As the Inter-Agency Task Force Yolanda for the Unified Implementation and Monitoring of Rehabilitation and Recovery Projects and Programs in the Yolanda-Affected Areas (IATF-Yolanda), whose term expired last August 2020, is being recommended for extention, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go appealed to agencies involved to finish the job before the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.

“Ayaw nating nakatiwangwang ang mga proyekto bago matapos ang termino ni Pangulong Duterte. Hindi niya ugali ang iniiwan ang mga proyekto na nakabinbin at hindi natatapos. Kailangang tapusin ang trabaho, walang iiwang hindi tapos na proyekto,” Go explained.

“Sa posibleng pag-extend ng IATF-Yolanda, inaasahan natin na mas matutukan pa ng husto ang mga proyekto ng gobyerno para sa mga kababayan nating matagal nang naghihintay para sa kanilang tulong, lalo na sa pabahay. Hindi biro ang pinagdaanan nila noon nang nangyari ang bagyong Yolanda,” Go hopefully said.

“Get the job done, from start to finish, ensure that new houses are of quality living standards, and that every single peso is used to fully rehabilitate affected communities,” he appealed.

The Senator pointed out that major infrastructure construction has been temporarily halted or delayed partly because of the current health crisis caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the country and with the imposition of community quarantines.

Super Typhoon Yolanda, or internationally known as Typhoon Haiyan, is one of the most powerful and one of the strongest landfalling tropical cyclones ever recorded. It also holds the title as the deadliest typhoon in the Philippines. It made landfall in the eastern part of the country on November 8, 2013 hitting Eastern Samar first, killing more than 6,000, and displacing and affecting millions mostly in central Philippines.

One of the integral components of the Yolanda Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan is the Yolanda Permanent Housing Program. The task force continues to construct housing units and energize permanent settlements with access to clean drinking water.

“Base sa mga naisumite na report ng IATF-Yolanda, mataas ang ating completion rate sa mga proyekto. Sa pag-extend ng IATF-Yolanda, masiguradong ang natitirang mga housing units at ang electrification at water connection ay makukumpleto sa madaling panahon. Ito rin ay para ma-account nang maayos ang perang nagamit. Up to the last centavo tayo dito,” Go said.

One of the issues that Go raised even before he became a Senator is the need for proper housing for Filipinos. On his first month as a Senator in July 2019, he filed Senate Bill No. 203, entitled “National Housing Development, Production and Financing Act of 2019”.

SB 203 aims to institutionalize a program to address the housing needs of Filipinos through generating and mobilizing sustainable funds for housing.

“Hangad natin na wala nang maging squatter sa sariling bayan kaya tayo may mga ganitong programa. Bigyan natin ng pagkakataon at pag-asa ang bawat pamilyang Pilipino na magkaroon ng disente na bahay. Magtulungan tayo para ang bawat Pilipino ay may maayos at komportableng buhay, at mabigyan sila ng bagong pag-asa lalo na pagkatapos ng krisis na dulot ng COVID-19,” Go said.

Even before joining the Senate, Go was already advocating for the township concept for government’s housing and resettlement programs. The present Yolanda Permanent Housing Program integrates the concept, aiming not only to build houses but also to create livable, thriving and disaster-resilient communities under a township approach to rural settlement development. IATF-Yolanda’s township concept has three major components: (a) provision of daycare, (b) construction of schools, and (c) establishment of health centers within or nearby the housing project sites.

“Marami sa mga apektadong kababayan natin, lalo na sa Leyte at Samar na lumikas sa Maynila upang mag-umpisang muli, ay mga biktima din ng bagyong Yolanda. Napapanahon na kung matapos maipatupad ang lahat ng mga proyekto ng IATF-Yolanda, mabibigyan natin ng rason na pwede na silang bumalik sa mga probinsya at doon na magsimulang muli,” Go, main proponent of the Balik Probinsya program, explained.

Meanwhile, in order to make government more proactive in dealing with disasters, Go also filed a bill seeking to establish a Department of Disaster Resilience. SB 205 creates an empowered, highly specialized and responsive DDR with clear unity of command and primarily responsible in ensuring safe, adaptive and disaster-resilient communities. The department shall concentrate on three key result areas, namely: disaster risk reduction, disaster preparedness and response, and recovery and building forward better.

“Sa pagpapatayo ng departamentong ito, mas magiging mabilis ang pagtugon ng pamahalaan, mas maiibsan ang masamang epekto ng kalamidad at mas mabilis makakabangon ang ating mga kababayan,” Go explained.

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