MANILA - The House of Representatives has approved on 2nd and 3rd reading House Bill 3423 or the supplemental budget bill for 2013 that will re-appropriate some P14.6 billion in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to augment the President's lump-sum calamity fund.
The bill is Congress’ response to the needs of the victims of super typhoon Yolanda.
The bill was passed on 2nd reading in a viva voce vote after all attempts by the minority and independent bloc congressmen to itemize the lump sums were rejected.
Since the bill is certified as urgent by the President, it was also put to a vote on 3rd reading on the same day, wherein it was approved with 213 votes in favor and 6 votes against.
The passage came after congressmen figured in a heated and animated exchange during the plenary deliberations of the proposed supplemental budget bill.
Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz was well into his interpellation of the bill sponsor, Appropriations Committee Chairperson Isidro Ungab, when the latter told dela Cruz not to delay the help that the supplemental budget will give to typhoon victims.
Ungab said dela Druz should approving the bill now.
Dela Cruz earlier demanded that the augmentation calamity fund be itemized, instead of being approved as a lump sum.
He lost his temper and started angrily protesting the argument of Ungab, at times banging the rostrum to drive home a point.
To defuse the tension, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II suspended the debate and called the roll.
He also reminded both lawmakers to behave.
A quorum was declared with 229 members present on the floor.
The debates then proceeded and a vote was taken after all the interpellators were finished.
The supplemental budget will next be tackled by the Senate. Once approved by both chambers, it will be sent to the President for approval.
Its twin measure, Joint Resolution 7 extending by a year all the emergency funds in the 2013 budget such as the calamity funds and quick response funds, was already approved by the House Monday night.
House Speaker Sonny Belmonte said he ordered a text brigade to ensure the attendance of congressmen in Tuesday's session.
The absence of a quorum forced the adjournment of session Monday night, delaying the passage of supplemental budget bill.
Lawmakers hope to pass the 2014 budget into law before the Christmas break on December 18.
Meantime, a lawmaker said Leyte and Samar could wind up as model communities after the reconstruction and rehabilitation from the destruction of super typhoon Yolanda.
House Housing Committee Chair Albee Benitez said the local executives of those areas can build from scratch.
He suggests revisions to the national building code, as well as use of green technology.
House Labor Committee Chair Karlo Nograles, meantime, said the reconstruction program will need many workers.
His committee is coordinating with the Labor Department and the Technical Education Skills Development Authority for the training of the laborers who will be tapped in the reconstruction efforts.
Nograles also downplayed the supposed political implications of the appointment of former Senator Panfilo Lacson as "rehabilitation czar."
“Kahit anong malaking development sa political arena, everyone will speculate na [it has] something to do with 2016,” he said.
For it part, the House independent bloc has filed a bill proposing the creation of a Department of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management to replace the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
The bill cited the long term devastation of typhoon Yolanda as basis. The bill's authors argued that the existing set-up is not adequate.
Unlike the NDRRMC, the proposed agency will be a full department.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin recently said he is supporting the creation of a line department for disaster preparedness and management similar to the US Federal Emergency Management Administration.