ADB President Takehiko Nakao meets students at Bislig Elementary School, Tanauan, Leyte. Photo courtesy of Asian Development Bank
LEYTE, Philippines (UPDATE) - Asian Development Bank President Takehiko Nakao on Tuesday visited areas in this central Philippine island that were badly damaged by super typhoon "Yolanda" (Haiyan) in November last year, reaffirming the bank's support for reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts for the affected communities.
"I was so shocked to see Tacloban City and Tanauan municipality. I was told there were lots of damages to coconuts, rice farms, and fishing boats. So survivors are suffering from lack of jobs," Nakao told reporters after traveling from Tacloban, the island's capital, to Tanauan, about 20 kilometers south, and inspecting a severely damaged elementary school.
"So, I really want to support as much as possible the affected areas and people," he said.
On top of the nearly $900 million assistance that the ADB has committed to the Philippines, most of which is in the form of loans, Nakao said the bank can reallocate the funds of some of its ongoing projects to help the people recover quickly from the devastation.
He noted that much needs to be addressed in the fields of livelihood and employment, shelter, and other basic facilities like schools, clinics, and utilities, particularly, power and sewerage.
The ADB assistance, which will be based on the Philippine government's requirements, includes a $3 million grant for emergency assistance, a $20 million grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, a $372 million loan to expand an existing community-driven development program into typhoon-affected areas, and a $500 million loan for budget support to the government.
His one-day visit here is to be capped by the launch of an ADB office in Tacloban City to coordinate and monitor the use of the bank's funds, as well as to provide local governments with technical knowledge for the various projects.
The office, which will be manned by 10 personnel of the Manila-based bank, will operate for at least a year, Nakao said.
Philippine social welfare assistant secretary Milo Gudmalin said the implementation of ADB-funded projects is expected to begin in March.
"Based on our initial communication, the projects would most likely include schools, clinics, livelihood and sanitation," Nakao said, adding that the Bislig Elementary School in Tanauan which he inspected would most likely be covered.
Tanauan Mayor Pel Tecson, who welcomed Nakao and showed him around the damaged Bislig Elementary School, expressed elation over the ADB's decision to choose his town as a pilot site for the bank's assistance, noting that around 5,250 families who rely on rice farming, coconut farming, and fishing have been seriously affected.
The 1,250 families who rely on fishing also need to transfer their residences because their houses are within the 40-meter no-build zone.
"Overall, the thrust is to build back better," Tecson said.
Nakao said that while the task for rehabilitation of the affected communities is going to be daunting, the smiles on the faces of the students who welcomed him made him hopeful about the recovery.
"What I have seen here today, however, is not only a picture of great loss and devastation. It is also one of tremendous strength and spirit, and it is an inspiration to all of us as we move toward reconstruction," he said in a separate statement.
Haiyan, the strongest typhoon to ever hit land, claimed more than 6,200 lives, displaced millions, and left massive devastation in the central provinces that officials say will require $8 billion for rehabilitation.