MANILA, Philippines – With the extent of the damage from Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) slowly being known, the Senate increased the proposed rehabilitation budget for a region that suffered one calamity after another.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said P15 billion will be set aside in the 2014 budget solely for rehabilitation, repair and construction work in areas devastated by Yolanda and the 7.2 magnitude quake in the Visayas. The amount was higher than the P10 billion Drilon announced earlier this week.
The funds are also intended for victims of typhoon Santi (Nari) that hit Central Luzon, typhoon (Utor) in Northern Luzon and the siege in Zamboanga City.
The rehabilitation fund will be an item in the budget, separate from the calamity fund.
Drilon recommended that the Calamity Assistance and Rehabilitation Effort or “CARE” Fund be distributed to the following:
- Department of Public Works and Highways – P6 billion for the repair and rehabilitation of roads, bridges, government buildings and restoration of declared historical sites and structures
- Department of Education – P2.75 billion for the repair of school buildings
- State colleges and universities – P1.25 billion for the repair of school buildings
- National Housing Authority – P1.5 billion for the establishment of relocation sites and construction of housing units.
- Department of Health – P1 billion for the repair of hospitals
- Department of Energy – P750 million for the restoration of power utilities
- National Irrigation Administration – P750 million for the repair of irrigation systems
- Local government units – P1 billion for the repair of health units and hospitals and for other rehabilitation programs
“The magnitude of the damage caused by the recent calamities most specifically super typhoon Yolanda is extensive. The rehabilitation aspect would require much more funds,” Drilon said in a statement on Thursday, November 14.
Lawmakers are proposing the rehabilitation fund as part of a long-term response to the devastation from Yolanda, the world’s strongest typhoon that battered Eastern Visayas on November 8, leaving over 2,000 people dead and flattening entire cities and towns.
For immediate relief efforts, the Department of Budget and Management said the government has enough money left from savings, the President’s Social Fund, calamity fund and contingency fund. The executive branch allocated P26.84 billion to help victims of Haiyan.
Money released directly to LGUs, agencies
Drilon proposed that the rehabilitation fund be released directly to the implementing agencies and local government units upon the recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the approval of the President.
Senators said the fund is needed because the 2013 budget “did not take into account the need for massive and immediate rehabilitation of infrastructure … because no one could have predicted the severe damage cause by the calamities that struck the country in the last quarter of 2013.”
Drilon said the rehabilitation fund will be sourced from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund, which had an allocation of P81.06 billion for 2014. He said the fund will come from the allotment for unfilled positions and the creation of new positions.
This will be introduced as an amendment to the budget bill already passed by the House of Representatives. Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr earlier supported the creation of a P10 billion rehabilitation fund.
Drilon said the same provision was applied in the 2007 budget in the aftermath of typhoons Milenyo, Paeng, Reming and Seniang.
Only a handful of senators have decided to realign their Priority Development Assistance Fund to augment the calamity fund. Most senators want the P200 million allocation for each of them to be totally deleted from the budget after a scam showed that lawmakers siphoned off the fund to bogus non-governmental organizations in exchange for kickbacks.
Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras have said that the 2014 budget will be crucial to government’s rehabilitation efforts.
Almendras said the government will have to use “the remaining balance of the resources for the year. We’re glad there’s a new budget here coming in January so there’s gonna be new funds that can be used for that.”
Abad said, “Because we only have two more months before the year concludes, however, the more costly rehabilitation requirements will be largely addressed through the 2014 budget. By then, fresh budgetary support will be available to aid all efforts at repairing the damage wrought by Yolanda to the Visayas region.”
The series of disasters in the past months – Haiyan, the earthquake, the Zamboanga crisis, and the other typhoons – drained government funds.
Abad said the government will reallocate funds to meet the needs after Haiyan.
The international community has also given and promised massive aid to the Philippines.
Malacañang has promised transparency in the accounting of international aid after the exposure of a scam where funds meant for victims of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009 allegedly went to ghost projects in exchange for kickbacks of agrarian reform officials.
The Senate also promised to put safeguards to ensure the rehabilitation fund is not lost to corruption. – Rappler.com