By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has called for the immediate release of the calamity funds under the 2020 national budget for the communities adversely affected by the eruption of the Taal Volcano.
Recto filed on Monday Senate Resolution No. 290 as he sought the immediate release of the 2020 funds for the relief, resettlement, rehabilitation and livelihood and social programs for the families displaced by Taal Volcano’s continuing unrest.
The measure also asked the appropriate Senate committees to call the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) for a briefing on the situation of the affected localities to be able to determine all of their funding needs.
In the resolution released to reporters on Tuesday, Recto said the P4.1-trillion 2020 General Appropriation Act includes the calamity fund, or the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund.
Aside from the calamity fund, Recto said there appropriations for development and social programs and services of various national government agencies, such as those of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, Department of Tourism, Department of Labor and Employment, and the Department of Trade and Industry, among others.
The lawmaker, who hails from Batangas, noted that more than 50,000 families have been displaced, half of them currently taking shelter in evacuation centers since Taal Volcano’s eruption last January 12.
He added that damages to both public and private properties and infrastructure, as well as the livelihood and the local tourism and agriculture sectors, have reached billions of pesos; and may still increase as Alert Level 4 continued in Taal.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) had warned of a possible hazardous eruption in the volcano.
“Even as the threats and uncertainties of the Taal volcanic eruption continue, the national government should hasten the release of funds intended for development and social programs and services to assist the affected individuals or families and the localities in returning to normalcy,” Recto said in the resolution.
Lawmakers earlier said some P16 billion was allocated as calamity fund for this year.
Aside from this, senators said there is still P7 billion from last year’s calamity fund that was not utilized; and more than P700 billion of unused 2019 funds that could be tapped for the relief efforts if declared as government savings.
In his privilege speech Monday afternoon, Recto also suggested the use of the proceeds from the government’s travel tax collections and the motor vehicle user’s charge collections, which, according to him, currently amounts to P46.25 billion.