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MANILA, Philippines -- Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said Wednesday her department has only P30 million left to assist survivors of super typhoon Yolanda and is suggesting that other government agencies pool their funds. “Only P30 million is left with DSWD, this is obviously not enough when close to 200,000 still do not have emergency shelter assistance” almost three years since the killer storm struck on November 8, 2013, Taguiwalo said in an interview over radio station dzMM.

“We’re asking if there are other government agencies holding on to Yolanda donations that we can tap to allocate for ESA. Otherwise, what can P30 million do for the 200,000 families?” she added. Roughly half of the verified Yolanda victims are from Region 6, or Western Visayas, the rest from Region 8, Eastern Visayas, which bore the brunt of the super typhoon’s onslaught. When the government ended counting, the number of dead and missing stood at more than 7,000. Taguiwalo ventured an explanation for why hundreds of thousands remain deprived of emergency assistance almost three years after Yolanda. “The problem is (the Aquino administration) imposed many conditions before the release of ESA. To me, if your house is damaged because of Yolanda, you should be entitled to government assistance,” she said. Earlier, the Kusog sang Pumuluyo (Strength of the People), an organization of Yolanda survivors and their supporters from Panay Island, appealed to Taguiwalo to finish the distribution of the ESA. The group also urged Taguiwalo to order an audit of funds donated for Yolanda victims amid reports that billions of pesos were left unspent by the previous administration.

According to the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (http://www.gov.ph/faith/full-report), the country received P17,233,297,910 in foreign aid, in cash and kind, channeled through government and nongovernmental agencies. But Kusog said a number of beneficiaries were excluded from ESA because of Memorandum Circular No. 24 issued by Taguiwalo’s predecessor, Corazon Soliman. The memorandum states that survivors whose houses were destroyed or damaged are ineligible to receive the ESA if their families have monthly incomes of more than P15,000 and if they are living in areas tagged as danger zones. Survivors who have gotten help from NGOs are also disqualified from ESA, which provides cash grants of P30,000 to each family that lost its home and P10,000 to repair damaged houses. Kusog had called for the scrapping of the memorandum, calling it discriminatory. Sources: interaksyon.com

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