Last November 8, 2013, many parts of Eastern Visayas were literally wiped out by Super Typhoon Yolanda. The government immediately began its rehabilitation work with an initial budget of P160 billion. Foreign aid from different countries also started to come in, amounting to an estimated total of P740 million. By October 2014, the government funds and foreign aid combined reached a total of P81.89 billion.
In a report by the Commission on Audit last September 2014, only P3.8 million out of the previously recorded P740 million of foreign aid was spent for aid and rehabilitation work in the Eastern Visayas. The remaining 736 million pesos was “sitting idly” in the bank accounts of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Last August 1, nearly two years after Yolanda, the United Nations issued a report that the Philippines is not doing enough to help the thousands of Yolanda victims who remain in shanties without power or water.
So where are the foreign donations and government funds going? The Philippine Department of Budget and Management said that the money is no problem, “the problem is the assessment, preparation, execution, and delivery of aid.” Aid workers and government officials also admitted that the flow of aid has been lagging because of bureaucratic hurdles, partisan politics, and lack of coordination between national and local government agencies.
At this point you may ask yourself, what’s new? Our government has had a bad reputation due to budget issues. But what makes me wonder is that despite our country being hit by several typhoons every year, our government still doesn’t seem used to delivering disaster aid as effectively as they are expected to be. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) previously released a spot on statement regarding the government’s disaster aid saying, “The government takes on the character of a drunken turtle, rolling out projects and releasing funds in slow and scattered fashion.”
A report by the PCIJ also stated that not all the disaster aid was for Yolanda victims, because part of the funds was used for other provinces and communities devastated by typhoons since 2011. If it takes three to four years for our government to complete its disaster aid, how much more difficult will the situation be with future typhoons to come, considering that the global climate is starting to change rapidly?
Here in Metro Manila alone, floods due to typhoons have been one of our perennial problems for many years, and it’s not only our government’s fault for ineffectively implementing its flood management plan. In residential and commercial areas, it’s a common sight to see people throw trash everywhere everyday. Consequently, this trash clogs our drainage systems and waterways. So when you’re blaming only the government for all the floods we experience, think again. We’re all partly responsible for these in big or small ways.
But when it comes to disaster aid and preparing communities for typhoons in Metro Manila, the government needs to step up. Last 2012, the P351-billion Metro Manila flood management plan was previously approved and set to be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). One of its aims is to improve infrastructures such as dams, retarding basins, road dikes, and pumping stations. According to the plan, it would reach completion by 2035 – a seemingly suspicious estimation considering that a project worth that much could be completed at a faster rate.
In between this major project, it’s likely that the DPWH and other agencies involved are experiencing the same issues with regard to the disaster aid in several communities devastated by typhoons. The project was even criticized by government officials as being questionable and ineffective in terms of implementation. They’re all for a good cause, but if we don’t have an efficient system for the distribution of funds and implementation of projects, it won’t do any good in the long run.
Since time immemorial, one of our country’s problems has mostly been about budget issues like underspending, overspending, misallocation, pocketing, etc. Talk with any Filipino about it, it would probably boil down to how corrupt our government officials are. Yes, it’s true, but more than the problem with corruption, a better system for budget management could be a solution. But then if corrupt officials continue to manipulate the system, it won’t do any good either.
So what’s the point of me blabbering when we’re stuck at a dead end? What’s the point of ranting about budget or social issues in general if the only change it makes is try to amplify the voice of the people, which the government doesn’t even listen to most of the time?
The Filipinos, more than ever, are now more desperate and demanding for change. Rather than a mere continuity of what the past administrations have started, I want to believe that the next administration is still capable of further increasing the standards of living in this country.
Hopefully, the Filipino people will choose well in the upcoming national elections. One problem is if the country’s presidential bets are truly qualified. So far, four personalities have taken the political limelight. One is an elite who’s also a try-hard in establishing a “man for the masses” figure; second is someone still fresh and needs more extensive experience in public service; third is someone caught in multiple controversies and grudges with the current administration; and last is someone who has aggressive, promising, but probably unstable principles when taken to the national level.
Whoever should win the national elections, let’s just not completely rely on the government to solve our country’s woes like the ever present budget issues. Like what was mentioned, we are all partly responsible in big or small ways.