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‘BAYANIHAN 3’ REHAB PLAN GETS VILLAFUERTE SUPPORT

Camarines Sur Representative LRay Villafuerte is backing a proposal in the Senate for a new fiscal package in 2021 on top of next year’s proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA), this time a “Bayanihan 3” plan for the large-scale rehabilitation of provinces and cities devastated by three strong typhoons—Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses—that battered Luzon in succession in November.

“I fully support a Senate proposal to legislate ‘Bayanihan 3’ for the sole purpose of funneling substantial funds into the largescale rehabilitation of provinces and cities reeling from the disastrous impact of super typhoons Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses,”  said Villafuerte, a former governor of Camarines Sur, which was one of the provinces hardest hit by all three tropical depressions.

Special funds for “Bayanihan 3” as proposed by senators for the typhoon-hit areas should be spent on building new infrastructure or repairing damaged ones such as roads and bridges; offering livelihood opportunities, most especially to dislocated families.

He said such special funds for “Bayanihan 3,” as proposed by senators for the typhoon-hit areas should be spent on building new infrastructure or repairing damaged ones such as roads and bridges; offering livelihood opportunities, most especially to dislocated families and those still staying in evacuation centers;  and providing shelter to those whose houses were destroyed completely or partially by the typhoons that came one after the other in barely two weeks’ time.

In one of the Senate’s plenary sessions on the proposed 2021 GAA, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto suggested that if the government could push the Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2 laws as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it could draw up Bayanihan 3 in answer to the typhoons.

“The three cyclones had exacerbated the ruinous impact of COVID-19 on provinces such as Camarines Sur, making  it extremely difficult for these areas  to recover quickly from the health and economic crises unleashed by the pandemic across the world,” said Villafuerte, who was the lead author in the House of both Republic Act (RA) 11469  or Bayanihan 1 and RA 11494 or Bayanihan 2.

Vilafuerte said Malacañang should consider Bayanihan 3, specifically for the rehabilitation of the typhoon-battered areas, as “the failure to help these places get back on their feet quickly enough would definitely be a drag on national government efforts to kick-start economic activity nationwide to pre-pandemic levels at the soonest possible time.”

“Financial institutions and experts project a slower-than-expected recovery for the Philippine economy because of what has been seen as insufficient fiscal stimulus response to the global economic slowdown,” he said. “Economic recovery would even be a far longer journey ahead for the Philippines if no adequate intervention measures are put in place to speed up the recuperation of cities and provinces like Camarines Sur that were hit the hardest by the three super typhoons.”  

According to the latest National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) reports, Typhoon Quinta had damaged P1.56 billion-worth of infrastructure and inflicted P2.66 billion-worth of damages to farms in the affected provinces; while Typhoon Rolly had caused P12.86 billion-worth of damages to infrastructure and P5 billion-worth of damages to agriculture.

“The three cyclones had exacerbated the ruinous impact of COVID-19 on provinces such as Camarines Sur, making  it extremely difficult for these areas  to recover quickly from the health and economic crises.”

As for Typhoon Ulysses, the latest NDRRMC reports placed infrastructure damages at P10.79 billion and agriculture damages at P4.72 billion.

In response to Sen. Recto’s proposal on Bayanihan 3, Senate finance committee chairman Juan Edgardo Angara said he was willing to discuss another stimulus package, and was quoted as saying: “If for instance, a special session is called if needed, then that would be a possibility.”

Asked by reporters to comment on Recto’s proposal, Budget Secretary Wendell Avisado reportedly said: “We are not averse to it.” 

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, meanwhile, was quoted as saying: “We are in the process of evaluating the damage of the series of typhoons and the amounts required to address these and will determine whether or not the current budget will be sufficient.”

Villafuerte earlier welcomed Malacañang’s creation of an expanded, special inter-agency task force to take charge of rehabilitating Bicol and other places across Luzon affected by the three devastating typhoons that struck Luzon.

“We welcome the apparent expansion of the special task force that President Duterte created to include Camarines Sur and the rest of Bicol, Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon), Cagayan Valley, and the other places devastated not only by typhoon Ulysses but also by tropical depressions Rolly and Quinta that hit the country over the last two weeks or so,” Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte has also called on the two chambers of Congress to set aside a bigger calamity fund in the proposed 2021 GAA, with  “a lion’s share of his proposed  bigger calamity budget in next year’s GAA going to relief and rehabilitation work in Camarines Sur and the rest of Bicol along with the other places devastated by three successive typhoons and the economic fallout from the prolonged pandemic.”

Villafuerte said that even before the onslaught of the latest tropical depressions, the calamity funds of the LGUs in badly-hit places were probably depleted already, having been used for their respective localities’ COVID-19 response efforts.

“Camarines Sur, for one, and other Bicol provinces have suffered the fourfold blow by the lingering COVID-19 outbreak and super typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses that pummelled the province and other places in Luzon, including Metro Manila, in November” Villafuerte said.

Before Typhoon Ulysses wrought havoc on Metro Manila and Cagayan Valley about three weeks ago, Villafuerte had  already proposed the creation of a special task force to be in-charge of rehabilitating Camarines Sur and the other provinces of Bicol and the Calabarzon corridor that were battered by typhoons Quinta and Rolly.

Villafuerte had said then that his proposed special body could be akin to Task Force Bangon Marawi, which Malacañang created three years ago to work on the rehabilitation of Marawi City in Lanao del Sur, in the wake of its five-month siege by an alliance of Islamic State (IS)-aligned terrorists. 

Villafuerte and his son, Gov. Migz Villafuerte,  have thanked President Duterte for ordering budget officials to fast-track the release of additional calamity assistance to the  provinces devastated by the three powerful typhoons. 

Rep. Villafuerte also thanked the President for approving the Bicol river dredging project, which he had proposed to the Chief Executive along with his request to augment the depleted calamity funds of LGUs, during a Nov.15 briefing for Mr. Duterte by national and local officials in Camarines Sur’s capital of Pili.

Villafuerte had also filed a House resolution strongly urging the President to “come up with a comprehensive Bicol rehabilitation program, in response to the heavy devastation by super typhoon Rolly,” to include the provision of “immediate relief, recovery, and reconstruction for rebuilding a better Bicol,” in the aftermath of what was dubbed the world’s strongest typhoon in 2020.

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