Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. led the number of lawmakers who pushed for the realignment of savings from the 2013 budget for the relief and rehabilitation efforts in earthquake-stricken provinces of Bohol and Cebu.
The said proposal was first raised by Rep. Rene Relampagos of Bohol province in a privilege speech on Monday. Less than 12 hours after, the House Independent bloc led by Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of Leyte filed a House Bill which appropriates P25 billion for the relief, rehabilitation, livelihood services, infrastructure and housing programs for the victims of the October 15 earthquake that letd more than 100 people dead and P2 billion worth of damages in Bohol and Cebu provinces.
The said P25 billion will be sourced from the National Treasury which keeps the unappropriated fund such as Malampaya fund.
“I am in favor [of tapping unused appropriations from 2013 budget]. I discussed it with him [Relampagos] and the other Bohol congressmen. We are also soliciting personal contributions from Congress members,” Belmonte said in a text message.
In his speech, Relampagos pitched for a Bohol Recovery Program to help the province get back on its feet.
“We seek a joint resolution from this Chamber and the Senate to allow the realignment of available or unused funds in the 2013 GAA. The fund could be included in the 2014 General Appropriations Act. We seek the Senate’s gracious intervention to include the Bohol Rehabilitation Fund in the 2014 GAA,” Relampagos said.
Senate President Franklin Drilon has earlier proposed that the P14 billion worth of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) under the 2013 budget—which has been under a Temporary Restraining Order issued by the Supreme Court—be realigned as savings and use it to help the victims of Bohol and Cebu earthquake.
PDAF is the discretionary fund of the lawmakers that they are mandated to use to address the needs of their constituents which include social services and infrastructure projects.
Drilon’s proposal, however, did not sit well with Reps. Winston Castelo of Quezon City and Jonathan dela Cruz of Abakada party-list.
“That is unacceptable because that [PDAF] has already been allocated for a specific purpose which is for the scholars and the medical needs of my constituents. The best way to treat this is to just wait for the decision in the Supreme Court,” Castelo said in a separate talk.
“Converting the PDAF which is now under TRO to savings is problematic because House members have committed such funding to their constituents. They can’t just say, I’m sorry, I can’t fund your scholarship or medical needs anymore because we need to use this fund for the earthquake victims,” dela Cruz added. LLANESCA T. PANTI