Senator Joel Villanueva is calling on the government to appoint a disaster czar to oversee the relief efforts in Batangas for residents displaced by the eruption of Taal Volcano.

Villanueva broached the idea after reports showed that relief goods such as food and hygiene packs, among others, were unevenly distributed to various evacuation centers where thousands of displaced residents have taken shelter as the restive Taal volcano showed signs of eruption in early January.

“We must be able to manage our available resources well so we can cover the basic needs of our evacuees.”

“Some evacuation centers have more than other places. If people are expected to stay longer in these evacuation centers, we must be able to manage our available resources well so we can cover the basic needs of our evacuees,” the veteran legislator said.

“For instance, we’ve observed that there’s a lack of portalets to maintain the sanitation around evacuation centers. We need a manager to assess the needs and look after the delivery of relief across affected areas,” the seasoned lawmaker added.

The senator, who heads the Senate labor committee, likewise suggested to device ways of spurring economic activity in areas affected by the constant volcanic activities of Taal. He explained that one way to jumpstart the local economy is to generate short-term employment to evacuees at shelters.

“We should strive to help our people displaced by the eruption of Taal get back on their feet through employment and livelihood.”

“If you’re sending relief to certain evacuation centers, why not hire someone there to take charge in the cooking of food for the people there? Or maintain the place for that matter?” he pointed out. “We should strive to help our people displaced by the eruption of Taal get back on their feet through employment and livelihood.”

Villanueva asked the labor department to fast-track its emergency employment programs to support evacuees while waiting out for the crisis to end.

Under the 2020 national budget, the labor department’s programs for emergency employment like the government internship program and the Tulong Pangkabuhayan para sa ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) received a total allocation of P6.8 billion.

He also called on the officials of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to provide assistance in the form of scholarships for evacuees who have lost everything when they were displaced. The bulk of Tesda’s P12.975-billion budget for 2020 funds the various scholarship programs it offers, the senator explained.

The disaster czar could also fill in the requirement in the meantime as Congress deliberates on moves to create a department specifically handling the government’s disaster relief efforts and resilience programs, according to Villanueva.

He also supported calls for Congress to pass a supplemental budget to cover recovery initiatives efforts, as well as resiliency programs and disaster preparedness as the Taal’s volcanic activity showed no signs of abating.

“We will support the passage of a supplemental budget, but the proposed amount must be based on reasonable estimates and not ballpark figures. We want to ensure that we will spend for meaningful programs to help Batanguenos get back on their feet,” Villanueva concluded.

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