Congress gets P80 billion from unprogrammed fund for calamity relief


The lion’s share or P80 billion of the P100 billion rehabilitation and reconstruction fund for the aid of calamity victims will be sourced from the P117 billion unprogrammed fund under proposed P2.268 trillion 2014 budget, a House leader said Tuesday.

Rep. Isidro Ungab of Davao City, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, made the disclosure a day after the House and the Senate swiftly approved the Bicameral Conference Committee Report which provides for the P100 billion allocation earmarked to respond to the string of calamities that hit the country in 2013, most notably Super Typhoon Yolanda which is the strongest typhoon recorded in the world for 2014.

“Of the P100 billion, P20 billion will be from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) and P80 billion will come from unprogrammed funds,” Ungab said in a text message.

The unprogrammed funds are allocations that cannot be released unless revenue sources exceed target, loans or borrowings are perfected and there are new revenue sources not included in the proposed source.

The MPBF, on the other hand, is an allocation for new hires in government and is only released by the Department of Budget and Management to a specific agency if the new employees are already hired.

Secretary Florencio Abad of the Department of Budget and Management assured that the Aquino administration can raise the P100 billion, even the main source of the said fund—the unprogrammed budget—is largely dependent on government revenues.

Abad cited that the unprogrammed fund cannot be found wanting because the P100 billion budget will be largely sourced from the concessional loan proceeds under the unprogrammed fund which include those coming from the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank (WB), Japan International Cooperation Agency, European Union, United Nations and other bilateral sources.

“The combined commitment of ADB and WB is already P66 billion. Add JICA, UN and bilateral sources, and that can likely reach P100 billion,” Abad argued in a separate text message.

Abad’s claims were echoed by Ungab.

“The government has been doing good in revenue collections, and there is also this upcoming pledging session for donor countries and international financial institutions to help the calamity-stricken areas with long term source of funds,” Ungab added.

Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar, Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, welcomed the P100 billion budget even if critics have frowned over its speedy approval.

“The speedy approval of the 2014 budget is a significant step in sustaining the country’s economic growth and in addressing the urgent needs for reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas battered by recent calamities,” Evardone said in a separate text message. LLANESCA T. PANTI


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