Batangas lawmakers seek P30-B supplemental budget for Taal eruption

Mara Cepeda

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Batangas lawmakers seek P30-B supplemental budget for Taal eruption
If passed into law, the bill earmarks a supplemental budget aimed to help victims of the Taal Volcano eruption valid until December 31, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The legislators representing the 6 districts of Batangas filed a bill that would appropriate P30 billion from the National Treasury to fund relief and rehabilitation efforts in the wake of the Taal Volcano eruption.

House Bill (HB) Number 5998, filed on Wednesday, January 22, formalized President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for Congress to pass a measure allocating the supplemental funds needed to provide aid for the victims of the volcanic eruption in Batangas. 

HB 5889 was filed by the following Batangas legislators on the same day the House held its plenary session at the Batangas City Convention Center:

  • Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, 2nd District
  • Deputy Speaker Vilma Santos Recto, 6th District
  • Elenita Milagros Ermita Buhain, 1st District
  • Ma Theresa Collantes, 3rd District
  • Lianda Bolilia, 4th District
  • Mario Mariño, 5th District

The bill would appropriate P30 billion from “any available funds” in the National Treasure that have not been allocated for other line items under the P4.1-trillion budget for 2020. 

The funds would solely be dedicated to “augment aid, relief, resettlement, rehabilitation, reconstruction, and livelihood programs and projects” to be implemented by the government to help victims of the Taal Volcano eruption.  

The supplemental budget would also be valid until December 31, 2022.

House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez previously said the lower chamber was “willing” to hike to P50 billion the supplemental budget that Duterte requested.

The previous Aquino administration set aside a dedicated P26.84 billion fund to help assist victims and rehabilitate affected areas in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. 

When Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, about P31 billion in government funds had been used for rehabilitation efforts in Central Luzon.

Taal is still under Alert Level 4, which means there could be a hazardous eruption “within hours to days.” The volcano’s level of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission is lower for two days now, but state volcanologists said a longer trend or pattern must be observed first. 

Batangas, where the volcano is located, and its neighboring province Cavite are still under a state of calamity.

Thousands of residents from the two provinces remain in evacuation centers, while the cost of agricultural damage so far is at P3.06 billion. (READ: How to stay safe during volcanic ashfall)

Why hold session in Batangas?

On Wednesday, House committee on disaster management Lucy Torres Gomez defended lawmakers’ decision to hold session at the Batangas City Convention Center, which is located outside the danger zone but sits across the Batangas Sports Complex, the most crowded evacuation center for Taal evacuees.

She argued it was crucial for House members to directly dialogue with the evacuees and local officials of affected communities. 

“We are the House of the People. May our presence today, full force as you can all see, be a firm and gentle reminder that we are here for you, we emphatize for you… Ramdam namin lahat ng hirap at pangangamba [ninyo] (We feel your hardships and worries),” the Leyte 4th District congresswoman said. 

The session was ongoing as of posting time. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.