judgement. It is not up to me to judge him as incompetent, to judge the others. I’m throwing back the question to you to make the judgement based on what you heard and what you are observing right now as they happen.

On how he is going to handle the situation in Tacloban

Lacson: We will continue to extend our hand of cooperation to the mayor of Tacloban. We will not give up on Tacloban. Nobody will be left out in these rehabilitation efforts. But the local executives must do their share.

Sabi ko nga, you know, a handshake that is half-meant, can reach but halfway… We’re trying to extend whatever support we can.

You know, I’m sharing with you my experiences with other local officials. Mayor Pel Tecson, for example, of Tanauan. He’s with UNA. His political affiliation is with the Vice President. But you know, he kept on pestering us in the middle of the night, texting us, emailing us, and he’s getting most of what he needs in his municipality. And that’s the kind of attitude that we’re looking for in local executives because we’re not omnipotent. We are not almighty to see everything that’s happening on the ground. We have to be informed.

Gov. Sherrie Ann Tan of Samar, she came to my office uninvited, without any appointment, and she told me, “Mr. Senator, you are forgetting Samar. Nobody is attending to us. You’re all focused on Tacloban, focused on Palo, but not Samar.” And from that time on, the support or assistance in many forms have been coming their way.

The United Arab Emirates, I remember, came to our office, they had $10 million already in their possession. They were asking us ‘where do you want us to put these’ because it’s already in our hands, and I told them, please go to Samar. And they have signed the MOA [memorandum of agreement] and they are implementing projects there, I think in health sector and education sector. This is the kind of a local executive that we need—proactive, aggressive, makulit.

There’s an old saying, you cannot fight city hall, especially Malacañang. When you need assistance for your constituents, you forget about your personal or political agenda. You think of your constituents. They are suffering. You set aside everything because we’re dealing here with a calamity of… ‘yung proportion, unprecedented eh. Strongest typhoon. So why are you advancing your own political agenda and setting aside the needs of your constituents?

On whether government has already identified lands to build permanent houses for Yolanda victims

Lacson: Yes. GM Chito is here. But at the outset, I would like to inform you that they have already identified suitable sites for resettlement for more than 160,000 housing units. What is left is 40,000 and as we go on with the implementation or building the 160,000 houses, we continue to look for other sites for resettlement.

The Vice President, as I have earlier requested for him to do, is to lead the resettlement cluster.

On whether acquisition of land is still a problem

Vice President Jejomar Binay: Not anymore, as Sec. Lacson mentioned, we are ready to put up more than 100,000 units and the lands have been identified.

Incidentally, it might help you to know that the President had issued Administrative Order No. 44 and this is to streamline the process of issuance of permits.

They had lot of problems of permits being taken from local government units, you know—issuance of permits, certifications, clearances, licenses for housing resettlement projects in Yolanda-affected areas.

On whether all resettlement sites will be covered by the 100,000 housing units

Lacson: In fact, if I may add, the resettlement cluster has already identified all requirements for suitable site for resettlement in Tacloban. Tapos na lahat sa Tacloban. In other areas, ‘yung 40,000, ‘yung gap, scattered ‘yun in other areas.

But in Tacloban, I’d like to disabuse the minds of our people that Tacloban is being left out. No. We treat Tacloban in the same manner as we treat other LGUs.

NHA General Manager Chito Cruz: Just for Tacloban alone, the requirement of houses that we need to build to relocate the families in safe areas are about 14,000. Twelve thousand of which are actually identified, and we have bid [out] and we have awarded already contracts. It’s all ongoing.

Last Saturday, in fact, we awarded some units already. The remaining 2,000, we are waiting for the LGUs because they have identified additional land for 2,000 families, which are LGU-owned so that we can save money for government.

We promise to complete the project by 2015, the whole of Tacloban. So the whole of Tacloban will finish the 14,000 by 2015.

On whether “finished” means “completely built”

Cruz: Completely built. Yes.

On how confident the government is in achieving relocation of estimated 95,000 people within the 40-meter danger zone

Lacson: There is no longer a policy on the 40-meter no-build zone. The very first person who raised a howl is the Secretary of Tourism.

He told us during a Cabinet meeting, how can investors build a beach resort that is very far from the beach? It’s as simple as that. We have a policy decision defining no longer controlled, unsafe and safe, but low-risk, moderate and high-risk zones.

The basis for identifying the three areas will be multi-hazard mapping. They conducted geohazard test on all… Because we’re not only dealing with storm surge and floods, we’re also dealing with other forms of hazards like landslides.

We may transfer them away from the coastline but we may put them to high places that could be vulnerable to landslides so it will defeat the purpose of building back better.

On the 5,000 people still living in tents

Lacson: We’re surprised because the last count, noong huling Cabinet meeting that we had, I think last week, si Sec. Dinky informed me that there were only 146. But before the anniversary, it grew in numbers. It became 500. We’re surprised. Who built those tents? Only in Tacloban. Anyway, Sec. Dinky is here.

Secretary Dinky Soliman: The count of the families in tents and this is in conjunction with the accounting and validation of local government units, DSWD, and the International Organization of Migration, as of June 2014, is 3,029 across the eastern seaboard of Samar all the way to Tacloban.

As of October 30, I personally went. There were 120 in Eastern Samar, which is in Guiuan and they were moved, November 7 and 8, to the transitional shelter that we actually launched when the President was there. And a remaining 358 families, that’s the report I was giving to Sec. Ping Lacson, in the area of San Jose, Barangay 88, 89, 90.

I was there October 30. I spoke with people. I spoke with three barangay captains. The way the shelter cluster of Tacloban City had arranged for moving them was in this manner: Barangay 88 – International Organization of Migration and DSWD will build transitional shelters. Oxfam Green Mindanao will take care of Barangay 89 and 90. As of that time, 73 families from Barangay 88 were going to be moved the following week. I was there October 30. So by this time, they are either in Tagpuro or in Calaca.

One hundred ninety one of Barangay 89 and 66 of Barangay 90 is supposed to be addressed by Oxfam Green Mindanao. Their transitional shelter was going to just move back, still in the same area, because they were able to rent a private property where they can build the transitional shelter. We were told that by November 30, they would be already in transitional shelters.

I also indicated to the barangay captains that if that does not happen, we can come in and help. But as Sec. Lacson indicted, we were surprised, that was October 30, I saw it for myself, the report is that there are 500. So I’ve asked my colleagues to go back, check whether that’s the case.

UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Haoliang Xu: I’m very happy to hear the statement on this 40-meter no-build zone. I think this is just a clarification. I think we are of the same view with the government that the resettlement area should be determined based on risk assessment. That was in Barangay 88 yesterday and I saw how the barangay captain and the community members used these hazard maps to decide whether to relocate or not. They accepted totally that they needed to relocate because they live right in the danger zone. It’s not sustainable.

This goes back to the point that JICA advisor mentioned earlier that investing $1 now will reduce potential recovery cost of $7 in the future. This is precisely the resilient development, that way to advocate.

On Mayor Romualdez refuting there was a JICA study proposing the transfer of Tacloban airport

JICA Visiting Senior Advisor Dr. Kimio Takeya: Good question. We made the analyses so just we proposed hazard mapping to the government and finally government will decide. So we, JICA, do not decide it to relocate or remain it there. But if we ask how to remain there, what are the best solutions.

So we can set-up some… for the Sendai airport, after the tsunami, we did not relocate the airport, just made it tsunami-resilient terminal building or make some ring dike or something like that. Also, some portion, which is very vulnerable, in Hiroshima airport, we relocated completely to the highland site. This is not from the earthquake but from the tsunami flooding.

As I mentioned in my presentation, it depends on the civil mean of each countries. So this kind of Yolanda return period, is how long, 100 years or 200 years. You prepare for that years of relocate it or prepare for the most frequent, high frequency, small hazard to prepare and stay there.

And once it happened, if you do not relocate, the building can be more storm surge-resilient. For example, every important equipment is located in second storey floor, as I shown in this case, so there’s many selection. That selection depends on the consensus between the government, and internally government and with the local government. It depends on consensus.

On whether it’s an option to relocate the airport based on JICA study

Takeya: No. We just made the hazard mapping. And from hazard mapping to the future, we did not any propose. It just depends on the consensus.

