Payments moratorium, interest-free loans for Yolanda victims

MANILA — President Aquino has ordered government-owned and controlled corporations and government financial institutions to grant a six-month moratorium on loan payments, and extend interest-free loans to individuals, companies, and groups directly affected by typhoon “Yolanda,” Malacañang said on Thursday.

Herminio Coloma, head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, said agencies covered by the directive are the Land Bank of the Philippines, Development Bank of the Philippines, Government Service Insurance Corporation, Social Security System, National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation-PAGIBIG, People’s Credit and Finance Corporation, Philippine Postal Savings Bank, Philippine Retirement Authority, Quedan Rural Credit and Guaranty Corporation, and the United Coconut Planters Bank.

Aquino yesterday reassured the typhoon victims that the government has P16 billion available for the rebuilding and rehabilitation of the typhoon-affected areas, which would be augmented once the proposed P14.6-billion supplemental budget is passed.

Aquino said international groups like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have offered to provide grants and loans to the country for the rebuilding of the affected areas.

“We’re ready for at least the initial phase of Yolanda’s needs — relief and start of the shelter program,” he said.

Eduardo del Rosario, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said authorities are trying to sustain the “continuity” of the relief operations but not to the extent that the affected population will be dependent on relief goods.

“We have to open up the opportunity for them to be productive, allow them to earn as we provide them with shelter. That is the challenge,” he said.

He said the Department of Public Works and Highways is working double time constructing bunkhouses for the displaced population. He said the reconstruction challenge is being pursued hand in hand with the relief efforts.

 

“The total rehabilitation may take three to five years, considering the magnitude ng affected area,” he also said.

The NDRRMC said some 2.3 million families or about 10.8 million persons have been affected by Yolanda which hit nine regions. Of the figure, about 779,000 families or 3.5 million persons are served inside and outside evacuation centers.

The cost of damage to infrastructure and agriculture remained at P24.53 billion. The number of destroyed and damaged houses is at 1.1 million.

The official death toll is now 5,560 people. A total of 1,757 persons are missing.

Del Rosario expressed doubt the death toll will reach 10,000.

“If that (current death toll) will be doubled, we should be recovering more (bodies). It only increased by 60 and that was for quite a number of days which means a small number is left,” he said.

A few days after Yolanda struck on November 8, a police official said the number of fatalities in Tacloban City alone might reach 10,000.

Coloma said the President is prepared to certify as urgent the proposed supplemental bill to hasten its passage.

Congress is scheduled to go on Christmas break from December 21 to January 19.

The Senate yesterday approved a resolution appropriating a P14.6-billion supplemental budget to augment the current calamity fund to cover relief, rehabilitation, repair and construction requirements in areas ravaged not only by typhoon Yolanda but also by past calamities.

The House committee on appropriations on Wednesday adopted the supplemental budget and another measure extending the validity of the government’s P20.8-billion calamity fund until end of next year.

The fund will be used not only for the rehabilitation of areas ravaged by Yolanda but also other areas hit by several previous typhoons, for areas damaged by the Bohol quake last October, and areas in Zamboanga City affected by an attack staged by the Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front last September.

Finance committee chair Sen. Francis Escudero said “the re-aligned utilization of the P14.6 billion supplemental fund will be used principally to augment two items in the 2013 budget, namely the quick respond funds (QRF) of various agencies and the President’s calamity fund.”

During yesterday’s hearing, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the 2013 budget still has a balance of P12 billion coming from various agencies.

Escudero said, “Under the existing budget, the fund is only valid until December 31, 2013. We extended its validity until December 31, 2014 but to be used only for calamity-related programs and projects,” Escudero said.

At the House, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga asked Malacañang to inform Congress how it intends to use the P14.6-billion supplemental budget.

He said Congress had no choice but to approve a lump sum amount because an itemized estimate can be made only after a full assessment of damage.

The administration ally said it is very difficult for Malacañang to make an itemized budget proposal now that the full extent of the damage caused by various typhoons and an earthquake has yet to be determined.

A ship from Bangladesh is due to arrive today for a three-day goodwill visit, carrying with it 40 tons of relief goods for victims of Yolanda.

Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Gerald Fabic said the BNS Somudra Joy was originally scheduled to conduct a port visit but because of the devastation from Yolanda, Bangladeshi officials decided to load it with relief goods.

Fabic said the ship will stay at Pier 15 in South Harbor, Manila until Sunday.

Two recruitment agencies will deploy 500 Yolanda worker-victims abroad free of charge, said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.

The International Skills Development told the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration it would hire some 300 workers from the Eastern Visayas for ABV Rock Group, its overseas client in Saudi Arabia.

De Mesa said available positions include electrical supervisor, tiling foreman, civil engineering supervisor, finishing supervisor, assistant civil engineer, civil engineer, mechanical engineer, finishing marble works foreman, finishing for doors, gypsum and ceiling foreman,   assistant supervisor, finishing group assistant supervisor, finishing supervisor, general foreman, technician and welder.

The company also needs electrical foremen, mason block works and plastering foremen, masons, block works and plastering workers, tiling and finishing masons, marble fixers/installer masons, finishing carpenters for doors, gypsum and ceiling, shuttering carpenters, painters, steel fixers, scaffolders, scaffolding foremen and steel fixers.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman belied reports that the agency is repacking foreign relief goods and switching these with local goods.

“We do not repack the individually packed international donations that are sent to us,” Soliman said following the allegations circulating in social networking sites.

Soliman said the DSWD has to check if relief goods particularly food items are fit for human consumption,” Soliman said.

Soliman appealed to the public not to spread information based on hearsay and unverified reports.

To accommodate more in-kind donations, the DSWD opened a donations desk at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium on M. Adriatico st. in Manila. Soliman said donations can be brought there anytime as the office is open 24 hours.

She also said the donations desk for small items in the South Conservatory of De La Salle University on Taft Avenue, Manila is still open.

The DSWD-National Resource Operations Center on NAIA Road in Pasay City and the department’s warehouse in Cupang, Muntinlupa City will continue to accept in-kind donations until Sunday.

The San Juan City government is donating P1 million to typhoon victims in Ormoc City in Leyte. The funds come from San Juan’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund.

Las Piñas Mayor Vergel Aguilar turned over a P1.5-million check to Dulag town in Leyte and P1 million to Julita town, also in Leyte, representing the city’s initial assistance.

The Department of Education assured its personnel, including teachers in areas devastated by Yolanda that it is coordinating with the Development Bank of the Philippines to ensure they will get their salaries without difficulty, particularly those who lost their ATM cards.

Tonisito Umali, assistant secretary for Legal Affairs, said DepEd employees will also receive through ATM the second half of their 13th month pay and the P5,000 year-end cash gift.

He said the DBP branch in Ormoc City is already operational. It has also put up several mobile ATM stations in Tacloban City.