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Agenda for Abad, Drilon, Belmonte: Disaster aid

Senate President Franklin Drilon says if the 3 agree, the supplemental budget can be passed by the first week of December

BY DECEMBER. Senate President Franklin Drilon if he, Speaker Belmonte and Budget Secretary Abad agree, the supplemental budget for rehabilitation of disaster-hit areas can be passed by the first week of December. File photo by Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines – The leaders of Congress will meet with Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to discuss the additional budget for rehabilitation of typhoon-stricken areas.

Senate President Franklin Drilon told reporters on Thursday, November 21, that he is set to meet with Abad and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr on Friday, November 22, to discuss his proposed P14.5 billion supplemental 2013 budget for victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the world’s most powerful typhoon. 

“By tomorrow, I will know the direction of the supplemental budget. If the 3 of us can agree, I am confident that by the first week of December, we should have a supplemental budget,” Drilon said.

Drilon filed a bill on Wednesday, November 20, proposing a supplemental budget for 2013 for the rehabilitation, repair and construction in areas ravaged by Yolanda, and typhoons Santi (Nari) and Labuyo (Utor), the magnitude 7.2 earthquake in the Visayas, and the Zamboanga siege.

The Senate President said the money will come from the unspent Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations for 2013. In a landmark ruling on Tuesday, November 19, the Supreme Court struck down the PDAF as unconstitutional.

Drilon urged President Benigno Aquino III to certify the supplemental budget bill as urgent.

He said in the explanatory note, “Considering that such savings can no longer be used upon the lapse of the General Appropriations Act of 2013 by 31 December 2013 and that our people urgently need the augmented support of the government for rehabilitation, the immediate passage of this bill is earnestly sought.”

Drilon is meeting with Belmonte because the House of Representatives will first have to pass the supplemental budget before the Senate can tackle it. To fast-track the bill, Drilon said the Senate should suspend deliberations of the 2014 national budget and first take up the supplemental budget.

Belmonte has said that the House will act promptly to approve Malacañang’s request for an additional budget.

Lawmakers initially eyed realigning the unspent PDAF to the calamity fund under the Office of the President. Yet the High Court ruled that the money must be returned to the national treasury.

Palace also eyes supplemental budget 

Abad has said that the administration will ask for the supplemental budget because the government needs to “adjust and make room for appropriations” following the massive devastation from Yolanda.

In a press briefing on Monday, Abad said he was still uncertain how much the supplemental budget and total cost of recovery and rehabilitation will be.

“It’s really hard to come out with a figure yet because that is not presently the preoccupation of government. We are getting into that but .… you know just the requirement of building houses, restoring livelihood, rebuilding infrastructure, will be huge, but as to an absolute number right now, there is no way for me to provide you that because it will just be, at best, a guess, but we don’t have the figures yet,” Abad said.

In his bill, Drilon gave the following breakdown of the P14.5 billion supplemental budget:

  • Department of Agriculture – P500 million for the repair and rehabilitation of irrigation systems
  • Department of Education – P2.75 billion for the repair and rehabilitation of school buildings
  • Department of Energy – P500 million for the rehabilitation of electrification infrastructure
  • State Universities and Colleges – P1.25 billion for the repair and rehabilitation of school buildings
  • Department of Health – P1.5 billion for the repair of hospitals and purchase of health equipment
  • Department of Public Works and Highways – P4.5 billion for the repair and rehabilitation of roads, bridges, government buildings and declared historical sites
  • National Housing Authority – P1.5 billion for the purchase of relocation sites and construction of housing units
  • Department of Transportation and Communications – P1 billion for the repair of airports and ports
  • Local government units – P1 billion for the repair health centers and fund other rehabilitation programs

In its November 21 report, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said that the total cost of damages from Yolanda was P12 billion pesos with P2 billion for infrastructure and P10 billion for agriculture.

Yolanda is the worst disaster to hit the Philippines, with the NDRRMC reporting 4,011 dead as of Thursday. 

Albay Governor Joey Salceda, who is credited for his disaster risk reduction efforts in his province, said the total cost of Yolanda could reach P604 billion or $12 billion. – Rappler.com

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