CURRENT SOCIETAL CONCERNS
Elpidio V. Peria
2 February 2014
In a Forum held last 28 January 2014 by Manila Observatory, Ateneo de Manila University, Aksyon Klima Pilipinas and Christian Aid inside the Ateneo de Manila University campus in Katipunan, Undersecretary Antonio of the Presidential Assistant For Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR) spoke near the end of the jampacked activity and answered several questions from the participants, but the most telling part of the Q&A were the questions he did not answer from this blog writer, who asked him when is the later time that he said he will involve civil society organizations (CSOs) in his work in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Yolanda-hit areas in Leyte, Samar and Panay and nearby islands and what kind of role does he envision CSOs would play in the over-all rehabilitation work post-Yolanda?
What he emphasized in his answers to other questions was that, when it comes to producing results, nothing beats the private sector in delivering them within the given time frame and resources; in fact that is what he has done in post-Yolanda rehabilitation and reconstruction work – he divided all the provinces affected into twenty-four (24) areas and in each area he identified a lead development partner, calling such partner a shepherd – and these shepherds were mainly his friends from the private sector. Thus, in some areas, the lead partner that will deliver any of the four areas they are supposed to do from livelihood, housing or shelter, health and education can be either a GLOBE, PLDT or a nickel mining company, the latter company raising a collective sigh of disbelief from some of the participants in the Forum.
Given his non-answer to the question raised on CSO participation, he was also asked how come he has not included environmental protection or rehabilitation in his tasks, he said he is just six weeks in his job he still has a lot to learn, the burning question of the CSOs in the room was – so how will CSOs be included in the discussions involving rehabilitation of the Yolanda-hit areas? Or if they may be so ignored by PARR or Usec. Antonio, how will they at least insist that what they are doing right now be maintained as they are and not restrained or inhibited by the PARR?
Going closely to the text of Memorandum Order No. 62, series of 2013 signed by President Aquino last 6 December 2013, the first enumerated function of the PARR is the following :
– Act as over-all manager and coordinator of rehabilitation, recovery, and reconstruction efforts of government departments, agencies, and instrumentalities in the affected areas, to the extent allowed by law (sec. 1 [a]);
Among other important task of the PARR is the following :
– Exercise oversight over the relevant government agencies with respect to the implementation of the plans and programs (sec. 1[d]);
Notwithstanding the powers enumerated by Memorandum Order No. 62, as what the highlighted text above indicates, they only extend to government departments and agencies when it comes to the task of over-all management and coordination of rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction efforts while in the more important function of oversight, it only extends to some relevant government agencies as these agencies implement their respective plans and programs on post-Yolanda efforts.
From this discussion, it is clear that PARR’s tasks of over-all management and coordination, including oversight in the implementation of rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction in the Yolanda-affected areas do not extend to current and future efforts of CSOs.
This means that whatever the CSOs may be doing right now or in the future in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Yolanda-affected areas, they can continue doing it or they can do it and the PARR does not have any authority, nay, even jurisdiction, to tell them how and where they should be doing it.
The PARR, however, shall request non-government organizations (NGOs), the private sector, and other entities for assistance as the circumstances and exigencies may require in carrying out his mandate (sec. 1[e]) and, in a separate section (sec. 2) of the Memorandum Order, LGUs, NGOs, and the private sector are also encouraged to give assistance to the Presidential Assistant as the circumstances may require.
What this means that the CSOs or NGOs shall respond to any requests made of them by the PARR, and another way they can intervene is through the existing partners that the CSOs have, be they the community on the ground, the local government unit concerned, including the academe and other existing groups in the area, including church and other social groups.
What it will boil down to is still good communication and outreach to the PARR, to avoid duplication of efforts and maximize limited resources and direct them to where they are needed most and given that both the private sector and NGOs are both enjoined by the President to give assistance to the PARR as the circumstances may require, they then should work out how they will maximize their delivery of services and resources to the affected areas so that the work of recovery is facilitated.