DBM starts release of Yolanda fund

By Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 18 2014 10:41 AM | Updated as of Jan 18 2014 06:41 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has started releasing funds for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda and other previous storms.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, a vice chairman of the House of Representatives appropriations committee, said yesterday he has been informed that funds have been released to the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

“Cities and towns flattened by Yolanda in Samar-Leyte need those funds to replace coconut trees destroyed by the typhoon. The coconut industry in Eastern Visayas has been practically wiped out,” he said.

He said the PCA has to help coconut farmers rehabilitate their farms.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said reconstruction funds not only for Eastern Visayas but also for areas ravaged by other typhoons like Sendong, which hit Cagayan de Oro and other parts of Northern Mindanao two years ago, should now be released.

“These funds are intended not only for Samar-Leyte but also for Northern Mindanao, Zamboanga City, Bohol and Cebu, the Davao provinces, and Luzon provinces devastated by Sendong and other typhoons like Santi and Pablo, by the earthquake and by the misadventure of certain Muslim rebels loyal to Nur Misuari,” he said.

He said the use of the funds would hasten the recovery and growth of these areas.

Rodriguez urged the concerned agencies to take advantage of the summer months to start or finish reconstruction projects.

In Northern Mindanao, there are infrastructure projects that are awaiting funds so these could be completed, he said.

The House and the Senate have created a P100-billion rehabilitation and reconstruction fund in the P2.265-trillion 2014 national budget.

Of that amount, P20 billion is already funded and can be released and used. The release of the bigger portion of P80 billion would depend on loans, foreign assistance and extra revenues.

Of the P20 billion, P500 million has been allocated to the Department of Agriculture, P1 billion to the Department of Education, P500 million to the Department of Energy, P3 billion to state universities and colleges, P1 billion to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and P1 billion to the Department of Health.

Some P5 billion has been appropriated for the Department of Public Works and Highways, P1.5 billion for the National Housing Authority, P3.5 billion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development, P1 billion for the Department of Transportation and Communications, and P1 billion for local government units.

Aside from the P20 billion already funded, President Aquino could use more than P14 billion in unspent pork barrel funds, which Congress added to the P7.5-billion 2013 calamity fund.

The legislature extended the life of the fund and other unused appropriations in last year’s budget so these could be used for rehabilitation and reconstruction.

United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said the recovery process in the Philippines has been steady but uneven, urging donors to increase support for the $788-million response plan for Filipinos.

“Two months after the storm, the scale and spread of humanitarian needs is still daunting,” Amos said in a statement from the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In the Philippines, the OCHA said the early rains have already led to further displacement. – With Pia Lee-Brago