The challenge that policy makers now face is how to raise the needed resources to fund in a sustainable manner and without placing additional burden on Filipinos the requirements of relief and rehabilitation.
By ARNOLD PADILLA
MANILA — As hundreds of thousands still remain in evacuation centers and tens of thousands more in danger of being displaced from flooding caused by a series of typhoons that hit Metro Manila and Luzon provinces in the past two weeks, questions on how to comprehensively deal with the social and economic impact of the calamity have remained largely unaddressed.
The biggest concern is funding, with the amount needed to respond to the immediate needs of flood victims and the costlier rehabilitation of affected areas rising by the day. Latest reports from the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) placed the damage caused by tropical storm Ondoy at P8.33 billion (as of October 5), while Pepeng’s damage is pegged at P1.96 billion (as of October 9). Initial estimates (as of October 7) from the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) claimed that the macroeconomic impact of the two typhoons is about 0.2% of the gross domestic product (GDP).
But the costs are actually much higher considering that landslides and flooding triggered by Pepeng continue to wreak havoc in the Cordillera region plus the still unquantified short- and medium-term effects of losses in jobs and livelihood due to the typhoons. Note that official unemployment before the storms ravaged the country was pegged at 7.6% nationwide (National Statistics Office’s July 2009 Labor Force Survey), with the top three highest regional unemployment posted by the National Capital Region (12.1%); Calabarzon (11.1%); and Central Luzon (9.9%) – the regions most affected by Ondoy. Alas, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) could only offer a 15-day employment, particularly in clearing and de-clogging operations and reconstruction efforts, for 1,450 typhoon-displaced workers in these regions
The challenge that policy makers now face is how to raise the needed resources to fund in a sustainable manner and without placing additional burden on Filipinos the requirements of relief and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, recent statements from Malacañang and Congress echo the same flawed fiscal policies that have been saddling the people long before Ondoy and Pepeng hit the country.
Aside from the aggressive initiatives of civil society including the mass media to generate resources for the flood victims, the Arroyo administration has also asked for emergency assistance from the international community. As of October 3, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that total foreign aid for Ondoy victims was pegged at P566 million channeled through official agencies such as the NDCC, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC).
In addition, the United Nations (UN) also issued a flash appeal last October 7 for $74.02 million in aid to meet the urgent needs of one million of Ondoy’s victims on top of a $7-million UN assistance for the country that the multilateral body already approved.
The need to tap foreign aid was further underscored by reports that the Arroyo administration’s P1-billion 2010 calamity fund has already dwindled to about P27 million when Ondoy struck the country. Faced with a practically zero calamity fund, Congress said it would approve before its break next week a P10-billion supplemental budget to help provide relief for flood victims. According to senators, the supplemental budget will cover P7 billion for Ondoy victims and P3 billion for those affected by typhoon Frank that hit Panay last year. However, with the damage wrought by Pepeng in northern Philippines , the amount may not be enough to cover the costs.