MANILA - The Senate on Monday adopted a resolution urging the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to release some P83-billion in its coffers to aid typhoon victims and other Filipinos still reeling from the effects of COVID-19.
Senate Resolution No. 574 urges the DSWD to fast-track the disbursement of the said funds as Filipinos "need it more than ever," Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said in plenary.
"Imagine, P83 billion just lying unspent in the government coffers," he said.
"Imagine what P83 billion can do. It will be a mere drop in the bucket
for the DSWD to provide urgent financial assistance to affected farmers," he said, referring to agriculture workers whose crops were ravaged by a series of typhoons in the last quarter of 2020.
Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel backed the proposal, saying Congress has listed in the Bayanihan Acts - the Philippines' COVID-19 aid packages - how the funds should be spent.
"The direction in where the money should go is very clear," he said.
About 75 percent of the unreleased P83 billion is earmarked for the Pantawid Pamilya Program, said Sen. Imee Marcos, who sponsored the DSWD's 2021 budget in plenary.
"DSWD wanted to clarify this was the last tranche to be paid out," she said.
The remaining 25 percent of the P83 billion was allocated for the agency's supplemental feeding program, livelihood projects and social pension, she said.
"They have been so far delayed or unable to distribute it... That's their explanation," Marcos said.
Sen. Richard Gordon saw no need to hold the passage of the resolution, noting that "most probably, the victims of these disasters are also recipients" of the Pantawid Pamilya Program.
"I don't mind sharing this [fund]," he said.
"But we want to check first which areas we are going to use it for. You may have money but if you spent it in a very haphazard manner, we are not helping anybody," he said.
The Senate should ask executive agencies first "what is their plan?" he said.
"We should give it to thoswe who really need it and deserve it."