2013 disaster fund gets extra lump sum

Angela Casauay

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Congress files resolutions seeking to extend the validity of all unused allotments for 2013 and to repurpose the unused P14.6-B PDAF

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 on Monday, November 25, filed a joint resolution seeking to extend the validity of all savings and calamity-related funds under the 2013 national budget.

The resolution’s coverage is wider than what was initially announced by Senate President Franklin Drilon on Sunday covering an estimated P20.8 billion.

In an earlier press release, Drilon said he and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr had agreed to file a bill seeking to extend the validity of the calamity fund and the quick response fund of line agencies until December 31, 2014.

The version of the bill filed in both chambers of Congress on Monday includes not just calamity and quick response funds but also “all unobligated allotments covering appropriations for maintenance and other operating expense and capital outlays under the 2013 General Appropriations Act.”

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

An appropriation that remains unobligated until the end of the year will automatically be considered as savings and returned to the Treasury by the end of the year

Congress wants these funds to still be available next year for rehabilitation efforts after a series of calamities struck the country, including typhoons Odette, Pablo, Sendong, Santi, and Vinta, the Bohol earthquake, and the Zamboanga siege. 

Repurposing the PDAF

Also on Monday, lawmakers submitted the proposal for a P14.6-billion budget to supplement the executive’s disaster fund. This will come from their unused Priority Development Assistance Fund for the year, after the Supreme Court declared the pork barrel as unconstitutional.

It would not be exclusive to aid operations for Typhoon Yolanda and may also be used for rehabilitation efforts for past disasters and calamities that struck the country in the past months. 

Under the bill, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) will release funds directly to the appropriate implementing agencies, as approved by the President based on the the recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The bill does not itemize how the fund would be divided between concerned line agencies. 

Drilon filed his version of the bill in the Senate last week. 

President Benigno Aquino III earlier said he will certify the supplemental budget as urgent.

Yolanda fund

The supplemental budget, as well as the extended calamity-related funds and savings, may be used on top of the P26.84 billion in lump sum funds reallocated for relief and rehabilitation efforts after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).  

Malacañang earlier said it sourced the fund from: 

  • P16.6 billion in government savings
  • P6.4 billion from the President’s Social Fund (PSF)
  • P1.74 billion from Quick Response Fund (QRF)
     of various agencies
  • P1.28 billion from Calamity Fund
  • P824 million from Contingency Fund 

DBM earlier approved the release of P1.1 billion for the Quick Response Fund of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Public Works and Highways.  

Abad said the 2014 budget will address funding for more wide-scale rehabilitation efforts post-Yolanda as the end of 2013 draws near. 

Reso: P14.6 billion supplemental budget; Bill: Extending the validity of 2013 calamity fund, unobligated allotments

Malacañang has maintained that the President can still use his lump sum fund even after the Supreme Court junked lawmakers’ pork barrel as unconstitutional. 

“President’s Social Fund? Well, the Supreme Court has already spoken and the Supreme Court did not say anything unconstitutional about the PSF, only to strike out one of the items for which you can use the PSF, the priority infrastructure development projects. So they said that was a lump sum that was not itemized and therefore they felt that it was undue delegation of legislative power and therefore they struck it out. But they did not declare the PSF, unlike PDAF, unconstitutional. So I think that’s the answer there,” Abad said in a press conference in Malacañang on Monday. 

Malacañang would also rather not speculate on what the SC’s ruling would be on DAP, Abad added. – Rappler.com

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