Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar will serve as co-chairmen of the Build Back Better Task Force instead of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea in facilitating the rebuilding efforts of areas ravaged by recent typhoons, Malacañang announced on Wednesday.

villar cimatu 1024x675 - Villar, Cimatu to co-chair Build Back Better TF
Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar (R) and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu (L)

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the latest reorganization was authorized by President Duterte during a meeting with several Cabinet members at the Malago clubhouse in Malacañang Park Tuesday night.

“In-announce din po kahapon ni Presidente na binuo na po ‘yung task force, may konti pong pagbabago which is based on science. Instead of the Executive Secretary heading the task force, it will now be jointly headed by the Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources, Secretary Cimatu, as well as DPWH Secretary Mark Villar,” Roque said over CNN Philippines Wednesday.

“Of course, it’s not only based on science but it also makes sense because when you talk of rehabilitation, you talk basically of roads and bridges and buildings destroyed by calamity which is the turf of the DPWH. You also talk about the scientific reasons why we have typhoons of this nature which is climate change and that is the rationale for DENR co-heading the task force),” he added.

The President had earlier ordered the creation of an inter-agency task force to speed up the rehabilitation and recovery of areas affected by the recent typhoons. The Palace initially announced that Medialdea would lead the group. An executive order on the creation of the Build Back Better Task Force is expected to be issued soon.

The government will give priority to the rebuilding of typhoon-affected areas following the President’s declaration of a state of calamity over the entire Luzon.

With the calamity declaration, Roque said there will be an automatic price freeze of basic commodities, especially food and water, in the affected areas.

He said the local government units can also now spend their calamity funds “without restrictions.” He said this is important to reduce red tape in the release of the funds needed for relief and rehabilitation efforts.

“Under a state of calamity, they become the area for top priority of all agencies in the provision of necessary relief goods, and of course, the task of rehabilitation,” he said.

“I think we are about to conclude the immediate provision of relief goods. Now comes the even more difficult task of rehabilitation,” he added.

The calamity declaration was earlier recommended by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

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