MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, January 20, urged Congress to ensure funds for a "supplemental budget" to provide aid for those affected by the ongoing Taal Volcano eruption.
During a speech before affected residents in Sto Tomas City, Batangas, Duterte gave assurances that the government has enough money to respond to the needs of displaced residents as well as prepare for a hazardous eruption, which state volcanologists warned may still take place "within hours to days."
"I will ask Congress to expedite that will cover all you [need] – P30 billion would cover everything. Iyong tulong sa livestock, pati mga bahay. 'Yun man sigurong nakikita ko (That would include aid for livestock, housing. That's what I estimate)," the President said.
Duterte also said there is a need to build evacuation centers in disaster-prone areas.
Missed priorities? Duterte's call for a "supplemental budget" comes as the government's calamity fund was slashed for the third year in 2020.
From P38.9 billion in 2016, the fund was reduced to P20 billion in 2019. Then in 2020, it was further lowered to P16 billion. (READ: Taal fiasco: Walang plano, kapos sa pondo)
Despite this, Duterte denied government response is lacking.
"There is money and we will just have to ask the National Treasury kung magkulang.... Itong pangyayari na ito, hindi naman kasali kasi sa budget. Hindi naman inakalain na puputok so baka magkaroon tayo ng supplemental budget sa Congress, but anyway, everybody is eager to help," he said.
(There is money and we will just have to ask the National Treasury if it's insufficient.... This incident was not accounted for in the budget. We did not know Taal was going to erupt, so we might have to pass a supplemental budget in Congress, but anyway, everybody is eager to help.)
A restive volcano: The ongoing Taal eruption started on Sunday, January 12. It remains on Alert Level 4, which indicates that a big explosion is imminent.
So far, the cost of agricultural damage in the region of Calabarzon is pegged at P3.06 billion after heavy ashfall blanketed various crops. (READ: How to stay safe during volcanic ashfall)