IN order to ensure that there will be funds for the rehabilitation of areas destroyed by the recent calamities that hit the country the Senate leadership will ask the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to revise the proposed 2014 budget and include the creation of a rehabilitation fund amounting to P10 billion.
Senate president Franklin, said that he will discuss the matter with budget Secretary Florencio Abad immediately so that the DBM could come up with its revised 2014 budget proposal in time for the budget deliberation of the senate.
The upper chamber will start it debates on the proposed 2014 general appropriations act (GAA) next week November 18 and hope to pass before congress goes on a Christmas break on December 20.
“If the DBM agrees with this proposal, then it should be submitted to the Senate as soon as we open our debates on the 2014 budget because there is really a need to me to recast the 2014 budget. There are no two ways about it,” Drilon explained.
Drilon noted that the DBM is in the best position to review the proposed expenses in the 2014 budget and recast it so when the GAA is passed it will already reflect the funds needed for the rehabilitation of all areas that were affected not only by the super typhoon Yolanda but also other calamities in the past months.
“Unless we do this, the source (of funds) will simply be the Calamity Fund, and the regular items in the budget,” he added.
Although the President’s social fund can be used for the relief operations, Drilon said, what is critical is the massive rehabilitation which is not taken into consideration when the executive department crafted the budget proposal.
He also made it clear that the proposed amendments on the budget to include the rehabilitation fund, are not congressional insertions because changes will be in accordance with the proposal to be submitted by the DBM.
“If we cannot respond quickly, the President will be forced to realign funding because the 2014 National Expenditure Programs did not take into account the need for massive rehabilitation,” he pointed out.
Drilon also emphasized that similar move was done in the 2007 General Appropriations Act, when the country was beset by catastrophic typhoons namely Milenyo, Paeng, Reming, and Seniang.
An amount of P8 billion, lodged under the Calamity Fund, was allocated for rehabilitation, repair, and reconstruction works and activities in areas damaged by those typhoons.
Apart from the devastation left by super typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas region, relief and rehabilitation operation are also needed in some parts of the Luzon which was also affected by the recent calamities as well siege in Zamboanga last September.
State of Calamity
Meanwhile in a related development, Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. in a resolution has asked President Aquino 3rd to declare a state of calamity in 10 provinces and 10 cities that comprise Regions 7 and 8 ravaged by monster typhoon “Yolanda.”
“Regions 7 and 8 suffered immeasurable damage where 90 percent of their areas have been flattened by this monstrous typhoon that left an undetermined extent of destruction to properties, and countless corpses lying along the streets, and the survivors desperately begging for much needed assistance and relief,” Marcos said in the resolution.
Region 7, or Central Visayas, is composed of the provinces of Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor; and the cities of Cebu, Lapu-Lapu, and Mandaue.
Region 8, or Eastern Visayas, is composed of the provinces of Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Samar, and Southern Leyte; and the cities of Ormoc, Baybay, Maasin, Calbayog, Catbalogan, Borongan, and Tacloban.
Marcos noted that the declaration of state of calamity is necessary to facilitate easy entry of must needed foreign aid and assistance to the devastated areas.
The senator at the same time expressed gratitude to those who immediately responded to the needs of the victims by sharing whatever they can and to foreign governments and humanitarian missions and organizations which mobilized international aid.
Meanwhile Escudero has called on government financial institutions take the lead in voluntarily imposing a moratorium on the payment of debts for persons affected by calamities like the recent typhoon Yolanda.
“An immediate moratorium on the payment of debt and the imposition of interests, penalties and other similar charges on financial obligations of affected individuals in calamity-ravaged areas should be voluntarily taken by GFIs and private financial institutions now. We call on them in the spirit of bayanihan,” the senator said.
Escudero as referring to GFIs like the Government Service Insurance Syetem (GSIS), Social Security System (SSS), Pag-Ibig Fund, Landbank of the Philippines (LBP) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).
He said he is also studying to ask the senate through a resolution to direct all financial institutions to undertake payment freeze to ease the burden of our countrymen affected by the successive severe calamities. JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA