SENATOR Ralph Recto on Sunday, October 8, proposed an additional standby fund worth P15 billion for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City.
The amount will be on top of the P10-billion “Bangon Marawi Fund” that is already in the 2018 national budget proposal.
Recto said the proposed amount can be included in the Unprogrammed Appropriations portion of the P3.76-trillion spending measure.
Parking that amount in the Unprogrammed Appropriations would cancel the need for the passage of a supplemental appropriation bill in the event that the P10-billion allotment for Marawi is not enough, or has been fully spent before the end of next year, Recto said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said that “at least P50 billion” will be needed to rebuild Marawi, which Recto described “as more damaged than Mosul,” the northern city in Iraq recently liberated from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“Marawi is both a source of light and enlightenment. Thus any aid package should be viewed within that context. To a large extent, the aid we will be giving is some sort of a payback,” Recto said.
Recto said Marawi has given Mindanao “knowledge and power” worth hundreds of billions of pesos over the years.
“Let us always keep in mind that Marawi is the capital of the province where Lanao Lake is, which is the source of about 40 percent of Mindanao's power supply,” Recto said.
It is also where the main campus of the Mindanao State University is located, Recto added, which has produced thousands of graduates since its founding in 1961.
Under budget laws, Recto said, amounts authorized under Unprogrammed Appropriations can only be released when tax and non-tax revenues exceed collection goals, or if loans for a particular activity are secured.
Recto believes that these “two triggers” will be satisfied as “there is a high interest from donors of official development aid, or ODA, and our economic managers are gung-ho in meeting revenue targets.”
“Thus, in anticipation of any of these, what Congress can do is provide the spending authority in the General Appropriations Act, which the executive branch can later use,” Recto said.
He added that Unprogrammed Appropriations, which is proposed at P75.34 billion for 2018, “is a regular, important, but not so prominent feature of the budget. It is the hidden big ticket item.”
For next year, P5 billion for AFP modernization is charged to this fund, and so is P18.9 billion in “support for infrastructure and social programs.”
But the biggest item in the Unprogrammed Appropriations, Recto said, is for the so-called “risk management,” for which P30 billion is authorized to cover maturing obligations and other government commitments under various Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects.
“Kung mayroon tayong inilalaan na (If we have reserved) P30 billion for the change orders, cost overruns, contingent liabilities sa PPP, bakit hindi rin natin gawin ito para sa (why can’t we also do it for) Marawi?” Recto said.
“We can rearrange, revise the components of the unprogrammed fund to accommodate the needs of Marawi, which must be prioritized,” Recto said. (SunStar Philippines)