EXPLAINER: P5,000 per-house/household for Cebu City's typhoon victims, 'rich or poor.' What we know about Mayor Rama's plan, the kinks to watch out for.

·5 min read

"TANANG balay tagaan sa hinabang," Atty. Gerardo "Gerry" Carillo, chief of the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and former councilor, said Tuesday, January 4, quoting the mayor's order.

Did Mayor Michael Rama mean that literally, "every house" will get the "ayuda"?

Mayor Mike reportedly explained that everyone suffered from Typhoon Odette, which struck Thursday night, December 16, 2021, leaving a swath of destruction in Metro Cebu and several towns of the province. Therefore, Rama said, "every house," rich or poor, must get assistance.

Cerwin T. Eviota, public information officer, affirmed to Explainer Thursday, January 6, that distribution "will be by household, whether damaged or not, whether residents are kabus man o adunahan."

EVERY HOUSEHOLD, NOT EACH HOUSE? The mayor said "every house," not household. A house or housing unit -- "structurally separate and independent place of abode" -- is normally intended for occupancy by one household but often more than one household use the structure.

That is true especially in urban areas of the city where many houses have two or more households occupying separate rooms or apartments in the same building. In such a case, would all the households in the same structure share the P5,000, which is ridiculously low for all of them, or would each household get 5K each, which must strain the budget.

P.I.O. Eviota said the cash aid is primarily meant for house repairs and

Rama's "Convergence" (the name he gives to his process of consultation) "recognized that a household may shelter more than one family." But how are they removing that kink?

ONE BILLION OR P2B? To be sure, Cebu City has the cash for it, or does it have enough? Last December 21, Mayor Rama reportedly said there is a one-billion-peso budget for relief response, of which P600 million is allocated for financial aid to residents. P.I.O. Eviota told Explainer the City Council approved P2 billion after it declared a state of calamity.

City Hall didn't say how many households they are targeting as the 5K recipients but the household population of Cebu City in the 2015 census was 213,781 households (with an average of 4.26 members per household). How many would the budgeted P600 million cover? At strictly P5,000 per housing unit, only 120,000, out of more than 200,000 households will benefit from the 600M cash.

CONTROVERSY OVER LISTS. The listing of beneficiaries matters a lot when resources are not enough for everyone or most everyone. Doing the "ayuda" list or getting into it has always been a source of friction and discontent, inevitably leading to controversy, since the pandemic became full-blown early in 2020.

There's the inherent difficulty of listing the deserving beneficiaries. In Cebu City's case, under Rama's watch, specifically on the cash aid for Odette victims, the relaxed, inclusive guideline simplifies the process. But it also draws wider criticism if a number of the poor who actually suffered from the calamity are excluded while others who are unscathed -- and rich -- get the aid.

POLITICS IN IT. On top of difficulties and hazards of listing, politicking cannot be ruled out. Politicians tend to favor their own and use the aid program to reward supporters and cow the hostiles to submission.

Eviota said the barangays will take the lead in listing, "regardless of political color, while DSWS will verify the list." As of Thursday, "the mechanics of distribution" was still being "defined," he said. Not made clear is who in the barangays handle the listing, especially where the barangay councils are controlled by the minority BOPK and the ruling Barug has its own shadow officials in a counterpart office called Milo, for Mayor's Information and Liaison Office.

Still to be heard about the politics in it is the minority. Councilor Alvin Dizon, one of the few active BOPK councilors, didn't comment on Rama's policy or the minority being shut out from the aid-giving, a valuable campaign tool. The Sanggunian though gave bipartisan support to the Odette fund response.

NATIONAL AID. The city's cash aid for the typhoon victims is separate from, and on top of, the aid fund President Rodrigo Duterte had announced. Last December 24, DBM or Department of Budget and Management said it released one billion pesos to be distributed to regions declared under a state of calamity. For Central Visayas, P188.31 million was released; it was not known yet how much of it went to Cebu City and the rest of Cebu. The funds will be released by the Bureau of Treasury to the LGUs through government servicing banks.

On December 29, DILG or Department of the Interior and Local Government said that about P4.8 billion will go to "survivors" of Odette, at P1,000 per individual with a maximum of P5,000 per household, to be distributed through LGUs. Each list of beneficiaries, DILG ordered, shall be posted in three conspicuous places in the barangay.

POLICY ON DISTRIBUTION. City Hall had its initial 5K distribution last December 30, a dry-run of sort, to 7,615 families in 18 barangays, even as DSWS was still validating some lists submitted by the barangays. Since the money was part of the 2021 budget, whatever unreleased amount was returned to city coffers, Eviota said, per COA rules, then released as part of the 2022 budget.

Those not yet paid will have to wait for that.

On the aid from the central government, which is intended only for actual victims, the screening may be less rigid, as "every house(hold)" is to get aid, per Rama policy. Eviota told Explainer City will "follow and adopt" Malacañang's rules of distribution "if asked to distribute" the national fund.

What is still not clear is whether an individual or household can receive "ayuda" from both the national government and the LGU. Would assistance from one disqualify help from the other?

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