Where did the P25B calamity fund go? NDRRMC exec explains

A ranking official of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has denied that that the government's multi-billion Calamity Fund remain unspent, stressing that it is continuously being spent by the agency to address the needs of victims of various disasters and other eventualities that affected the country that include the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

"The National DRRM Fund has been utilized and is still being used for DRRM and the emergencies that the country has faced including COVID-19," said NDRRMC Executive Director Ricardo Jalad in a statement on Tuesday night, May 5.

Jalad issued the statement in reaction to reports that there were some P25.14 billion in calamity funds from 2020 and 2021 that remains unutilized as it is yet to be approved on various government offices like the Office of the President.

According to Jalad, the annual National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF), also known as the calamity fund, was established "for the purpose of supporting disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) activities focused on prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery and rehabilitation."

"These include the training of personnel, improvement and construction of evacuation centers, reconstruction or rehabilitation of infrastructure, aid and relief services including pre-disaster activities connected to the occurrence of disasters (natural or man-made), epidemics, other crises resulting from armed conflicts, terrorism, and other catastrophes in the current year or two preceding years," he said.

2020 calamity fund

The calamity fund for 2020 was worth P16 billion. Its allocations were divided into three: P3.5 billion for the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction program of Marawi City (MRRRP) after the 2017 siege; P5 billion for a comprehensive aide to repair the earthquake damages (CARED) in Davao (Region 11) and Soccsksargen (Region 12); and P7.5 billion for the "regular" NDRRM fund which is used "to support the rehabilitation and recovery projects, response activities, and disaster prevention and mitigation for 2020."

However, when COVID-19 struck, Jalad said the regular NDRRM fund was deemed "insufficient." He said it quickly depleted since they had to augment the quick response funds (QRFs) of various government agencies what were also conducting COVID-19 operations.

This prompted the NDRRMC to seek augmentation funding worth P6.7 billion which was eventually approved by the Office of the President, Jalad said. The regular NDRRM fund was increased to more than P14.2 billion as the total calamity fund for 2020 reached P22,794,795,698.

Of these amount, Jalad said the Office of the President already approved requests and project proposals worth P19,799,556,479.31 including some P9.4 billion for COVID-19 response.

This means that other proposals and requests amounting to some P2.9 billion "are in line for processing and approval," he said.

The projects and activities supported by the 2020 calamity fund include the reconstruction, rehabilitation, and repair of various infrastructures and vital facilities damaged by disasters from 2018, 2019, and 2020; financial assistance for local government units (LGUs) affected by typhoons Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses; and COVID-19 response in the form of augmentation to quick response funds of attending agencies, he said.

2021 calamity fund

Meanwhile, a total of P20 billion was intended for the calamity fund in 2021. It was divided into three parts: P5 billion for the continuing recovery of Marawi City (MRRP); P2 billion for a disaster insurance fund; and P13 billion for the regular NDRRM fund.

Of these, Jalad said more than P3.5 billion worth of projects and requests had already been approved by President Duterte for the Marawi rehabilitation effort, the repair and rehabilitation of disaster-damaged infrastructures and facilities, and for the continuing support to agencies attending to COVID-19 and other disasters in 2021

This means that some P4.4 billion worth of requests and projects remain "in process for approval" while P11,953,775,152.36 is still unutilized in the 2021 calamity fund.

The breakdown of the unutilized fund is as follows: P6.5 billion for the regular NDRRM fund; P2 billion for the disaster insurance fund; and P3.4 billion for the Marawi City recovery.

" 2021 National DRRM Fund cannot be depleted before midyear 2021 in preparation for the emergencies during the rainy season," Jalad insisted.