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With the first $ 1.5 billion allocation approved by Congress for reconstruction, a precious process of reconfiguring Puerto Rico begins. This initiative requires careful and participatory planning with Puerto Ricans as the foundations and engine of sustainable development.

We welcome the initial projects that the government intends to implement. Puerto Rico is obliged to be prepared to mitigate and adapt to future climate events while reactivating its economy. With discipline and rigorous accountability and through a sensitive process that integrates communities to the necessary relocation planning.

This is a moment of great potential for the Island. What we do now and the way we do it will determine what our future will be like. Looking back allows us to see our failures. Short-termism, opportunism and the exclusion of some for the benefit of others created those inequality conditions that made the Island more vulnerable to hurricanes.

The Disaster Recovery Action Plan of the Government, currently at public hearings, establishes serious commitments. It offers the federal government and citizens rebuilding from an integrated community and planning approach. It aims at collaborative action with other sectors.

Completing them will restore credibility among constituents, the federal government and the capital markets. Citizens need to trust their institutions again. This will allow those who live here to persist and those who left to benefit from returning.

Among the funds intended to recovery initiatives, the $ 1,062 billion allocation for the housing program approved by Congress stands out. This figure includes $ 816 million for repairs, reconstructions and relocations of communities in vulnerable areas. In the planning area, for which $ 226 million was allocated, the local government plans to develop a program for communities to prepare reconstruction and relocation plans.

Residents of these communities are aware of the threats they face. And they know that their neighbors are the first ones to help before any contingency. They confirmed this during the biggest emergency the Island had in decades, after Hurricane Maria. Many of these communities throughout the island are already working on their own adaptation and mitigation plans. They are trying solar energy micro-grids and working on opportunities for production activity in solidarity economy projects.

Any relocation plan must consider those links. They are safety nets organically nurtured by years of citizen coexistence.

It is possible to raise Puerto Rico with solid housing, infrastructure and economy together with these communities and other third sector players, as critical partners.

The hurricane snatched from hundreds of poor families the little they had. Out of the more than 300,000 homes that were damaged, about 60,000 were entirely destroyed. Many were the only shelter for people with a lack of resources and adequate living conditions. The Human Development Report, just presented, provides guidelines on the necessary conditions for economic activity to reach the most remote corners and produce equity.

It is also up to the citizens to collaborate in the reconstruction. The projects that have been set up must take into consideration those multiple conditions that limit the progress of people to provide adequate access to essential goods and services, such as health or transportation. Many of these services represent opportunities for micro-enterprises or small local businesses.

So, it is time for all of us to make the greatest effort to open the way to transformation. Let´s bet on dialogue in planning and collaboration as a platform to reconfigure the physical, social, economic and government structures of Puerto Rico.

If we do it properly, this housing spaces reconfiguration will be the great laboratory for the processes leading to the transformation of Puerto Rico.


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