P19 billion in disaster funds yet to be released – DBM

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said on Tuesday, May 4, that around P19.45 billion of the P25-billion calamity fund has yet to be released, part of which would be tapped for COVID-19 efforts if needed.

In a statement, the DBM said about P3 billion has been released to agencies as of April 30, while another P2.7 billion is being processed by the department.

Of the money disbursed to agencies, P2.47 billion was released under the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) program, while the rest were for the rehabilitation of Marawi City.

Of the funds being processed, bulk or P1.79 billion will go to the Comprehensive Aid to Repair Earthquake Damage program. The recent approvals also cover P738.50 million for the Marawi rehabilitation and P249.28 million for the NDRRM program.

"The remaining P19.45-billion appropriations will be utilized based on the specific purposes and allotments which will be released by the DBM to appropriate departments and agencies upon receipt of the corresponding approvals from the OP (Office of the President)," the DBM said.

The DBM issued the statement after the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported the status of calamity fund releases, citing March 31 figures.

The budget department also said the NDRRM Fund can be used once additional funding for the COVID-19 pandemic is needed.

"The NDRRMF will be tapped whenever there are additional funding requirements to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic which may not be covered by all available funding sources," the DBM said.

The NDRRMF for 2021 amounts to a total of P25.13 billion, including continuing appropriations from 2020 worth P5.13 billion.

In a press briefing on Monday, May 3, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque noted the money will only be released in response to a particular calamity.

"Nasa Mayo pa lang po tayo, so iyong budget sa 2021, siyempre po nandiyan pa iyan dahil hindi naman dapat gastusin lahat 'no dahil baka mamaya iyong ibang aberyang mangyayari sa 2021 ay wala na po tayong pondo," Roque said.

(It's only May, so the budget for 2021, naturally it's still there because we shouldn't spend all of it, since if we do, we might no longer have funds for other disasters that could happen in 2021.)

The national government had faced backlash for the measly P1,000 aid to Greater Manila Area residents when the strictest form of coronavirus lockdown was reimposed.

Should another round of cash aid be needed for areas outside "NCR Plus," the economic team said it would look for ways to fund it.

Budget watchdog iLead earlier said the NDRRMF can be tapped for the initiative, but added that only a small sum should be used since disasters are still expected to strike.

So far, two tropical cyclones have entered the Philippines in 2021, while there have been no destructive earthquakes or volcanic eruptions this year. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.

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