(The Philippine Star) | Updated December 18, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The economy should grow by 7.0 percent this year and between 6.5 and 7.5 percent next year despite the devastation caused by a killer typhoon and an earthquake, the government said yesterday.
Economic planning minister Arsenio Balisacan said that while losses in agriculture caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda were expected to affect growth in the near term, rebuilding would likely make up for it further down the line.
He said 2013 gross domestic product growth should hit the “upper limit” of the government‘s 6.0-7.0 percent target, forecasts made before Yolanda hit last month and a 7.1-magnitude quake struck Central Visayas in October.
“Without all these crises, we could have achieved 7.3-7.5 percent growth this year,” Balisacan said in a statement.
Nevertheless, he said the Philippines should continue its hot streak of five consecutive quarters of at least 7.0 percent growth.
“For 2014, we forecast growth to be in the 6.5-7.5 percent range.”
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Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay said the government will construct at least 60,000 homes for Yolanda victims.
Binay, who is also chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), told The STAR the target is to build 40,000 housing units in 2014 and 20,000 in 2015.
He said the National Housing Authority, Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG Fund and the HUDCC would jointly undertake the construction.
Binay said they have coordinated with Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Panfilo Lacson on the participation of the housing sector to rebuild and resettle Yolanda victims.
Urban poor groups, however, said Yolanda survivors should be consulted first concerning rebuilding efforts.
In a forum held at the Ateneo University yesterday, Jeorgie Tenolete, president of Kabalikat sa Kaunlaran in Baseco, Tondo said resettlement sites should not be crowded and jobs should be a priority.
“Barangays of different affected areas must do an assessment and planning for their short- and long-term rebuilding activities together with the residents. Funders and the national government can now directly provide funds to barangays based on their identified needs. The barangay must allow active participation of its constituents so that all funds for rehabilitation will be carefully accounted for by the community,” Celia Santos, one of the speakers and advocacy officer for Urban Development and Housing Act Amendments said.
The Urban Poor Alliance, Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity and other people’s organizations said the proper approach is “build back better in disaster areas.”
“Recovery must promote fairness and equity. Government must ensure that in the reconstruction process, ordinary citizens and their communities will be involved,” they said.
Alice Murphy, UPA field director, said the government should adopt the best practices in reconstruction to ensure that Yolanda survivors are “served with integrity” and their needs are given priority.
Apart from building 159 bunkhouse units for 3,816 families, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said it would also repair 18 schools and a regional office of the Department of Education (DepEd) damaged by Yolanda.
In a statement, DPWH Eastern Visayas regional director Rolando Asis said the schools are in Tacloban City and the DepEd regional office in Palo, Leyte.
The 18 schools are the Caiba-an Elementary School, Kapangi-an Central School, Dr. A. P. Bañez Elementary School at Barangay 77, V&G Elementary School in Barangay 109, San Jose Central School, San Jose National High School, Marasbaras Central School, Rizal Central School, Sagkahan National High School, Lorenzo Daa Elementary School, Sto. Niño SPED Center, Tacloban National High School, Lucio Vivero Memorial School, B. Bolante Elementary School, Cabalawan Elementary School, Bagacay Elementary School, Marasbaras National High School and Salvacion Elementary School.
DPWH has started clearing the damaged schools and conducted an assessment of the needed materials.
Seeds for farmers
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said it had begun supplying farmers with emergency seed supplies that will allow them to collect a harvest in March and April.
FAO’s representative in the Philippines, Rodrigue Vinet, said that without the harvest, vulnerable farmers would not have been able to harvest rice for almost a year -- until October or November 2014.
“Seed distributions have come at a critical moment,” he said in a statement.
FAO said more than 1,000 farmers from the hardest-hit areas will each receive 40-kilogram bag of seeds.
It said it was also delivering bags of fertilizer as well as tools and small irrigation water pumps.
No holiday break
Employees of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Yolanda-hit areas will have no holiday break to ensure there will be no interruption in the distribution of relief goods to affected families.
DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman said there would be a shifting of employees in Field Offices 6, 7 and 8 on Christmas and New Year.
The DSWD is also beefing up its personnel with the deployment of additional personnel from Quezon City. – Jun Elias, Rainier Allan Ronda, Rhodina Villanueva, Evelyn Macairan