We always view reconstruction as something to do with physical structures. Yes, reconstruction is something we Filipinos always hear every, single year especially these past few when we experienced the full brunt of Nature's wrath in practically all parts of this archiepelago. For us, reconstruction means restoring those we lost.
It is now high time to think of reconstruction, as something not just physical, but intellectual and spiritual. For example, our government has allocated 41 billion pesos for the rehabilitation of Leyte and the rest of the Visayas provinces hardest hit by Typhoon Yolanda. It is time that we spend this amount wisely and with consideration of its impact to the future of our country.
Senator Panfilo Lacson is the one tasked by the President to lead this reconstruction effort. Lacson is not an engineer. Yet, he is, by the way, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, an institution which instilled in him, leadership skills which he will need to do this task in an excellent manner.
This is a big opportunity for Mr. Lacson to prove that he has the skills to create a new Visayas out of the old and beaten one. Mr. Aquino is right when he appointed Mr. Lacson to this task. This task needs the full attention of a leader, someone who commands rather than obey. Mr. Lacson should command rather than think as an engineer or a builder. An engineer sees both the present and the future. This reconstruction effort is a good opportunity for us to show to the world that we are excellent builders.
Mr. Lacson has the third of the country to realize his vision for the country (if he has). The typhoon-ravaged Visayas region is an excellent place to realize one's vision of smart communities.
The first thing that Mr. Lacson should do is to envision a blue print for reconstruction. This includes short and long-term goals.
What is his short term? Mr. Lacson should create a council of builders, so to speak, composed of the brightest minds of our country and groups involved right now in rehabilitating Leyte.
The short term is how to restore power in the region. Mr. Lacson needs to normalize the situation. He needs to restore the people's faith in their government. And one excellent way of doing this is for the people to enjoy the daily service of electricity. In modern societies, this is the most visible and most felt sign that government is doing its job. In the Philippines, people remember or feel relieved when they have lights in their houses.
That's the first thing Mr. Lacson should do---restore power. When you restore electricity, people will have ease in their minds, knowing that things are slowly returning to normalcy.
The second is---build temporary encampments. You need people to feel normal. What a better way than to build tent cities, the ones they construct in deserts, made or constructed thru sturdy materials. These communities should be constructed like kibutzes---meaning self-sufficient. it should be constructed away from the former places of destruction.
When you build shelters for the people, people will start thinking that the normal condition is just an arm's length away.
The third priority is---collectivize the communities. Make barangays run like corporations or collectives. For example, a fishing village should now be reconstructed as a fisherman's collective, where family income is not now entirely dependent on individual work, but collective work. Organize these collectives as some sort of an industry.
It is important to segmentize these barangays and categorize every job that Leytenos had prior to the typhoon. For example, group all carpenters together and form a carpenters' collective that will be responsible in rebuilding their shelters. group all furniture makers together, and form a collective of furniture makers that will satisfy the requirements for furnitures in the area, and so on and forth.
What am I saying? This plan is excellent because monies or capital will then be concentrated in this area and will spur more capital to be able to build more and more for the complete reconstruction of these areas.
After collectivising the entire area, we now come to the next thing which is job creation. Obviously, if you collectivize the area, you now create jobs for these people. People now will think that they are nearing normalcy. They have power. They have shelters. and they have jobs to feed their families.
The next step is to recalibrate the local economies. How to do this?
Mr. Lacson should ask the bir to grant local entrepreneurs and businessmen at least two month's worth of tax moratorium. A tax moratorium would allow businessmen to use whatever is left of their monies to reconstruct their businesses.
While traders reconstruct their businesses, Mr. Lacson should ask commercial banks to extend loans to these people.
So, now, you have normalized the condition of the victims, both ordinary people and traders. What should be the next step?
The next step is really for the long-term. It is time to build smart communities in these areas. When I say smart communities, places which are self-sufficient, energy-efficient and people-oriented. It is time to carve a new and ecologically friendly city out of the ruins of Tacloban.
Urban planners should be given tasks on redefining the city's limits and configuration, and come out with a new configuration.
Of course, those who have properties near coasts should not be asked to reoccupy these. Government should instead ask these residents to live in the communities to be constructed inland. The lands they once owned, will be bought by the government at a fair market price and will be given to the affected families for them to start all over again.
Government should start building communities which I describe as "smart ones"---meaning, communities that are self-sufficient in terms of energy requirements and the people's requirements.
Mr. Lacson should lead the way in redefining the city's configuration. If we are to reconstruct anyway, let's do it by creating a New City out of the old one. However, what would be the theme of the New City?
Leyte and the Visayas are known for their agriculture, as well as for being excellent harbors and ports and of being excellent venues for MICE, and off-shore operations.
If this is true, then, the entire Visayas area must be reconstructed as an enhanced venue for these things.
Let us designate every province based on its current and potential capabilities or capacities of doing. For example, if Leyte is a great fishing production and tourism centre, then the configuration of the city must be that to enable or encourage the free movement of people and products from there to various points of the country.
The fundamental operative principle in this reconstruction is simply--identify and enhance the potentials of the place based on its production capabilities. If tourism is the main revenue generator of a place, then, maybe create a mixture of tourism and agriculture in there as the theme of the smart community. If a place has a big potential of being a port, then, create a port city. If a place potential is mostly as a trading hub, or an off-shore trading center, then, so be it.
I am extremely confident that Mr. Lacson will find a way to make Leyte and the rest of the Visayas a shining example of how grand Filipinos do reconstruction work.