MANILA, Philippines - Former Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya on Tuesday denied that Pangasinan province received only P5 million in calamity assistance in 2009 from the Arroyo administration.
In an interview with radio dzMM, Andaya, now a congressman representing the 1st district of Camarines Sur, would not say how much was actually given to the province, which was badly hit by several storms in 2009.
Andaya said Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr. can belie the allegation made by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III made in his State of the Nation Address (SONA).
President Aquino said on Monday that the government released a total of P2 billion of funds in anticipation of storms that will enter the country this year.
He said 70% of the P1.4 billion have already been distributed to provinces. He added that P108 million of the calamity fund has been distributed to Pampanga, and P105 million went to a single district.
While President Aquino did not pinpoint which district received the P105 million, it is believed he was referring to the 2nd district, which is being now being represented by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Andaya also denied that the previous government neglected Pangasinan, which was hardest hit by storms Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009.
He said province was even actually the “first priority” in the release of the calamity fund. He added the P5 million cited by President Aquino in his SONA was the last of a series of calamity fund allocations for the province.
Andaya also explained that it was not the Arroyo administration that asked for the P2-billion calamity allocation.
“Kongreso mismo ang naglagay ng calamity fund. Pati ang mga bagyong nakaraan ay dapat pondohan ng calamity fund na iyan,” he said, referring to President Aquino’s part of the speech, where, he said, the P5 million released to Pangasinan was for storm Cosme, which hit the country in 2008.
The former budget secretary said that because of the already depleted calamity funds of each province, congressmen pushed for the insertion of the P2 billion calamity fund in the General Appropriations Act of 2010.
Not really depleted
Meanwhile, Andaya said President Aquino was probably accurate when he said in his SONA that only 6.5% of the P1.54 trillion national budget for 2010 was left in the national treasury.
However, Andaya explained that only 50% of the total national budget has been actually used up.
He said that upon receipt of the national budget, the Department of Budget Management (DBM) immediately releases to all government branches their annual allocations, including those for personnel salary and maintenance and operating expenditures (MOE).
Andaya said 50% of the total national budget go to state workers’ salaries while 25% is used for MOE.
“So 75% na, pero hindi nangangahulugan na nagastos na iyan,” he said, adding that the salary and MOE releases should be good for the whole year of 2010.
“If you are looking at the actual expenditures, only 50% has been spent from the national budget,” he said.
Andaya said that the present administration should have enough funds, including the remaining 6.5% of the total P1.54 national budget and the unspent funds that have been allocated to all government branches.