Tolentino fast-tracks evacuation efforts in Albay
By Mar S. Arguelles LEGAZPI CITY --- Political Affairs Secretary Francis Tolentino, also Mayon Crisis Manager, on Tuesday said he has requested the suspension of the government procurement regulation to fast-track the construction of hundreds of Temporary Learning Spaces (TLS) and sanitary toilets in 58 evacuation centers in Albay. Tolentino during a meeting with 10 camp managers composed of Bicol national line agencies said he has consulted with President Rodrigo Duterte and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno for the suspension of the government procurement regulation in areas stricken by calamities, specifically in Albay where Mayon volcano’s eruption is taking place. Tolentino cited a provision where the government suspended the procurement regulation in times of national emergencies. He said, “this exemption could apply in the case of Mayon volcano eruption where thousands of families were displaced due to the danger posed by the eruptions.” “With the exemption, national agencies can buy commodities or build, repair facilities to be used in disaster relief without submitting to the Government Procurement Policy Board GPPB regulatory requirements, ” he said. Tolentino said that disaster responding agencies such as the Departments of Social Welfare, Education, Health, Public Works, and Highway. Environment, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) either reported target backlogs due to the delay in the release of their Quick Response Fund (QRF). Aside from the problem on the procurement procedures, Tolentino has observed that some bureaucratic red tape at the national government level has seriously affected the speedy implementation of various disaster measures to caution the impact of calamity to displaced families living in shelter camps. When asked for an overall assessment of the performance of various national agencies involved in disaster operation, Tolentino said that some agencies are slow in meeting their target because of constraints such as delay in the release of funds, lack of personnel and the strict procurement requirements. Cited was the Department of Education (DepEd) where for this disaster event a total of 354 Temporary Learning Spaces (TLS)should have been constructed but 196 TLS were reported to have been completed while 158 TLS are yet to be constructed. The delay was also due to non-availability of supply or coco lumbers and gravel and sand as the quarrying site is within the permanent danger zone. Tolentino said to solve the DepEd backlog on the TLS he has requested the assistance of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Engineering unit to assist the DepEd in fast-tracking the construction of the remaining 158 TLS within this month. The government would be spending P30M for the construction of 354 TLS. DepEd statistic indicates that there are 66 schools used as evacuation center while 91,278 school learners and 2,797 DepEd personnel were affected by the influx of thousands of evacuees. Tolentino said in his recent meeting with Pres. Duterte, the president has directed the National Housing Authority (NHA) to design a housing prototype to be used for the construction of a permanent relocation center when funds are available in the next budget years. Food packs: Arnel Garcia, DSWD regional director when asked to comment about their absence during Mayon Operation and for being tag as a slow performer, Garcia debunk the report and instead reported that his agency has released P32.8 Million as assistance to various local government units. He said DSWD has provided a 50,095 family food packs amounting to P20 Million and P12.8M worth of non-food items to the towns of Guinobatan, Malilipot, Bacacay, Sto Domingo, Daraga, Camalig and the cities of Tabaco, Ligao, and Legazpi. Cash for Work: DSWD has P62 Million funds that would be used as employment assistance to 25,000 displaced families by the recent Mayon Eruption, Garcia said. He said following a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with town and city mayors affected by the eruption, corresponding funds would be downloaded to the LGUs once they complete the documentary requirements. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported that after doing a profiling of households affected by the eruption P30 Million would fund 10,000 family beneficiaries under the emergency employment program where a member of a displaced family would receive a P290 daily wage for a 10-days work. Communal Kitchen: The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) reported that it has completed 336 toilets in 52 assigned evacuation centers it will also construct communal kitchens in the 79 evacuation centers in the 6 towns and three cities. Price Freeze: Tolentino directed the DTI, DA and LGUs to closely check the prices of basic commodities where it observed that the prices of vegetables and agri products significantly increased. He directed to reactivate the local price control council and if found that the prices went unreasonably high, a ”price freeze” should be ordered.