Some senators OK with House's proposed P5-B hike for 2021 calamity fund

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 23 2020 02:28 PM

Residents of Barangay Banaba in San Mateo, Rizal return to their homes to clear mud and debris after massive floods brought by Typhoon Ulysses inundated several parts of Metro Manila and nearby areas. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Several senators on Monday said there "shouldn't be a problem" in accommodating the House of Representatives' proposal to increase the 2021 calamity fund by P5 billion "given recent events."

Before House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco pushed to increase the P20-billion 2021 calamity fund by P5 billion, the Senate has hiked the sum to P26 billion, Senate Committee on Finance chair Sonny Angara said.

"Shouldn’t be a problem to agree on that or maybe even higher given recent events," he told ABS-CBN News in a text message.

Of the initial P20-billion calamity fund for 2021, P5 billion is allocated for Marawi's reconstruction, while P6.25 billion is earmarked for the quick response funds of 6 key agencies.

According to Velasco these 6 agencies are as follows:
- Department of Education (P2 billion)
- Department of Social Welfare and Development (P1.25 billion)
- Department of Agriculture (P1 billion)
- Department of Public Works and Highways (P1 billion)
- Department of Health (P500 million)
- Department of National Defense-Office of Civil Defense (P500 million)

"That’s a total of P11.25 billion that is specifically appropriated, leaving a balance of P8.75 billion President Duterte could use to help victims of calamities and other disasters," Velasco said in a statement over the weekend.

Aside from the House's proposed P5-billion increase for the calamity fund, local government units (LGU) in areas hit by strong typhoons in the last quarter of 2020 "must directly be given additional budget," Sen. Panfilo Lacson said.

The Cagayan and Bicol regions, as well as several cities and municipalities in Southern Luzon and Metro Manila incurred billions-worth of damage after a series of typhoons - including 2020's strongest typhoon, Rolly - plowed across Luzon.

"The LGU’s hardest hit by typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses must directly be given additional budget to allow them to get back on their feet the soonest possible time," he said in a separate text message.

Lacson said he has urged the Senate Committee on Finance to allocate a separate P20 billion "for post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts" in areas most devastated by recent calamities.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILF) "has been required to provide" a list of local governments that would be entitled to take portions of the P20 billion fund, he said.

Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Luzon - the Philippines' most populous island - under a state of calamity to allow local officials to tap calamity funds and impose a price freeze on basic goods as numerous provinces continue to reel from the aftermath of the typhoons.

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