Congress wants to extend validity of 2013 calamity fund

Rappler.com
Drilon says there is an estimated P20.8 billion worth of combined appropriations from the calamity fund and other disaster and relief related programs in the budgets of selected line agencies

AFTERMATH. The government has started mapping rehabilitation plans for areas devastated by Haiyan. Photo by Rappler/Vincent Go

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate and the House of Representatives are set to file a joint resolution seeking to extend the validity of calamity-related funds in the 2013 national budget as the country recovers from the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). 

Since the law states that unused funds should automatically be returned to the Treasury by the end of the year, the resolution wants to allow line agencies to use unobligated funds even after 2013. 

Unobligated allotments are funds that have been appropriated or released but have not yet been awarded to suppliers. 

Senate President Franklin Drilon said there is about P20.8 billion worth of funds from the combined appropriations under Malacañang’s calamity fund and other disaster relief-related programs in the budgets of line agencies.

Under the 2013 budget, Malacañang has a lump sum calamity fund worth P7.5 billion. But President Benigno Aquino III earlier admitted this fund was running dry after a series of calamities struck the country – from the the 7.2-magnitude Bohol earthquake, typhoons Santi and Labuyo, and the Zamboanga City siege. 

“Speaker Sonny Belmonte and I have agreed to file a joint resolution to extend until December 31 of next year the authority to spend the funds intended for calamity response before the current General Appropriations Act expires on December 31, 2013, so that the funds can be used by agencies dealing with disaster relief and rebuilding activities,” Drilon said. 

“Otherwise, if they remain unobligated by the end of the year, the funds will go back to the National Treasury and could not be used anymore by the start of the next fiscal year,” he added.

To fund initial relief efforts for Yolanda, Aquino said the government was tapping into P1 billion worth of savings from the calamity fund and the contingency fund

Aid from international and local donors have since poured in. As of November 20, the government’s Foreign Aid Transparency Hub has posted a total of P12.9 billion worth of cash and non-cash donations. 

On Sunday, November 24, the total cost of damage from Yolanda rose to P22.7 billion.

Earlier, the House and the Senate also agreed to submit a P14.6-billion supplemental budget for rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of Yolanda, which Aquino vowed to certify as urgent. – Angela Casauay/Rappler.com

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