P4B needed for relief, rehab of quake-hit areas

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    GOVERNMENT needs at least P4 billion for relief operations and construction of shelters for residents displaced by three strong earthquakes in Mindanao last month, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

    NDRRMC executive director and Office of Civil Defense administrator Ricardo Jalad said yesterday the requirement was included in a briefing he presented to President Duterte during a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday night.

    “What I presented was just the estimate now of some requirements for the sustainment of the relief operations for five months,” Jalad said in a phone interview.

    He said the P4 billion will cover other projects like construction of emergency shelters, relocation of residents in landslide-prone areas, and cash-for-work program.

    “I just gave the President an idea. This is the initial estimate of the fund requirements for the sustainment of the implementation of some priority projects or interventions,” said Jalad.

    Jalad clarified the NDDRMC is not seeking an additional budget of P4 billion. He said part of the amount can be shouldered by concerned agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

    “That’s the initial ballpark figure. But as I said, it is not necessary to release the whole amount as of now,” said Jalad.

    He said concerned agencies still have some budget to fund these projects. “Some of them can be funded (by concerned agencies) in the next budget in 2020,” Jalad said. “But it (budget of the agencies) will not suffice.”

    Asked what the President’s response was, he said, “It’s okay with him. He said let’s work it out, cascade it as a memorandum. It’s approved in principle.”

    Jalad said the President tasked concerned agencies “to work on financial plan so that the (additional funds) can be released the soonest so the needed projects can be immediately implemented.”

    The recent quakes affected at least 254,400 persons from the Northern Mindanao, Davao, and Soccsksargen regions.

    Jalad also said makeshift evacuation centers are being improved, with additional toilet facilities and kitchens being put up.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said defense and disaster management officials also recommended during the Cabinet meeting the conduct of more earthquake drills “to raise awareness and prepare the public for similar disasters in the future.”

    The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) said it is ready to extend medical care treatment benefits to needy patients affected by quakes even for those in non-accredited health facilities.

    “While PhilHealth members may continue to experience responsive health care benefit access, non-members can likewise avail themselves of the PhilHealth benefits even if confined in non-accredited facility subject to certain conditions,” it said.

    The agency said under PhilHealth Circular 34-2013, special privileges to those affected by fortuitous events may be provided to non-members.

    The special privilege covers, among others, members, non-members, and their dependents; admission to accredited or non-accredited facilities that are licensed by the Department of Health (DOH) or DOH-certified; and treatment and management by accredited or non-accredited health care professionals, who are duly licensed by the Professional Regulations Commission. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Gerard Naval

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