• Aquino to tap savings to replenish disaster fund

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    Admitting that the government’s contingency and calamity funds would not be enough to rehabilitate areas devastated by typhoons and a strong quake, President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Monday said that he will realign the government’s savings and release it as calamity fund.

    Aquino said that the government has released P11 billion to help victims of typhoon Pablo but the government’s calamity fund is only P7.5 billion.

    As of Tuesday, the President said that only P176 million is left of the calamity fund, while there is only P824 million contingency fund.
    But he noted that the government still has P20 billion in savings that can be used to augment the calamity fund.

    “Bottom line is, [there’s a request of] P7 billion and (the) savings we have (is) about P20 billion. Iyong kulang, pwede nating kunin from the savings to augment both lines items, which is the contingency and the calamity,” Aquino said.

    “So there are savings and the calamity fund is an item on the budget then you can use the savings to fund the calamity and to replenish the calamity and the contingency fund,” he said.

    According to the budget department’s website, P1.404 billion of the P7.5-billion calamity fund has been spent so far.

    Despite the depletion of funds, the President gave reassurance that “there is no community that is not being taken care of.”

    The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), he said, has made its second distribution of relief supplies that should last for the next five days.

    “[The] food packs at a hundred thousand, a food pack is defined as enough to feed a family of five for three days. So there are more food packs than there are supposed to be directly affected families,” he added.

    Death toll
    The death toll from the quake has risen to 186, while number of people injured also increased to 583.

    Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares admitted that the government has a lot of funds it can use to help disaster victims.|

    He said that in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, P712.21 billion funds were allocated for calamities and emergencies.

    These include the Budgetary Support to Government Corporations (BSGC) totaling to P50.63 billion; Allocation to Local Government Units (ALGU) worth P200 million; Calamity Fund worth P15 billion; Department of Education’s Educational Facilities Fund worth P2 billion; and the unprogrammed fund worth P124 billion.

    “If the President wants to, (these funds) should go to calamity victims,” the lawmaker said.

    “The Aquino administration should stop making ‘palusot’ and should not use the sad plight of the people of Bohol and Cebu in its obsession for the DAP and presidential pork,” Colmenares said.

    Do not use DAP
    Former National Treasurer Prof. Leonor Briones shared Colmenares’ sentiments, noting that Aquino should not use funds under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

    “The calamity fund should be accounted. That’s the problem with lump-sum funds, ang accountability ay mahirap,” Briones said. “DAP is not needed anymore because the appropriation is already [covered by]the SPF. DAP should not be touched until the Supreme Court decides on its constitutionality.”

    Former Iloilo representative Augusto Syjuco also on Monday asked the SC to stop the government from disbursing public funds to assist quake-hit areas through DAP because it is unconstitutional.

    “[I]t is imminent that the respondents (Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Senate President Franklin Drilon) will utilize and implement DAP on the premise that the Calamity Fund is almost depleted,” he said.

    With A Report From Jomar Canlas

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