Lacson wants calamity fund review before releasing P30B supplemental budget

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 21 2020 04:25 PM

Senator Panfilo Lacson calls for a review of calamity funds in light of President Rodrigo Duterte's P30-billion supplemental budget request to aid Filipinos hit by Taal Volcano's ashfall. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA - Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday said Congress should first determine how much calamity funds are still available both in the national and local government coffers before approving President Rodrigo Duterte's P30-billion supplemental budget request to aid Filipinos hit by Taal Volcano's ashfall.

Under the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, each local government unit is mandated to allot 5 percent of their budget and regular income to their disaster fund, Lacson said in a statement.

Unused disaster funds should be placed in a "special trust fund solely for the purpose of supporting disaster risk reduction and management activities" of the local government within the next 5 years, he said.

"I can imagine they may still have sufficient funds," Lacson said.

The Congress needs to police calamity funds, the senator said, noting that Batangas allegedly allocated P183 million for its disaster fund in 2019, but used 70 percent of the amount for maintenance and operating expenses.

"Only P55 million was for calamity," he said.

Lacson clarified that he was not against "the expeditious passage of the budget measure."

"I'm only saying we have to find out if P30 billion is a bit more or even not sufficient to help the LGUs affected by the Taal Volcano eruption," he said.

Senator Francis Tolentino, a former mayor of Tagaytay City, justified the President's additional fund request, saying the supplemental budget will be used to fund the rehabilitation of houses and livelihood establishments destroyed by Taal Volcano's mud and ashfall.

"Hindi ito ang first and last calamity for the year. Una pa lang ito, opening pa lang ng taon so baka madeplete na yun [calamity funds]," Tolentino said.

At least P4 billion in potential income in the agricultural and services sector was lost after the volcano's rumbling spewed mud and ash that caked businesses in towns in Cavite and Batangas.

Two other senators proposed to grant at least P30,000 cash aid to each calamity-affected family, and urged local governments and lenders to ease loan collections from areas hit by the eruption of the Philippines' second most active volcano.