EDITORIAL : Cheap, Not Overpriced

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AMID reports of overpriced bunkhouses and other shenanigans in the Yolanda relief and rehab program, it looks like the government will be spending more than what was initially estimated in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of communities in the typhoon-damaged Visayas region.
Budget Secretary Butch Abad said typhoon reconstruction this year could run up to PhP138 billion (about US$3.1 billion), or 50 percent higher than initial government estimates. In effect, the total bill for the four-year reconstruction program “will be steeper than the estimated PhP631 billion”.

Government has set aside PhP54 billion for the rebuilding effort from a supplemental budget passed late December. Another PhP80 billion more would come from concessional loans offered by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The PNoy administration says it can fund the rehab effort. Question is, can government absorb all this spending? Part of the government plan includes the building of not only typhoon-resilient structures, but also permanent evacuation centers equipped with generators and supplies, an initiative that was not part of the original plan.

Government is also considering major infrastructure projects in the central Philippines, such as relocating the coastal airport in Tacloban, the city that bore the brunt of typhoon Yolanda. Abad says they (government planners) have grossly underestimated the costs of providing temporary shelter, jobs, restoring water health and sanitation services—and even the cost of documenting and burying the dead.

Simply put, government is primed to pump in more money into the relief and rehabilitation program and—with the PDAF on hold—this influx of money could provide an opportunity (God forbid!) for thieves in government to strike again. Abad said, construction planners “failed to factor in the need to introduce resiliency” a statement which—to some extent—provides an explanation as to why the temporary bunkhouses are made of light (or flimsy) materials.

There you go. The bunkhouses are cheap, not overpriced.

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