MANILA – The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) recently noted “encouraging progress” in the rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts in the areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda almost two years ago.

“As the visiting UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margaret Wahlstrom, observed, there is encouraging progress in rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts on the ground. I saw this for myself when I visited Yolanda-affected areas in July. Construction work on several resettlement sites in Tacloban City is in full swing. People are starting to occupy some resettlement sites. And a number of livelihood centers and facilities are helping the Yolanda survivors get back on their feet through organic and sustainable farming as well as aquaculture,” Economic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director General Arsenio M. Balisacan said.

Wahlstrom was earlier quoted in the media as saying, “If you go there now, you will already see important change. If you go there in another two years and it (the recovery) continues at the same pace as of now, it will be very visibly a new place.” Wahlstrom told the Agence France Presse that recovery from major disasters usually takes 10 years.

NEDA reports showed that based on agency submissions as of 15 August 2015, a number of Yolanda rehabilitation programs, projects and activities (PPAs) have started to post noteworthy results. For example, a total of 717,404 families have received Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to repair damaged houses. The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has rehabilitated 358 or nearly all, save for three, damaged public university buildings.

Meanwhile, the livelihood assistance programs are reaching many Yolanda survivors, NEDA reports show that 82,772 people benefited from emergency employment and integrated livelihood programs of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE); 78,840 people benefited from cash for work activities of the Department of Agriculture (DA); 46,719 fishers have received fishing boats from the DA/Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and 31,130 people received livelihood and vocational trainings given by Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Based on recent monitoring field visits conducted on July 20-30 on Typhoon Regions VI, VII and VIII (Western, Central and Eastern Visayas), NEDA also noted some small but high-impact succeses in several Yolanda-hit communities, as a result of strong cooperation between national and local government agencies working together with private, non-government and multilateral organizations :

• The association of micro-entrepreneurs of Guiuan has been reactivated, providing livelihood opportunities and generating jobs locally, helping the municipality’s local economy to recover;

• The reconstructed San Jose Central School in Tacloban City pleased students who only have memories of their old school, which was 90 percent damaged by Typhoon Yolanda.

• Fishing communities in three barangays in Carles town in Iloilo regained their main livelihood: fishers received and were able to immediately use 10 motorized fishing boats; while the women’s association, which was provided P100,000 seed capital to jumpstart dried fish processing, has since recovered capital and sustained income.

Balisacan acknowledged that much work remains to be done, especially in the resettlement of people who have been displaced by the typhoon. To date, only 11,247 houses have been constructed and 73,442 are under construction. He added that NEDA is working hard to identify implementation and policy issues that continue to slow down the pace of rehabilitation, and determine appropriate actions at the local and national levels to address these issues.

“The rehabilitation of Typhoon Yolanda-affected areas remains a core priority of the government. NEDA, with all the implementing agencies and our partners from the private sector, civil society, and the international development community will continue to improve the execution of Typhoon Yolanda programs and to work together to ensure that these are responsive to the needs of the affected localities,” Balisacan said.

In April this year, President Benigno S. Aquino III, through Memorandum Order No. 79, transferred the coordination, monitoring, and evaluation of all disaster-related PPAs from the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery to NEDA.