MANILA — Government rehabilitation programs “should now start falling like volcanic ash on areas affected by the Taal eruption,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said on Wednesday.
“It is time to start blanketing these areas with aid to help them get back on their feet again,” Recto said.
“What government does on the ground is important for signaling purposes. So people will be assured that work on the crucial phase of reconstruction has begun. Hope is also an important commodity in disaster areas,” Recto said.
Recto said presence of road clearing equipment, repair crews, resettlement specialists, alternative livelihood experts, pati yung magce-census ng mga nawalang kabayo on the ground in Batangas will boost the morale of the people.
“They must hear the sound of machinery helping them. Sasabihin nila, ‘May kabakas kami.’ Bago tumigas ang abo, dapat nandoon na ang tulong.” he said.
He said the initial target of submitting a “post disaster needs assessment” by NDRRMC by April is too far away.
“By that time, papasok na ang tag-ulan. Mawawala yung tinatawag nilang good weather window for construction,” Recto said.
“There’s also the human factor to be considered. Baka restless na ang mga tao. Mahaba pansensya nila, pero baka Batangueño naman mag-alburoto, Recto said.
Recto said one high priority is the resettlement of eight to ten thousand persons, or two thousand families, all from the volcano island, who will no longer be allowed to return to their homes and farms.
“This is a test case of the newly-created Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development. May lupa ang probinsya, ano ang equity ninyo?” the senator said.
The Department of Agriculture should also get into the act, Recto said. “Backyard fishpond ng Manila ang Taal Lake. Maraming magsasaka ang nadale.”
“And I would also like to jog the memory of our Tourism officials that the Taal-Tagaytay-Tanauan-Talisay zone was a huge contributor to tourism receipts. Ano na ang pwedeng isukling alalay sa kanila?” Recto said.
He urged national agencies to put up frontline and field offices in disaster areas. “Alangan namang pumunta pa ‘yan sa Maynila. Tulad sa mga nasirang bahay, humigit-kumulang 20,000 na bahay o pamilya, anong mga tulong ang pwedeng ibigay sa repair?”
Batangueños who will start rebuilding their lives are not asking the government to foot the entire bill, Recto said. “Hindi kami ganoon. Ang importante may kontribusyon ang pambansang pamahalaan.”
Recto agreed with the observation that with the Calamity Fund at P21 billion, there is no need for a supplemental budget yet in the very short term.
“But I think what the national government should do is, based on needs, immediately set aside an initial amount for the rehab phase of Tulong Taal, Bangon Batangas. Alam naming may bagyo at baha na darating pa sa ibang lugar sa taong ito na mangangailangan rin ng Calamity Fund,” he said.
The senator expressed thanks to executive officials present in today’s Senate hearing for assuring him that they will come up with an initial action plan by next week. (STACY ANG/IAMIGO/CPH)