By Mario Casayuran
Congress will have to find out how much is readily available in calamity funds for the Taal volcano eruption before deliberating on the proposed P30 billion supplemental budget, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said Tuesday.
Lacson said the Senate will check the outstanding funds of the national government (NDRRMF, or National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund) and the LGUs affected (LDRRMF, or Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund) to finance the proposed P30 billion calamity fund as supplemental budget for Taal eruption-related expenditures as requested by President Duterte.
Aside from these funds, Lacson said the Upper House will look into the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 (Republic Act No. 10121) which provides that all local government units( LGUs) are mandated to allocate at least 5 percent of their regular sources of income, including their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), to their LDRRMF.
If unexpended because there are no calamities, the cumulative LDRRMF is kept in a special fund to be used in situations like the Taal eruption. The same provision of RA 10121 applies to all municipalities and barangays whether affected or not by calamities, he said.
“In this case, Batangas province had allocated P183 million to their 2019 annual budget alone for their PDRRMF, although it appears 70 percent was allocated to overhead expenses like MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses), and only P55 million was set aside for calamities.
The same is true for the different municipalities and barangays within the province.
“Counting five years backwards from January 2020 when Taal erupted, as RA 10121 mandates that unexpended LDRRMF shall accrue to a special trust fund solely for the purpose of supporting disaster risk reduction and management activities of the LDRRMCs within the next five years, I can imagine they may still have sufficient funds.”
This should all be taken into account when the Senate deliberates on the P30-billion supplemental budget being pushed by the President, he said. “There is no saying that I am not supporting the expeditious passage of the budget measure. I’m only saying we have to find out if P30 billion is a bit more or even not sufficient to help the LGUs affected by the Taal Volcano eruption.”
On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte, accompanied by Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, led the distribution of relief assistance to victims of the Taal volcano eruption in Sto. Tomas, Batangas.
The Office of the President also gave financial assistance to disaster-stricken local government units (LGUs) to help in their recovery and rehabilitation efforts. Go also gave away dust masks to affected LGUs for distribution to residents to protect them from the effects of ash fall.
The senator quoted the President as saying he would ask Congress to pass a supplemental budget to reinforce the government’s efforts in response to the volcanic eruption.
“I will ask Congress to expedite to cover P30 billion. Iyong tulong, pati sa livestock,” Duterte said. “Dadating ang tulong sa inyo, maghintay lang kayo, and we will act fast. Sa tamang panahon, dadating ang tulong sa inyo,” he added. (Help will come to you, just wait and we will act fact. At the right time, help for you all will come.)
The President also called for the construction of permanent evacuation centers in disaster-prone areas across the country.