Drilon nixes new agencies, wants 2021 budget to focus on health, social sector

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 23 2020 10:13 AM | Updated as of Nov 23 2020 10:18 AM

Senator Franklin Drilon during the opening of the 18th Congress at the Philippine Senate on July 22, 2019. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience will be a "disaster" and will add bureaucracy, Sen. Franklin Drilon said Monday as he urged government to focus next year's spending plan on the health and social sector as the COVID-19 pandemic persisted.

Calls for a disaster agency remerged after a series of typhoons lashed Luzon beginning last month.

An additional calamity fund is what is needed, Drilon said, citing more than P30 billion worth of damage that Super Typhoon Rolly and Typhoons Quinta and Ulysses left.

The senator said the proposed calamity fund for next year is at P16 billion versus P20 billion last year.

"It will be a disaster because what we need are additional disaster or calamity funds not additional bureaucracy. For every department you create you spend one and a half billion in terms of salary and MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) and you add to the bureaucracy," he told ANC's Headstart.

"To create the Department of Disaster is a disaster because you need funds especially today for calamity, COVID, housing, education rather than an additional bureaucracy."

Government needs to mainstream disaster resilience in its programs as a proposed Department of Disaster Resilience "cannot duplicate" the expertise of certain state agencies, national disaster council chief Ricardo Jalad earlier said.

There are 7 pending bills in the Senate seeking the creation of new agencies, the senator said, adding that government must first rationalize the size of bureaucracy before the creation of new departments. 

Government could strengthen existing agencies and bureaus instead of creating new ones, Drilon said.

"Let’s examine first how many departments do we have and what kind of departments," he said.

"They say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This was never an issue before. This is not the first time we have to handle disasters."

HEALTH FUNDS 'GROSSLY INADEQUATE'

Drilon added that the proposed P131 billion budget for the Department of Health and the suggested P71 billion fund for state insurer PhilHealth were "grossly inadequate."

"There are so many areas to be addressed and so little funds to be distributed. We must be able to focus on the right needs to be addressed at least for 2021. My belief is given all these needs of our poor set of people...This budget must refocus its concern to the health and social sector of our government," he said.

Drilon urged the administration to "open its ears" to options proposed by the Senate.

"The bias for the social sector should be emphasized at least for next year so that we can help our people and at the same time help our economy recover by stimulus so they can make purchases because our economy is a consumer economy," he said.

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