Where on earth will the government get the emergency and calamity funds for the Central Visayas quake?
In the wake of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that greatly damaged the provinces of Bohol, Cebu and Siquijor, Palace disclosed that only P176 million is remaining of the calamity fund and P827 million of the contingency fund. These funds are under the special purpose funds (SPF)—often called by critics as the ‘presidential pork’—of Pres. Benigno Aquino 3rd.
But apparently, there are a lot more funds that can be used by the government to aid Central Visayas. In the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, there are a total of P712.21 billion funds that are related to calamities and emergencies that can be tapped.
Under both GAA, there are items under the SPF that can be used. These includes: the Budgetary Support to Government Corporations (BSGC) totaling to P50.63 billion; the Allocation to Local Government Unit (ALGU) worth P200 million; the Calamity Fund worth P15 billion; the Department of Education’s Educational Facilities Fund worth P2 billion; and the Unprogrammed Fund worth P124 billion.
According to the 2012 and 2013 GAA, the BGSC fund that can be used for specific purposes are: P8.25 billion from the National Food Authority; P3.78 billion from the National Irrigation Administration; P2.92 billion from the Philippine Coconut Authority; P7.97 from the National Electrification Administration; P700 million from the Local Water Utilities Administration; and P27 billion from the National Housing Authority.
Note that the 2012 GAA is valid for two years since it was passed into law, or until the end of 2013.
These funds are separate from the regular appropriations of the said government corporations and can be used if the president ordered so or when the corporation itself initiated the disbursement.
“If the president wants to, it should go to calamity victims,” Rep. Neri Colmenares Bayan Muna party-list told The Manila Times in a phone interview.
Colmenares said that the government has a lot funds that can be used for rehabilitation and should not use the recent disaster in Visayas to defend the legally-questioned Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and his discretionary funds.
“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.
According to the Department of Budget and Management, the SPFs are “budgetary allocations in the GAA allocated for specific purposes. These are usually lump sum in nature, as the recipient departments…and/or specific programs and projects have not yet been identified during budget preparation and deliberation.”
Besides the SPF, there are more funds that can be used by the president for the restoration and rehabilitation of the damaged areas.
Under the two GAA, there are unused appropriations from 2012 and 2013 totaling to P515.73 billion. These are unreleased appropriations—like the unreleased personnel services—and unobligated allotments for the past two years.
There are also savings worth P4.39 billion for 2012, the so-called Quick Response Fund for Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Education, Department of National Defense, and Department of Social Welfare and Development totaling to P3.4 billion, and P14 billion fund for DPWH to rebuild schools.
Add to that the aid that will be given by different countries and organizations, just like the United Nations.
“There are so many funds for the rehabilitation… don’t tell me that you’re going to spend P1 billion for the relief? I doubt it,” Colmenares said. “There are so many funds. Yet your [Aquino administration’s] usage of DAP is so hard sell.”
Do not use DAP
Former National Treasurer Prof. Leonor Briones shared Colmenares’ same sentiments. In a phone interview with The Times, she noted that the government has a lot of standby funds that can be used for emergencies and calamities.
“The national budget has several million. The government is not without fund,” she said.
She said that the funds used for calamities, such as the Zamboanga siege, should be well-accounted for.
“The calamity fund should be accounted. That’s the problem with lump-sum funds, ang accountability ay mahirap,” Briones said.
She also asked the Palace not to use DAP as its legality is currently being questioned at the Supreme Court.
“DAP is not needed anymore because the appropriation is already [covered by]the SPF. DAP should not be touched until SC decides on its constitutionality.” JHOANNA BALLARAN