MANILA - The government’s response to the devastation brought by Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas and other calamities that hit the country this year were the center of the Senate’s version of the 2014 national budget.
In yesterday’s deliberation, the Senate approved the budget for the Departments of Finance (DOF), Justice (DOJ), and Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the National Economic and Development Authority.
When the House of Representatives approved its version of the budget in October, the 7.2 magnitude quake that hit Bohol and Typhoon Yolanda were not yet taken into consideration.
The level of destruction brought by these two calamities alone prompted Congress to respond by making appropriate adjustments in the proposed P2.268-trillion budget submitted by the President in July.
Apart from the response to the calamities, the Senate’s version of the budget also takes into account the position of the senators on their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations, or pork barrel fund.
Fifteen senators have said that they would each forgo their P200 million in PDAF allocations and that the amount should be deleted from the total budget.
With a similar decision by Vice President Jejomar Binay to forego his P200-million fund, the total proposed national budget for 2014 that the Senate is currently working on is P2.264.702 trillion.
“The P3.2-billion cut was deducted from the four agencies where the House of Representatives decided to temporarily ‘park’ the pork allocation for the senators. These were the Commission on Higher Education, DOH, DOLE, and Social Welfare and Development,” Senate committee on finance chair Francis Escudero said in his speech.
Escudero said the decision of the senators is still subject to amendments later on during the budget deliberation.
He said the nation is interested to know Congress’ next move on the PDAF.
“We will have to answer these questions individually, then collectively as an institution. In these times of turmoil and political discord, we face the herculean task of rebuilding, not just the damage wrought by the natural disasters, but also the shattered image of the Senate,” Escudero said.
In fulfillment of a promise made by some lawmakers to come up with a rehabilitation fund for calamity-stricken areas, the Senate has introduced a P20-billion Disaster Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Fund (DRRF) as an amendment in the 2014 budget.