Fellows Speak

CenPEG reaction to appointment of “reconstruction czar”


The rebuilding of Visayas provinces devastated by a major earthquake and supertyphoon Yolanda should not be led by a so-called “reconstruction czar” or should government assume that the success of massive rehabilitation depends on one man.  

Given the scale of the devastation in terms of human lives lost and missing persons, livelihoods and properties destroyed – as well as government’s dismal performance in many reconstruction programs in the past – rebuilding efforts risk being a failure if left to politicians and disaster capitalists who are out to make a killing from the crisis.  

In fact, the anointed “czar”, politicians, and big business are the ones who need rehabilitation on how to transform a culture of greed to values of serving public interest first and foremost. But that, of course, is a tall order. 

Government’s performance record in rehabilitating large communities, economies, and ecosystems destroyed by mining, logging, oil spills, and development aggression over the past decades has been a failure that no signs of human life and ecosystems being restored are visible. Billions of money for rehabilitation were wasted – and only business firms and incorrigibly corrupt politicians profited. In fact, poverty has turned from bad to worse in these areas. 

Genuine reconstruction which could take several years can only materialize by allowing the people and disaster victims in these areas to take a bigger role in planning. Their lives already made impoverished by extractive industries and politics-driven “development programs” making their regions some of the poorest in the country, justice will be served if the millions of displaced families now are given the right to have a bigger voice in rebuilding their lives. 

The first thing to do is for the people of Visayas through their community organizations, real NGOs, and other institutions to convene immediately for a public summit where their representatives can design a people-centered reconstruction proposal. They should be given greater representation in any government-sponsored reconstruction scheme so as to ensure that all resources and funds go to rehabilitation projects. All funds, grants, and other resources as well as procurements and other transactions should be transparent to the people for purposes of public monitoring and auditing. Rebuilding experts should be tapped from non-partisan institutions like the academe, policy think tanks, and competent NGOs and not from the corporate, construction, and urban planning investors. 

Investors can help bankroll reconstruction only if motivated by conscience and social responsibility.


Director for Policy Studies
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
Dec. 2, 2013

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