Secretary Babes Singson: This is related to your question. The President, if you recall in Guiuan, made an announcement that the government is finalizing a plan to do a dike that will protect Tacloban, Palo, and Tanauan against the storm surge of as high as four meters.

This is a long discussion that we’ve been having with the JICA consultants and we have decided and the President has approved the construction of a Tacloban-Palo-Tanauan dike. Now, we’re just determining the final alignment of that dike, whether we should put it in an existing road or go to a shoreline or an existing seawall.

So the estimated length of that dike is about 27 or so kilometers and that should protect against, as what was being explained earlier, a 50-year return flood data. If you recall, Yolanda was a 100-year return period. If we do that, we might have to raise the dike a little bit more. But after studying whether it’s a 100- or 50-year return period, the consultants and DPWH agreed to do a 50-year, which means if another Yolanda happens, there will still be flooding but it will no longer be life-threatening. In other words, half meter, you reduce the risk already significantly.

As I mentioned, the President has already announced this and we’re now just finalizing because the President wants us to start of a portion of this dike in Tacloban as soon as possible. That is why we were there discussing until Saturday morning with the JICA consultants and I’m pressing them to come up with the final design of the dike that we need to start constructing as soon as possible.

We already got an initial approval to start the dike with a funding of P4.6 billion. So again, we’re taking the cue that an investment of risk reduction measures is going to save $7 as against $1 investment in recovery efforts. So we are taking that at heart. We have to invest to protect Tacloban, Palo, and Tanauan against another storm surge of this Yolanda magnitude.

On whether charges have been filed including against local government officials over raids of substandard materials

Lacson: Charges have been filed against the traders. As regards to substandard materials finding their way in stores, in hardware and all the way to Yolanda corridor, no local government official is involved. Charges have been filed against the traders only.

On earlier reports that substandard materials were also being used for bunkhouses of LGUs

Lacson: I requested PNP [Philippine National Police] to conduct the investigation. Indeed, substandard ‘yung materials.

On whether any government official has inspected the materials before the construction

Lacson: We don’t know that. In the absence of evidence, we cannot file charges against those people. I understand from Sec. Singson that they deferred or even refused to pay the constructors. And I think that’s punishment enough but we sort of nipped it in the bud, so to speak, because had we not exposed the use of substandard construction materials in those bunkhouses, we’re only talking about P836 per bunking unit then, we’ll be dealing with a bigger problem when we talk of P167.8 billion.

I always say this. A mere one percent leakage in 167.8 will already translate to P167.8 billion in taxpayers’ money. So there’s a weakness in the law and I propose legislation because in the Government Procurement Act, RA 9184, there’s a provision there: giving the contractors 90 days to make amends, correct the mistakes, and to me that’s encouraging them to construct with defects because if they get away with it, then fine, they get bigger profits. If they are found out, they have 90 days. So I propose a legislative measure to the Senate and to the House to amend or delete that particular provision. So they won’t have any more flexibility or leeway to use substandard materials or construct with defects.

Singson: Concerning the bunkhouses, the reason given to us is that we push the immediate construction of the bunkhouses, so they made use what was available in the market. But nonetheless, we never paid any substandard material or any bunkhouse using substandard material.

They had to rectify and remove the defective material. That’s the only time we could pay. In fact, some of them just decided to donate the bunkhouses after the materials were replaced. So in the end, the government was not cheated in the sense that we did not pay for any bunkhouse that did not meet the specifications.

On whether these traders were blacklisted by the government

Singson: We’re trying to be more understanding of the situation. We had to bring in these contractors from outside the region. If you remember, for a long, even up to now, we’re still having difficulty in getting contractors from the region. We have to bring in contractors from outside the Yolanda-affected regions.

On whether these traders knew they used substandard traders

Singson: Yes. Because we gave them specifications.

On whether the police did not find any evidence against local government officials for substandard materials

Lacson: We’re hoping that a contractor would blow the whistle but nobody did. So we’re short in evidence. I would have wanted to charge the politician involved. In fact, that was three days right after my appointment. We went to Guiuan and did some ocular inspection and right away, we noticed. We don’t need to be scientists or engineers to notice these substandard materials.

