Proposed supplemental budget for Marawi rehabilitation gains ground in Senate

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TWO senators have raised the need for a supplemental budget for the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City, as well as financial aid to government forces on the battlefield.

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Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Joel Villanueva said there should be a law creating a supple-mental budget out of government “savings” or “unused” budget allocation.

Drilon and Villanueva made the proposal in Wednesday’s security briefing for senators where Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief Eduardo Ano, and National Security Adviser Hermo-genes Esperon Jr. justified the extension of martial law in Mindanao until end of December.

“That’s what I proposed when we had a meeting. I mentioned some agencies, I won’t identify them, which have huge savings. Perhaps, Congress can pass a law so that these savings will be part of the supplemental budget not only for the rehabilitation of Marawi but also right now we are appreciating the importance of modernizing our Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Villanueva said.

“I have proposed during the meeting that maybe we should come up a supplemental budget specifi-cally for the rehabilitation of Marawi City and in support of our armed forces. Having said that, we are, in general, in support of the extension of the martial law,” Drilon said.

Sen. Francis Escudero sought the creation of a P20-billion trust fund for soldiers and policemen who were either killed or wounded in the line of duty in Marawi City and in previous armed conflicts with rebel groups.

Escudero filed Senate Bill No. 1491 on June 29 designed to institutionalize the trust fund, which would be used to finance five types of assistance: full scholarship, financial, shelter, health and medical care, and cost of living.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto urged Malacanang to release around P25 billion in “un-spent” calamity fund to help displaced civilians and rehabilitate areas destroyed during the armed con-flict between government troops and Maute terrorists.

He urged the Palace to rush a “humanitarian army” to Marawi City and to nearby provinces where the “spillover of a massive wave of evacuees” were straining local resources to grant them comfort and aid.

He said that some of the “calamity funds” were supposed to have been released in the beginning of the year to five government agencies tagged under the 2017 national budget as recipients of “Quick Response Fund” (QRF).

Recto said the QRF would serve as a “standby emergency fund” which a recipient agency could imme-diately use to respond to a natural or manmade calamity.

The P6 billion QRF is separate from the National Disaster and Risk Reduction and Management Fund, the calamity fund’s official name, which has been appropriated P15.755 billion this year.

The amount is augmented by the unspent and unreleased portion of last year’s P38.895 billion appro-priations for the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund (NDRRMF).

Recto said the government should step up the release of these funds in order to cushion the impact of the armed conflict in Marawi City triggered by the invasion of the area by the Maute terrorist group last May 23, which forced President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in entire Mindanao.

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