• Tacloban has P21.8-M idle funds

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    The area that suffered the greatest devastation when Typhoon Yolanda hit the country in November 2013, Tacloban City, has yet to return P12.7 million worth of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and unused P9.1 million disaster risk reduction fund.

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    A Commission on Audit (COA) report released this week showed that the P12.7 million PDAF from lawmakers as of December 31, 2014 remain unremitted to the Finance department, even if the Supreme Court already declared the PDAF as unconstitutional in November 2013 via a unanimous 14-0 decision.

    The High Court’s decision states in part that the remaining PDAF funds covered by the permanent injunction shall not be disbursed/released, but should be reverted to the unappropriated surplus of the general fund.

    Of the P12.7 million, P11.6 million was sourced from the PDAF of Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, P504,000 from Sen. Loren Legarda, P500,000 from Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., P61,437 from Alliance of Concerned Teachers party list, P20,000 from former senator Manuel Villar Jr., P10,000 from Bayan Muna party list, P6,284 from Sen. Francis Escudero, P3,298 for Sen. Francis Pangilinan and P500 from Gabriela party list.

    “We recommend that the City Mayor should require the City Treasurer/City Accountant to remit the total balance of P12,735,437.68 to the Department of Finance as required by the Supreme Court,” the COA read.

    “This observation pertains to procedural deficiency that does not require the issuance of Notice of Suspension or Notice of Disallowance,” the COA added.

    In addition, Tacloban failed to utilize the P9 million or 31 percent of the total approved Annual City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund Plans and Budget for 2014.

    The crucial budget items with zero percent utilization include: construction/reconstruction of water barriers or seawalls (P500,000), construction of evacuation centers good for earthquakes and tsunamis/storm surges (P3 million), reforestation projects such as procurement of seedlings and tree planting activities (P500,000) and community based hazard identification, risk assessment seminars and activities (P500,000).

    The government spending on disaster preparedness was no better. Only 12 percent of the P250,000 budget on information and education campaign was used, while only 30 percent of the P350,000 budget was used for the seminars/trainings for local government personnel.

    In addition, only 40 percent of the P3.4 million budget for the purchase of equipment/supplies was utilized.

    “The low rates of implementation of the disaster prevention and mitigation, and preparedness, respectively, runs counter to the State’s policy as provided in Section 2 (e) of RA 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010,” COA said.

    The law provides that it is the policy of the State to develop, promote, and implement a comprehensive National Disaster Risk Management Program that aims to strengthen the capacity of the national government and the LGUs, together with partner stakeholders, to build the disaster resilience of communities, and to institutionalize arrangements and measures for reducing disaster risks, including projected climate risks, and enhancing disaster preparedness and response capabilities at all levels.

    “We recommend that the City Mayor require the Head of the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office to fully implement this year 2015 the unimplemented projects/programs/activities of the Annual City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund Plans and Budget for CY 2014,” the COA added.

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