Even the coco lumber that was used… and coco lumber at that time ay sobrang abundant in the area. And yet, pati ‘yung coco lumber ay substandard—short in thickness, in width.

The first thing I did was to approach Sec. Singson. We were there, I think December 18, during the RAY [Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda] presentation to the ambassadors and I told Sec. Singson, I trust in your integrity, I have to tell you this, I discovered something.

On whether it was certain that the materials were substandard

Lacson: Yes. The CIDG [Criminal Investigation and Detection Group] did an investigation report they submitted to us. The P836,000 worth of bunkhouses, the contractors spent only P500,000.

On whether local government officials approved this

Lacson: No. It’s not the local government officials.

On whether LGUs need not approve because it’s a national government project

Lacson: Yes.

Soliman: I call for transparency and accountability. And yes, we need to account. In November and December, there were so many people in makeshift houses and tents. And the idea was to put them in a more protective place.

That’s where the rush, the standards. National government na ‘yung pumasok at that point because the LGUs were doing many other things trying to do relief work. So, as Sec. Lacson said, because of the quick action, whatever the intention was, it was stopped and immediately, they knew that they cannot do any bad shenanigans in the area.

Xu: I know I should not get into these complex issues but I cannot resist the temptation to say that as a development organizations, UN [United Nations], UNDP [United Nations Development Programme], including ADB [Asian Development Bank], and the World Bank, we deal with these kind of issues everyday. This is a normal situation where you have contractors disputes because of materials used, because they do not meet the terms of the contract.

So I think it’s fair that we have this discussion and I’m encouraging it, that let’s hope that with the scrutiny of media, the result is we avoid this from happening. But this is really happening, not just here. We have a procedure when it comes to charges. You needed to review facts, you needed to notify the people you will charge that they have committed this offense, give them a way to defend. Then there will have procurement committee to review these cases and put them in blacklist.

So there, we need to follow procedures also. Hopefully, I’m not siding with anyone per se.

On whether there’s any effort to point out to local government officials the process of rehabilitation and whether any national official had spoken to these local government officials to sort out the problems

Lacson: I already did. When we discovered that they were conducting rallyists as far as Samar, areas that were not hit by Yolanda, they were transporting the rallyists to Tacloban. And when I found out that the truck bus being used to carry those rallyists belong to them, in their faces, I told them, “FYI, plate numbers so and so, after dropping off the rallyists, the truck bus was seen parking inside your compound.” And they did reply to my SMS. They said, “Next time, we’ll be more circumspect.”

On how did you take the local government’s response to his SMS

Lacson: How did they take it? That should be the question.

On what he thinks would be the future impact to his continuous actions of reaching out to Tacloban

Lacson: Yes, we’ll continue to reach out because after all, we’re dealing here with a calamity. We are dealing with people who are suffering. When I got appointed, the first policy that I had in mind is a policy of inclusion. But again, even with that policy, I also have a message, you’re either with us or not with us, something like that. I forgot already what I told you earlier after my appointment, but it sounds something like that. Either you’re with us or not with us.

We will continue to extend our hand of cooperation. My job is to coordinate with all sectors.

On the Vice President speaking to Mayor Romualdez two days after Yolanda; on whether he had spoken to him with regard rehabilitation process

Binay: I’ve spoken with him but not about the visit I made in Tacloban. In connection with Yolanda, I think I saw him, because I brought the head of the World Scout, the king of Sweden, who donated assistance to the victims.

On his thoughts to the issues being raised by Sec. Lacson

Binay: You know, that’s unfortunate. You see there must always be respect to the local governments, that’s part of the centralization. But you see here is an instance where the local government is already an obstacle. That’s why it’s rather unfortunate.

On suggestions on concrete ways the country could speed up recovery

Xu: I think, I’ve been here for only a few days, to say that I can give recommendations is challenging. But definitely, international practices, you know, that allows you to speed up in different procedures, UNDP, for example.

I mean, your agencies, so World Bank, ADB, we all have special procedures for disaster response. We activated these special procedures when certain conditions are met. So in normal conditions, this is not allowed, but when conditions warrant, then we activate these procedures.

For example, in terms of recruiting staff, we’ve relaxed the time that’s needed for advertisement. We shortened this significantly. So in terms of procurement, again, we shortened the advertisement period significantly. We organized special procurement panels for speeding things up. And there are many such procedures that we can review.

I think we would be very happy to offer ourselves in our capacity to support the government in its implementation of the program, if it is useful. I am sure our development partners will also be willing to support your government.

On whether the realignment of the budget for Tacloban is because of the assessment to change the venue of the buildings

Lacson: Yes, but why did he submit the program of work? Why did he request, in the first place, for monies to fund the repairs of the government centers? And then, after getting the money, he would request for realignment. What’s the motive? What’s the purpose?

On the reason of realignment of funds

Lacson: Construction of the new city hall. If it’s for the construction of a new city hall, then DPWH will implement. It’s not DILG. DILG would no longer download funds to the LGU because that’s the agreement. We settled this during our cluster meetings.

On whether Mayor Romualdez was always changing his plans

Lacson: No. Overnight.

Singson: The agreement with DILG, because we agreed that totally damaged structures, public markets, municipal buildings, civic centers, if it will require a totally new structure, we will standardize these structures. We have the designs to take care, using build back better principle, upgraded design, but DPWH will be the one to implement, not the LGU.

Now if you ask for a repair, that money for repair will go to LGU. I don’t want to just repair. We want new structures using the new designs.

So now, the repair money was downloaded to the LGU. And now it is being requested to construct a new.

If it’s new, DPWH would undertake it. If it is repair, LGU will get the money.

So all of a sudden, many were requesting na, “We don’t need total replacement, we just want repair money.” Because that was going to be given to LGUs.

Lacson: The only point I was trying to drive at when I mentioned the downloaded funds, because we keep on hearing Mayor Romualdez, you know, telling media that Tacloban City has not received even a single centavo, that is not right. That is not correct. That’s a lie. Because we know for a fact because we’re in charge of consolidating all data. And we know that the City of Tacloban has so far received not in cash, but in projects, programs, activities, a total amount of P6 billion. Meron pa. Ang total cash na nakuwa nila is, I think, P251 million, the bulk galing sa DILG, meron din sa social services, I think meron din sa livelihood.

Soliman: We provided P35 million in cash for cash-for-work. They still have to liquidate. And we also provided supplemental feeding. And we also provided livelihood. That’s all given to the City Social Welfare and Development office.

On whether the money requested to be realigned has already been downloaded to Tacloban; on where this money went to

Lacson: I have here in my notes. Ito SMS sent to me by Sec. Roxas. Sabi niya, “Total project cost for Tacloban: P230.7 million of which P184.6 already released. The unreleased balance is 20 percent withheld awaiting completion billing. 80 percent was released in one tranche to LGU as follows, meaning Tacloban, civic center, P12.9; city hall, P116.9.”

And they released the funds upon the request of the mayor of the LGU. And that’s the standard being followed for all LGUs.

In fact, Tacloban received the highest amount. ‘Yung iba nga P5 million, P3 million. And Tacloban got the biggest amount.

So when I heard that while he was being interviewed by media saying that Tacloban has not received a single centavo. I cannot help but… Why is he saying that? What’s the motive?

On whether this money for Tacloban has been spent already 

Lacson: I don’t know. Because the other LGUs have already completed the repairs of the government centers. I do not know about Tacloban. Because he’s requesting the funds to be realigned. I suppose he has not started.

On whether this money is just floating

Lacson: I don’t know. It’s with him. Downloaded e.

On whether OPARR would check what happened to fund

Lacson: We will check. Thank you very much. Starting tomorrow, we will check.

On Mayor Romualdez talking about his displeasure about that national government the whole year

Lacson: Ngayon lang kami napuno siguro. We have been holding our punches for some time. But you will reach your elastic limit.

On the timeframe of the rehabilitation plan

Binay: Let me start with so far as the housing concerned. We are supposed to produce, as we have identified, the housing need would be 205,128. By next year, we expect to complete 117,000 and the balance of 80,000 by 2016. That is insofar as the housing is concerned.

