July 15, 2016
Almost three years after Super Typhoon Yolanda, the Catholic Church through its social action arm, the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines together with Development and Peace (Caritas Canada) called on the newly-installed Duterte administration to ensure the full accountability and audit of the government’s Typhoon Haiyan response.
In his welcome remarks during a forum held on Friday, NASSA/Caritas Philippines Executive Secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez particularly cited that “now is a very opportune time to try to bring about change” as the newly-elected government is welcomed with optimistic platforms for meaningful policy change for the poor and most vulnerable.
Gariguez particularly cited as example of how slow the government’s recovery program in 2014 when only 2,100 houses were built for Yolanda-affected communities in contrast to the 3,117 houses built by NASSA/Caritas Philippines during the same period.
“The efforts of the Church is intended to complement the emergency response of the government which is the one primarily mandated to be the major responder. Regrettably, the government response was deemed very slow and obviously inadequate. There is really nothing “heroic” in the way the recovery program was carried out,” he explained.
Latest data from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) showed that only 19,330 shelters were completed by the government as of March this year, which Gariguez said is far below the overall target of 205,128 units.
The priest also acknowledged the international community and other humanitarian agencies who took an active role in the relief and recovery efforts. But he also reminded them to ensure full accountability and audit of its Yolanda response.
According to the report of Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAITH), a government monitoring mechanism, the total foreign aid received by the government is P1.2 billion cash and P1.2 billion in non-cash. Non-government organizations and multilateral organizations, on the other hand, received P14.8 billion cash and non-cash.
“However, there is no available report as to how these contributions were spent. And according to a Commission on Audit (COA) report released in September 2014, there is no single agency that tracks all the donations from foreign funding,” he added.
The forum was attended by different key players in the Yolanda response such as representatives of government agencies, multilateral organizations, international non-government organizations, civil society organizations, foreign embassies, Yolanda survivors, and members of the Caritas network.
During the forum, the new administration is also asked to have a better and coordinated approach in the completion of the remaining gaps in the Yolanda response. They were also called on to strengthen the role of the local government units, and create a cabinet-level body that will have full authority in implementing and coordinating the Yolanda efforts.
NASSA/Caritas Philippines as the social action arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines is currently implementing the Catholic Church’s largest three-year rehabilitation program called REACHPhilippines with the dioceses of the nine provinces worst-hit by the typhoon.
“We make sure that transparent and honest spending is being practiced in all levels through regular financial monitoring, evaluation and audit from international auditing companies,” the priest added.
Caritas Internationalis Member Organizations in the country like Development and Peace (Caritas Canada) are also continuously providing support to families affected by the typhoon.
So far, the overall Caritas response in the country, including NASSA/Caritas Philippines and the Caritas Internationalis Member Organizations, contributed more than P4.6 billion and served over 1.8 million people.
Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based umbrella organization of 165 Catholic charities worldwide which includes NASSA/Caritas Philippines, is currently headed by Cardinal Luis Antonio as its first Asian president.
NASSA/Caritas Philippines Executive Secretary Fr. Edwin during his opening remarks at a forum held in Pasig City on the state of Yolanda reconstruction. (Photo: NASSA/Caritas Philippines)
Development and Peace (Caritas Canada) Programme Manager for the Philippines Program Mr. Jess Agustin during a forum held in Pasig. (Photo: NASSA/Caritas Philippines)
The forum was attended by different key players in the Yolanda response such as representatives of government agencies, multilateral organizations, international non-government organizations, civil society organizations, foreign embassies, Yolanda survivors, and members of the Caritas network. (Photo: NASSA/Caritas Philippines)