Senate approves extension of validity of calamity funds

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

SENATORS on Tuesday backed a joint resolution seeking to extend until December 31 of next year the validity of calamity-related funds in the 2013 national budget.

Twelve senators voted for the passage of Senate Joint Resolution 7 while Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile abstained. The House of Representatives approved a counterpart resolution on Monday night.

The measure was certified as urgent by President Benigno Aquino III.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, who authored the resolution, said the continued use of the remaining funds, estimated to be around P12 billion by the end of 2013, will sustain efforts for the rehabilitation, repair and construction of severely damaged infrastructure, buildings and facilities caused by earthquakes, storms and armed conflict.

Otherwise, the funds will return to the National Treasury and could not be used anymore by the start of 2014.

To ensure transparency, finance committee chairman Senator Francis Escudero said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) will require quarterly reports which will be reviewed before being posted on the DBM website.

"We assure that Congress will fully carry out its oversight functions over the utilization of relief and rehabilitation funds currently being raised to support the government in addressing both the immediate and long-term needs of the people and areas victimized by the past calamitous events,” said Drilon.

This initiative is on top of the P14.6-billion proposed supplemental budget, which will come from the unspent Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for 2013, which was recently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Among the calamities that ravaged the Philippines this year were typhoon Yolanda that destroyed large areas in Eastern Visayas, typhoons Santi and Labuyo that hit Luzon, the siege in Zamboanga City, and the magnitude-7.2 magnitude earthquake that jolted Bohol and Cebu.(Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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