Singson: As far as the infrastructure is concerned, the dike will be the major structural intervention that we have to work on. And this would probably go beyond 2016.

First of all, if we do decide to use the existing road as the main alignment, you can imagine an existing road in Tacloban that will be raised from 1 to 1.5 meter higher than the existing elevation. So that will require a lot of discussions with the stakeholders and lot owners that would possibly be affected.

So we’re trying to minimize the social impact by looking at the possibility of just doing a sea wall or raising the existing sea wall in those areas.

So, other than that, we’re confident… Well, we committed to the President that all projects that have been funded already will be completed by June 2015, all that have been funded so far. So that includes classrooms, health units, repairs, and so on.

But we expect that… there are some major infrastructure interventions that we are working with JICA. The structures are designed so that they also become evacuation centers or relief evacuation centers. So, these will probably not be completed in the year 2015. And we’re talking of health stations, we’re talking of school buildings.

They’re spread all over Leyte and Samar. It’s not going to be concentrated in one location. So all the way to Guian, Hernani, Palo, Tacloban, all the way to Tanauan.

So there would be major structures that we are working with JICA that can also be used as what we refer to as resilient evacuation centers. In other words, they will have backup generators. They will also have portable water supply during and after a calamity.

Soliman: For the social services, by the beginning of school year 2015, all the necessary learning kits, computer packages, books that were destroyed, learning materials would have been completed and ready for use.

For the health care, the continuation of support for maternal care will be provided. And let me just correct some numbers that have been put out in media in behalf of the Department of Health.

There was a number that was being quoted of 115 or 116,000 mothers who are pregnant and have not been supported. I think this is something that DOH is correcting. This is 116,000 at the beginning of the count that was done in November, December 2013. Most of them have been assisted, have given birth, and are already at postnatal.

However, there is an observation that there is a rise of pregnancy in the different areas of Samar, Leyte, in particular, and therefore, that’s another number that is being monitored now and provided maternal health care through the different rural health units and the support of WHO and other UN agencies, UNFPA being one of them.

At the same time, primary and essential medicine would also be provided by the end of 2014, which includes prenatal, postpartum, multiple micronutrient powders for six to eleven months and twelve to twenty three months, and that is after breastfeeding.

Also, there is going to be a completion by the end of 2014 provision for preventive action on diarrhea by way of zinc supplementation.

The emergency shelter assistance that will be given to all families that can be built in safe zones will be completed by end of January 2015. That is for social services for the recovery and rehabilitation.

Singson: Maybe, for the benefit of the media, let me give you specific numbers para maliwanag.

For example DILG identified 112 public markets to be repaired as part of the Yolanda rehabilitation. 29 of these 112 has been completed and 59 are already ongoing repairs.

For municipal halls, they also targeted 112. 34 have been completed and 64 are ongoing.

For civic centers, they target 117 civic centers. 34 completed, 61 ongoing.

So they are in various stages of completion. This was what I was saying that all of these we are targeting to be completed by middle of next year.

DTI Usec. Zenaida Maglaya: For the livelihood cluster, what we hope to see by the end of the 2015 is all business restarts, would already be back in operations.

So far, the number of affected MSMEs, which are folks and farmers, assisted is 56 percent at the end of October.

We hope raise the number to about 70 percent before the end of the year; and hopefully, before the end of the first semester next year, we will be able to do 100 percent of all affected farmers, fisherfolks, and MSMEs.

What we mean is that we will see production going for our MSMEs. Farmers and fisherfolks would be back on their livelihood, as well as value adding of intercropping whatever products they will be planting in the coconut areas. We hope to be able to process them for value adding for our farmers.

The fish that is being caught now, the oysters, milkfish, lapulapu, the submerged cages that are being done with the help of our development partners like JICA, is happening in Basay and in other places in Eastern Samar. So we hope to see now food processing, preservation and value adding for our farmers and fisherfolk.

So this is really part of our livelihood cluster initiatives and we hope to see more and more of the products in trade fairs, in a lot of our public markets not only here in the country but abroad as well.

Lacson: When we were preparing the CRRP or the master plan, we looked at the pre-Yolanda demographics, the contribution or the output of the 14 provinces, six regions, including the 171 cities and municipalities, their share of GDP is 17.4 percent. Their agricultural output was at 26.8 percent; industry, 16.7 percent; services, 15.8 percent.

