Avoid red tape in rebuilding efforts, Indonesia tells PH

Jakarta (dpa) – A director of the agency that oversaw the rebuilding of Indonesia’s Aceh province after the 2004 tsunami disaster has some advice for the Philippines in the wake of typhoon Haiyan (locally named “Yolanda”): Avoid business as usual.

“If you stick to the usual bureaucratic rules, you will never be able to achieve what you want to achieve,” said Heru Prasetyo, former director of international affairs for the Aceh Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency, whose mission ended in 2009.

Nearly three weeks after the typhoon that left about 5,000 people dead, the Philippine government says its priority is to rebuild the homes of 4 million displaced people.

At least 1,613 people are missing, and damage to infrastructure and agriculture was estimated at 24.53 billion pesos (570.46 million dollars), according to authorities.

The 2004 tsunami, triggered by a massive earthquake off Sumatra, killed about 170,000 people in Aceh and wiped clean an 800-kilometer coastline.

Since then, 130,000 houses, 250 kilometers of roads and other infrastructure have been rebuilt in a reconstruction effort that the international community has hailed as successful.

Local Communities

Key to the success was the involvement of local communities and stringent anti-corruption measures in a country with a reputation of being one of the most graft-prone in the world, said Prasetyo.

“We asked the people how they would like their villages to be rebuilt,” he said. “Some people might think that because it was an emergency we should just do it our way. No, that’s not right.”

The psychological sensibilities of the survivors must also be taken into account, Prasetyo said.

“In the first three months, survivors will demand many things from the government but after that they will become more rational,” he said.

The agency, known by its Indonesian initials BRR, also set up an anti-corruption unit within the organization to ensure accountability.

Integrity Pact

“My message to the Philippines: Go all out for anti-corruption measures,” he said.

“We asked every player, including aid organizations, to sign an integrity pact and to report to us if there were any irregularities,” he said.

“That way we gained trust from the public, because in the end they will be the judges of whether we have been successful or not.”

Caution From France

Like Indonesia, France also expressed concern over the relief and rebuilding efforts of the Philippines.

France does not want to see the Philippines go through uncoordinated and chaotic relief operations much like that which plagued Aceh, Indonesia and Haiti that resulted in snail-paced recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction following the devastation wrought by natural calamities.

“You know very well that Aceh and Haiti were a failure,” Pacific Hemisphere Development managing director Roger Ferrari told Manila Bulletin during a breakfast meeting with French Ambassador to Manila Gilles Garachon, French business executives, and members of the French Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines.

Who’s Going To Lead?

“In the Philippines, who is going to lead (the foreign relief distributions)? Who is going to coordinate because a lot of aids are coming in? Who is the big boss handling this? Who in the Philippine side is doing all that? If everybody comes on one side it would be a big mess in the end,” said Ferrari.

Ferrari said France wants to know first who is in charge in the Philippines. “It is very important that everything should be organized. Who is the conductor of the band?”

Working Well

But Ambassador Garachon stated that relief coordination in the Philippines “is working very well so far.”

“We were told that it’s fully open, we have been talking to the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) and we conveyed to them what we are doing in a particular area and it’s doing very well,” he said. “And then we go to the local authorities.”

While the Philippines continues to receive relief aid, the government has decided to finish its distribution by yearend, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said yesterday. (With a report from Roy C. Mabasa)