Where did Yolanda aid go?
Romualdez: Declare donations as public funds
THE House Independent Minority Bloc led by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez on Wednesday batted for the P17.2 billion in foreign donations to Yolanda to be declared as public funds and to make government officials account for the money.
Romualdez said local officials in Visayas were complaining that no foreign-donated funds were downloaded to the local government units.
The national government admitted that some P73 billion in foreign aid had been pledged by the foreign governments and international community.
However, it said, only P17.2 billion was actually received with government getting only P1.2 billion in cash donations and P1.26 billion in non-cash donations.
The bulk of the donations or some P14.7 billion was coursed through the nongovernment organizations, the government said.
But Romualdez insisted it was the job of the government to keep track of the donations considering that these were not felt and seen in the most devastated areas like his district that includes Tacloban City, where more than 6,200 people had perished when super Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ or “Haiyan’’ flattened Eastern Visayas almost two years ago.
Saying the Yolanda issue was “personal” to him, the Tacloban solon proposed the creation of an automatic appropriation on all foreign, international and local assistance extended to the government.
He explained that this would make funds as “deemed automatically appropriated for the special purpose for which the same is donated so that whatever comes will be automatically part of the public funds.”
Romualdez, along with Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza and Abakada Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, took to task the government officials particularly Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman for failing to explain where the billions in foreign donations went.
“Where is government in Yolanda?” said Romualdez, as he demanded
answers and insisted that government officials be made accountable for the billions in local and foreign funds and donations that “never came.”
Romualdez proposed that all donations for relief, rescue, retrieval and rehabilitation be considered as “public funds” that should make public officials accountable for their use, storage, maintenance and audit.
Almost two years after Yolanda flattened Eastern Visayas, Romualdez said the government has yet to account for all local and foreign donations and disclose where these funds went.
“What happened? Where is justice? Where is the Malasakit of our own government to our own people in Region 8? Furthermore, our line agencies in Region 8 are complaining where the foreign aids that were supposed to be downloaded to Region 8 as the ground zero for Yolanda went,” Romualdez said.
Atienza said Soliman was consistent in “mishandling and misusing” social welfare funds.
When he was mayor of Manila, Atienza said, he had a problem when shanties in a community in Tondo were razed to the ground.
He said while the city hall was able to build 7,000 houses, Soliman made the national government spend for 5,000 overpriced “bahay kubo” that could be easily bought along the highway for P3,000.
“We provided materials for them to build their homes. Soliman provided toy houses and that’s exactly how puny her mindset is when addressing a big disaster like Yolanda,” Atienza said.
“I can imagine what she’s doing with the billions of pesos now in her hands with regards to Yolanda,” Atienza said.
“The government neglect has become the norm and so it is quite disturbing,” Romualdez said.
“We should learn and we should adapt ourselves to such threats and situations in the near future because the experts say the seas, the oceans will rise even as high as 20 feet. Mga tidal wave ang tatama sa ating shoreline. Bagyong malalakas. Eh si Dinky Soliman parang palagay ko gusto talaga niya ganyan lang, the more confused, the more diffused, the more occasion for graft and corruption,” Atienza said.