The idea is to up all those numbers because the platform or the goal of the President is to be build back better. So we are not building back better if we will just go back to those numbers or even come out short on the pre-Yolanda numbers. So that is the aim, to do better than the numbers or the demographics before Yolanda.

Xu: If you don’t mind, I just want to say that we talked a lot about infrastructure sector, but I am very happy to hear they also focused on social sectors and the productive sectors.

And this government has spent a lot of money on conditional cash transfer which we strongly support, because one, we published the report 2014 on building resilience and one of the recommendation is to strengthen social protection as a means of supporting resilience. One example in Palo yesterday, when I visited a birthing place, a birthing station, which was built with international partners, but what impressed me is a pregnant woman who gave birth the day before, came in with a rickshaw and quoting reimbursement for that cost of transportation.

So that means you have a built in system, resiliency system that provides people with better conditions so that you can reduce maternal mortality rate. So when we say building resilience and it’s not just about infrastructure, it’s about the social systems support as well.

On whether there is available data on the poverty incidence in the affected areas

Lacson: Yes.

On reports estimating that 1.5 million people were driven into poverty

Lacson: We have those data. We all know that particularly Region VIII and the two Samars, the poverty incidence there is really high, illiteracy rate is high compared to the national average. We have all those data. And the data are all included in the CRRP.

On whether the 1.5 million estimate of people in poverty is accurate

Soliman: The 1.5 million individuals that have fallen into poverty is correct because the number of affected families is 1.4 million. The displaced families is 918,261. That means that those are the totally and partially damaged properties. So if you just multiply that by five, that’s about 1.5 million.

And what are we doing about it? It’s exactly what Sec. Lacson had said, that we are addressing both the infrastructure needs and the social infrastructure that is needed to raise them out of poverty through investments in the economic front ensuring that the social protection systems are strengthened.

And if I may add, part of it is really as OPARR had done under the leadership of Sec. Lacson, bottom-up. So it’s not just the local government unit, but citizens’ participation. And I’d like to share that from November 2013 where we had ongoing community-driven development programs, in addition to the ADB that was given through the Japan fund for poverty reduction, and the World Bank, from November 2013 to September, there are 145 subproject infrastructure: repair of classrooms, day care, that has been completed through the support of the citizens themselves, cooperating with the local government unit and the donor community.

Xu: I think it’s very important to recognize that poverty could not only be measured in terms of income. Poverty is a manifestation of deprivation in our view. If you don’t have access to health service, education, electricity, sanitation, water, this is also from poverty. So when we talk about poverty, we cannot just think about the income.

In international literature, it’s assured that 30 percent of the effect of poverty reduction comes from social sectors. So it’s very important that there is a safety net that keeps people out of poverty, so that they don’t fall back into poverty. So it is a multinational effort.

Lacson: Before we end, I would just like to pay tribute to a fine lady here who is leaving us, si Ms. Luiza Carvalho. She’s leaving us but I’d like to just thank her in behalf of the Philippine government, in behalf of my office because she was there every step of the way: relief, humanitarian, all the way to rehabilitation and recovery. Luiza, thank you very much.

Takeya: One comment: I have many experience that once this has happened in some country, I must go there and ten days after. So everywhere in the world, I visited them to discuss with the government people on how to rebuilt.

So from my extensive experiences, Philippine central government, its members are doing based on a high discipline, high policy, high level philosophy, compared to other countries.

So it’s a very dramatically, from my personal experience also, I feel very respecting of the government for doing best effort. You can be proud of this, I believe.

And also build back as before is easy, very easy. So if you address quick response, these government people can do it, build back as before, very easy to build.

But still, they are challenged to build back better, including not just infrastructure, but a lot, livelihood, everything, structure of the economy, or structure of the local economy. They are thinking and trying to do their best to build back better.

And so I am very happy to support and very proud to be involved in this kind of initiative. And also you better cheer up the government how to complete, but without any cheer, they will do their best. But anyhow, I really want to say it’s a very nice initiative effort shown by the government, I believe. Thanks.