Budget reallocated; P26.84B available for Yolanda relief

MANILA, Philippines – The national government can put together up to P26.84 billion to help assist victims and rehabilitate affected areas in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan).

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said in a statement released on Tuesday, November 12, that the amount will be sourced through the following:

The statement comes a day after President Benigno Aquino III delivered a national address, declaring a state of national calamity. In that speech, he mentioned tapping into the P18.7-billion still remaining in the savings and the calamity and contingency funds.

The DBM said the P1.74 billion from the QRF is divided as follows, as listed per department's balance:

The money is in addition to massive foreign aid that has poured into the country in the wake of the super typhoon, with at least 28 other nations having pledged or given assistance to the Philippines in form of cash and resources.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad gave assurances the government is "already moving funds to address the urgent need for disaster relief in all typhoon-stricken areas," and "will work in the quickest way possible to ensure that public funds meet the needs those who survived Yolanda, who are now confronted with the wrenching and difficult task of rebuilding their lives and their communities."

He said more funds would be sourced from the 2014 budget.

"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," Abad said.

The currently available funds he said, will be used for urgent requirements, "such as the restoration of power, water, and other utilities in all affected communities, as well as the immediate provision of shelter, food, medical, and rescue activities, and clearing operations."

Earlier, Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras said he had crunched numbers with Abad and said the government has sufficient funds to meet the needs of victims, at least for the next few months.

"For this immediate relief operation, for this immediate rescue, search and reaching Filipinos and trying to attend to their immediate needs, as in the next few days and maybe even up to the next month, definitely we have [enough]," Almendras said.

But Almendras said the government would have to use up "the remaining balance of the resources for the year." He too admitted the coming year's budget would be crucial in rebuilding.

"We're glad there's a new budget here coming in January, and so there’s gonna be new funds that can be used for that," he said.

Reallocation

Abad explained to Rappler the government had to reallocate funds from other previously approved projects that are not as urgent, in order to replenish the calamity fund.

In October, after a devastating 7.2-magnitude earthquake rocked the province of Bohol and was felt across Visayas and Mindanao, the President said the calamity fund and the contingency fund were running dry. At that time, Aquino said the government would use savings to close the gap.

Back then, he said the calamity fund had a remaining balance of P176 million, while the contingency fund had P824 million but that the government would "source from the savings to augment both line items, which is the contingency and the calamity" to meet the P7 billion request to restore structures damaged by the earthquake.

Various incidents in the past months – including the conflict between government troops and Muslim rebels in Zamboanga City, as well as natural disasters such as typhoons and a staggering earthquake – have drained government funds.

Abad said the government "had to re-prioritize and re-program [funds] to urgent relief efforts" after Yolanda.

"Calamity and contingency funds originally allocated to others but which will not be used immediately have been reallocated for urgent relief efforts. The reallocated funds were supposed to fund infra and other projects which will not be completed by the year end. The 2014 GAA (General Appropriations Act) Calamity Funds can fund [those] projects. That's how additional funds were provided for," he explained.

He said the administration was also able to get money from savings of other government departments.

"We have money now for urgent relief efforts. Since [other projects] are not going to use their money
we then consolidate them for relief, water, clearing operations," he said.

Abad also said he doesn't anticipate having to use all of it, but said it is "good to have as much money," which could also be later used for rehabilitaition like housing -- which he said would be the most costly.

He also gave assurances the reprogramming of funds is legal and under the constitutional power of the President.

Almendras also expressed confidence the funds would be sourced legally, following past controversies over government spending and allocation of savings. 

"We are very open to be audited by [anyone]. And if there is anyone else who wants to make sure that we are spending this money properly, I assure you we have been very deliberate and disciplined as required by the President."

On Friday, November 8, one of the strongest typhoons ever-recorded in the world made landfall in the Philippines. Packing maximum sustained winds of 315 km (195 miles) an hour, it broke down houses and took thousands of lives

Dead bodies lined the streets made impassable by fallen trees and rubble, as the national government scrambled to provide aid to desperate survivors and local governments rendered helpless by the massive damage brought by the storm.

Officials continue to count the number of deaths, but the lack of communications and blocked roads have made the surveying difficult. – Rappler.com


Get the latest info on the status of areas (http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/issues/disasters/typhoon-yolanda/43350-aftermath-yolanda-what-we-know) affected by typhoon Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan).

Help the victims of Yolanda. Visit Rappler's list of ongoing relief operations (http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/issues/disasters/43300-reliefph-victims-typhoon-yolanda-help) in your area. Tell us about your relief and recovery initiatives, email move.ph@rappler.com or tweet us @moveph.