Senate passes supplemental budget for rehab efforts

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

THE Senate on Wednesday approved the P14.6-billion supplemental budget as additional fund for the rehabilitation efforts in calamity-hit areas, particularly those ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

House Bill 3423 easily clinched the nod of 15 senators as the budget will be sourced from the unspent Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which was declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

"Given the magnitude of the damage caused by the past disasters, it is our obligation as your legislators to ensure that the government will have adequate funds to perk up its capacity to respond sufficiently to the immediate needs of the victims of recent disastrous events," said Senate President Franklin Drilon.

Drilon said the additional budget will form part of the P143-billion government fund for post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction.

"With such a significant amount of funding to be handed to its disposal, the government will be fully equipped to rebuild the provinces ravaged by the calamities especially in building the needed classrooms, power utilities and housing units," he added.

The budget will be given to government agencies responsible for the review, repair and reconstruction of public infrastructures heavily damaged by recent calamities.

Senate finance committee head Francis Escudero said P11.2 billion will be used as calamity rehabilitation fund while P3.4 billion will be used as the quick response fund by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The Department of Education (DepEd) and state universities and colleges will receive P2.75 billion and P1.25 billion, respectively, for the repair and rehabilitation of school and academic buildings, while the Department of Public Works and Highways will be given P3 billion to repair roads, bridges and other government infrastructure.

A total of P1.5 billion will also be allotted for the restoration of declared historical sites, which were damaged specifically by the magnitude 7.2 earthquake in the Visayas.

Meanwhile, expenses for the repair of hospitals amounting to P1 billion and purchase of hospital equipment amounting to P500 million will also be allotted through the Department of Health.

Finally, P1 billion will be allotted for the Department of Transportation and Communications to repair airports and ports and P1 billion to the local government units to repair rural health centers and fund other rehabilitation programs.

The National Housing Authority, which was earlier proposed to be stripped of shelter funds will be given P1.5 billion for its purchase of relocation sites and construction of housing units.

Escudero added his committee, the House committee on appropriations and the Commission on Audit will strictly require accountability of the expenditures through quarterly reports which will be reviewed by the Department of Budget and Management, before being posted on their website.

The House of Representatives approved the same measure, which was certified as urgent by President Benigno Aquino III, on Tuesday. (Virgil Lopez/Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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