Solon wants calamity fund

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

REP. Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu Province, fourth district) yesterday proposed that Congress allot P10 billion in its 2014 budget for calamities.

He said this would allow congressmen to be involved in relief and rehabilitation of affected communities.

He said that while he welcomes the appointment of former senator Panfilo Lacson as head of post-Yolanda rehabilitation efforts, congressmen should be involved in rebuilding because they know better the needs of their constituents.

“Congress must be sensitive to this responsibility,” Salimbangon said during his privilege speech yesterday.

Meanwhile, members of the Australian and Italian Air Forces will be leaving the country this week having completed their humanitarian mission in areas ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda.


Super typhoon Yolanda devastated several areas in northern Cebu, Samar, Leyte, Aklan and other parts of Panay Island.

Salimbangon said that setting aside a calamity fund is important as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) has been abolished.

“This calamity fund should be under the control of the Speaker, subject to all government regulations,” he said.

He noted that while local government units have calamity funds, people still go to their congressional representatives for help.

“(Without PDAF) we have to dig from our own pocket or beg our families and friends for donations every time there is calamity,” he said.

In his speech, he urged officials to set aside politics and work together in helping survivors of calamities.

He noted that a day after Yolanda made landfall in northern Cebu, he asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to set aside food packs for fourth district residents. But he was told that the DSWD can only spare 131 sacks of relief goods to about half a million residents in affected areas in northern Cebu because the bulk of the relief goods had to go to Tacloban City in Leyte.


Salimbangon said he hopes that the rehabilitation funds of the National Government will be shared equitably among affected areas.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, on the other hand, held a send-off ceremony yesterday for members of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAF) and the Italian Air Force, who helped bring relief supplies to the typhoon survivors, build tent hospitals, and clean up schools, among others.

“It'a been a very amazing experience. We hope that what we've done have made a difference,” RAF Wing Commander Jarrod Pendlebury said in a press conference organized by the Philippine Information Agency yesterday.

The recovery mission of the Australian Defense Force (ADF) in areas severely affected by super typhoon Yolanda officially ended last Monday.

ADF's relief and recovery efforts started on Nov. 13, five days after the typhoon struck. Their efforts included air, sea and land operations in Tacloban, Ormoc, Guiuan, Roxas, Cebu and Bantayan Island.

“I am pleased to say that the Philippine Government has the situation here under control and no longer needs our help,” said Lieutenant Colonel Rod Lang, commander of the ADF Joint Task Force, in a press release issued by the Australian Embassy.


According to the Australian Embassy, RAF deployed medical assistance teams to Tacloban, carried more than 1,360 tons of cargo and about 5,500 passengers, including about 3,500 internally displaced persons.

An Australian Navy ship also brought Army engineers and equipment for the cleanup of schools and delivered 110 tons of relief supplies to isolated areas affected by the typhoon.

From Nov. 28 to Dec. 14, Australian Army engineers cleaned up schools and repaired classrooms in coordination with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Philippine Department of Education. The effort allowed an estimated 15,500 students to return to their schools.

Maj. Macri Carmelo, commander of the Italian Air Force's Operation Yolanda, said they have established tent hospitals in Tacloban and other areas severely affected by the typhoon.

He said 47 members of the air force were deployed for their relief and recovery operations, which started on Nov. 21.


They are scheduled to leave for Italy today.

Carmelo and Pendlebury said they were grateful for the hospitality showed by people in the affected areas.

“The cooperation among the different countries to help Filipino people was a nice thing for people to see abroad,” said Carmelo.

Second Air Division Commander Gen. Romeo Poquiz thanked the members of the RAF and Italian Air Force for helping the typhoon victims.

“We saw their passion to help. We saw them work under the rain and the sun,” he said.

Pendlebury said he was amazed by the resilience showed by the typhoon victims.

“The strength and resilience of the people affected by the typhoon speaks volumes about your country,” he said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 19, 2013.

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