Aquino approves $4.8b Haiyan rebuilding budget

A view shows cargo ships washed ashore onto residential areas by super Typhoon Haiyan, in Tacloban city, central Philippines on Nov 11, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A view shows cargo ships washed ashore onto residential areas by super Typhoon Haiyan, in Tacloban city, central Philippines on Nov 11, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TACLOBAN - Nearly a year after Haiyan struck the Philippines and after months of vetting, President Benigno Aquino finally approved a 168 billion-peso (S$4.78 billion) "master plan" for regions still reeling from the destruction wrought by the most powerful typhoon to ever make landfall.

The 8,000-page "Yolanda Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan" specifies over 25,000 "rehabilitation- and recover-specific plans and activities" for 171 cities and towns in 14 provinces and six regions, referred to as the "Yolanda corridor", Mr Aquino's spokesman Herminio Coloma said in a text message on Thursday.

"Yolanda" is the local reference to Haiyan, which tore through central Philippines with winds of up to 310 kilometres per hour and seven-metre high storm surges on Nov 8 last year.

It left more than 6,300 dead and nearly 29,000 injured, and displaced some 4 million.

More than a third of the budget Mr Aquino approved - about 76 bilion pesos - will go to resettlement.

Haiyan destroyed over 500,000 homes. Some 240,000 people were evacuated into enclaves of bunkhouses and tents. Policy adviser Oxfam estimates that most of them are still there.

Mayor Alfred Romualdez said this week that over the past year, out of about 70,000 people evacuated in Tacloban city, fewer than 250 have been given permanent housing, and that some 3,000 are still living in coastal areas designated as "danger zones".

The Tacloban city government is building a 400-hectare "township" for 14,500 families now living in temporary shelters, but Mr Romualdez said the soonest it could be built is by 2017.

Haiyan wiped out about 90 per cent of Tacloban, a major gateway and commercial hub in central Philippines.

Mr Aquino's Haiyan budget is also earmarking some 35 billion pesos for infrastructure, 26 billion pesos for social services, and 31 billion pesos for livelihood, apart from the 76 billion pesos allocated for resettlement.

Mr Aquino has promised to complete 80 per cent of his rebuilding target for Haiyan-affected regions before he steps down in 2016, but those on the ground say this goal is unachievable.

Oxfam's humanitarian policy adviser Alison Kent told The Straits Times that only about a fifth of recovery work for Haiyan survivors has been completed over the past year.

rdancel@sph.com.sg