The House of Representatives seeks to pass the P14.6-billion supplemental budget today as a lump sum fund for the rehabilitation and restoration of the areas struck by recent natural calamities.
House Committee on Appropriations Chair and Davao 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab said on Tuesday that they plan to pass the budget at the committee level immediately given the urgency of rebuilding of the areas in the central part of Philippines that were devastated by super typhoon Yolanda.
“We will try our best to pass it at the committee level [ on Wednesday] considering the urgency of providing assistance to the calamity stricken areas,” Ungab said.
But despite the intense public pressure faced by the Congress in the pork barrel scam, they intend to pass yet another lump sum appropriation similar to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which was recently declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Ungab said, however, that the committee will look into the breakdown of the said allocations.
“It’s still augmentation of calamity funds but we will ask for the breakdown of the allocations during the budget hearing,” said Ungab.
“It is a lump sum in the sense that it is augmentation of the calamity funds but the committee can always ask as to how the funds will be spent in details.”
The budget, or House Bill No. 3423, was filed by Ungab, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, and Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora on Monday.
The fund was sourced from the unused 2013 PDAF declared by the High Court as unconstitutional last week. It is on top of the calamity fund, which validity is set to be extended by the Congress until the end of 2014 through House Joint Resolution No. 7.
Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon hit the lawmakers’ move, saying that the primary interest of the administration is not really to help the calamity victims but to pave way for another pork allocation.
“It is clear in the SC ruling, it said that we should not proceed with lump sum appropriations,” Ridon said. “The rehabilitation efforts should be well-planned by the government and they must ensure where the funds should go.”
Once the bill is approved, the funds will go not only to the areas wrecked by Yolanda but also to provinces affected by all recent typhoons and the 7.2 magnitude quake that rattled Bohol, as well as the towns in Zamboanga ravaged by Moro National Liberation Front.
An estimate of P100 billion is needed for the complete restoration of the damaged sites. JHOANNA BALLARAN