President Benigno Aquino 3rd has certified the lump sum P14.6 billion supplemental budget as urgent, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. said Thursday.
Belmonte made the announcement a day after the House Committee on Appropriations approved the P14.6 billion supplemental budget which will be one of the sources of the P38.8 billion budget identified by the President Benigno Aquino 3rd as an urgent allocation for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda which left at least 5,500 people dead and reduced a number of Visayas provinces to Ground Zero.
“The President certified it [P14.6 billion supplemental budget] as urgent and we will continue with the plenary debates on it next week,” Belmonte said in a text message.
Secretary Florencio Abad of the Department of Budget and Management earlier disclosed that the P38.8 billion will finance the urgent needs of the Yolanda victims such as: roofing and nails for temporary bunkhouses, restoration of electricity and water services, reconstruction of basic infrastructure such as hospitals and schools and establishing livelihood and employment schemes for the people.
“The total [budget]requirement cannot be available right away because the assessment of the damage is still on process. The budget is dependent on data and the data is yet to be completed. This P38.8 billion is for immediate relief for Yolanda victims, and the P14.6 billion supplemental budget will be one of its sources,” Abad said in an interview.
The National Treasury has certified the P14.6 billion as available fund for the supplemental budget as a result of the Supreme Court ruling declaring the remaining Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) under 2013 budget unconstitutional.
Tinio and fellow opposition lawmaker Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna has repeatedly called for the itemization of the P14.6 billion supplemental budget to ensure that the proceeds of the supplemental budget will benefit the calamity victims.
“We always deal with natural disasters. We should have mastered it already and identified the needed infrastructure for each affected area by now. That is, if the NDRRMC had done its job,” Colmenares told the House Appropriations panel, referring to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Abad, however, argued that itemization of the proceeds of the P14.6 billion supplemental budget cannot be done because it will hamper the ability of the recipient agencies to respond to the calamity at hand.
“You have to give the implementing agencies the flexibility to respond to the calamity. If we itemize it, we will restrict the Executive in using the available resources. This is not business as usual. This is a calamity and by nature, it is in lump sum,” Abad pointed out.
The agencies which are in the frontline in the relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts would need to submit their plans to be able to be able to secure additional funding from the P14.6 billion supplemental budget, among other budget sources.
“If you don’t have a plan, you cannot get funding from the calamity fund,” Abad added in closing. LLANESCA T. PANTI