MANILA - Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares today urged government to stop making excuses when it comes to tapping the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to help victims of the earthquake in Central Visayas.
"The people of Bohol needs all the help the government can provide and President Aquino should deliver government aid in the most efficient and equitable manner. It's not right for Malacanang to say that it cannot deliver aid without the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and other pork barrel when they have billions in the 2013 budget," Colmenares said.
The party-list lawmaker said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) website has reported that it has only spent P1.404 billion of the P7.5 billion calamity fund. This does not include the P3.4 billion in quick response fund in various agencies, and the P14 billion school building fund of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to rebuild schools.
"The Aquino administration should stop making 'palusot' and should not use the sad plight of the people of Bohol and Cebu in its obsession for the DAP and presidential pork," he added.
Last week, the executive revealed that its calamity and contingency funds for the year are nearly used up.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad nixed the possibility of a supplemental budget to aid the relief and rehabilitation efforts for those affected by the October 15 earthquake.
He said his agency will issue a statement on the balances of the quick response funds and the contingency and calamity funds (CFs) today.
"We only need the President's approval to augment the CFs from savings," he said.
This is a view shared by Appropriations Committee Chair isidro Ungab. "Calamity and contingent funds can be easily augmented from savings since there are regular items in the budget," he said.
Speaker Sonny Belmonte also nixed the possibility of a supplemental budget.
"The President can realign savings within the Executive department. But if any House resolution is required, we will pass it," he said.
Deputy Speaker Carlos Padilla admitted passing a supplemental budget to augment the calamity and augmentation funds depleted by recent crises may not be feasible.
"With regards to the problem in Bohol and Cebu, the most we can do is manawagan sa Office of the President. Pwede rin naman kaming umaksiyon sana tulad ng halimbawa magkaroon tayo ng pondo but we're about to approve the [General Appropriations Act] anytime this week…Pwede kami mag approve ng supplemental budget I don't know considering we're about to approve budget for 2014," he said.
Padilla said instead of tapping the Disbursement Acceleration Program, President Aquino should tap into his social fund from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to augment the funds for disaster relief efforts.
However, PCSO General Manager Joey Rojas maintained that the PCSO has no share or contribution to the President's social fund.
Padilla does not think the absence of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) has any bearing on the disaster relief efforts, since the PDAF is not a quick response fund.
Butil party-list Rep. Agapito Guanlao said the quick response funds and calamity funds of government should be spent on disaster relief and rehabilitation efforts.
He said the Central Luzon bloc of congressmen will be filing a resolution to realign their unreleased PDAF for 2013 to augment the depleted calamity funds.
Batangas Rep. Mark llandro Mendoza, for his part, said he will push for the immediate rehabilitation of the agricultural area of Bohol to ensure that it has a stable food supply.
Meantime, both Ungab and Belmonte were open to the possibility that congressmen will send donations to the victims of the October 15 earthquake.
Recently, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution for a one-time deduction of P10,000 from congressmen's salaries for donation to victims of the armed conflict in Zamboanga City.