Pimentel: Re-channel non-essential expenditures to calamity response

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III today said there is a need to pump more funds into the country’s aid, relief, and rehabilitation programs for the victims of calamities as the country has an average of 20 tropical cyclones (tropical depressions, storms and typhoons) every year.

Pimentel issued the statement as he expressed support for raising the government’s proposed budget for calamity response for 2023.

Under the proposed National Expenditures Program for 2023, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF) or calamity fund is allocated P31-billion.

“Given these 20 tropical cyclones a year and the fact that the Philippines is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, it is imperative to pump more funds into disaster and calamity response and recovery programs,” Pimentel said.

While the proposed budget for calamity fund is already 55 percent higher than this year’s allocation of P20 billion, Pimentel said “it could easily be proven insufficient.”

“We must re-channel non-essential PAPs (projects, activities and programs) both in the 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023 in order to fund critical programs such as the calamity fund to enable a speedy and efficient response to disasters and calamities,” Pimentel added.

He stressed: “We must ensure that resources are immediately available and accessible both by the national and local government.”

“Let us cut confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) and re-channel this much-needed allocation to strengthen our disaster response capabilities,” Pimentel said.

Under the proposed 2023 spending outlay, there’s a record-breaking P9.29 billion CIFs. Of which, P4.5-billion will go to the Office of the President; P806 million to the Philippine National Police (PNP); and P500 million to the Office of the Vice President; P500 million to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

“These funds can be used instead to beef up the weather forecasting capabilities of PAGASA, build houses damaged by typhoons and earthquake, and repair damaged roads and bridges,” Pimentel said, referring to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services (Pages), the main agency responsible for monitoring typhoons in the country.

“Could they use their intelligence funds to monitor typhoons and floods and give us the much-needed early warnings?” Pimentel asked.

Citing government data, Pimentel, who is among the first to call for help for the victims of typhoon “Paeng”, said that in agriculture alone, the expected damage could reach up to P1.3 billion.

The figure, he said, does not include yet the damage to infrastructure as many bridges, dikes and roads have collapsed or heavily damaged.

Pimentel also cited that the country has yet to recover and rebuild the damage caused by the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck Norther Luzon particularly Abra.

The government had earlier pegged the total cost of infrastructure damage at P1.8-billion.