Widespread corruption magnifies effects of disaster
President promises full transparency in reconstruction
TACLOBAN, PHILIPPINES | When a newspaper for Filipino workers in New Zealand told readers how to donate to the typhoon relief effort in their homeland, it mentioned agencies like the Red Cross but not a list of government bank accounts that the Philippine Embassy had sent over.
“I’m not going to mince words,” said Mel Fernandez, the editorial adviser for the Filipino Migrant News. “We would like every cent to reach those poor people there rather than getting waylaid.”
Corruption is a concern after any major natural disaster, as millions of dollars in cash and goods rush in from around the world. But such worries are acute in the Philippines, where graft has been a part of life for decades.
The government of President Benigno Aquino III, who has made fighting corruption a priority, is promising full transparency in reconstruction spending in areas devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Yolanda. It announced Monday that it has established a website called the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub, where funds given by foreign donors can be tracked.
“There’s an urgent call now for us to monitor the movement of foreign aid funds for Yolanda so they will go exactly where they’re supposed to: to the survivors of the typhoon,” said Richard Moya, undersecretary of budget and management and chief information officer.
More than $270 million in foreign aid has been donated to help the victims of the Nov. 8 typhoon, which killed at least 3,976 people and left nearly 1,600 missing, according to government figures updated Monday.
More than 4 million people have been displaced and need food, shelter and water. The typhoon also wrecked livelihoods on a massive scale, destroying crops, livestock and fishing boats.
Several battered communities appeared to be shifting from survival mode to one of early recovery Monday. Markets were reopening, though with very limited wares. Some gasoline stations were pumping, and residents were repairing damaged homes or making temporary shelters.
“The darkest night is over but it’s not yet 100 percent,” regional military commander Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda said.
On Sunday, Mr. Aquino toured the disaster area and promised to step up aid deliveries.
Mr. Aquino said he was happy to see typhoon-battered areas slowly rising from the devastation. The aid effort remained daunting, he said, adding that the government is feeding about 1.4 million people a day.
“One is tempted to despair,” Mr. Aquino told reporters in Alangalang in Leyte province, where he met with officials and survivors. “But the minute I despair, then everybody gets hampered in the efforts to get up.”
A boy takes a shower at a school turned into a temporary shelter for those affected by the storm. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by Typhoon Haiyan.
A man uses a shovel to clean up mud inside St. Joseph Parish Church, which was badly damaged by the typhoon.