House to seek P5-B increase in 2021 calamity fund

THE House of Representatives will seek an increase of at least P5 billion in the 2021 calamity fund for the reconstruction of areas devastated by recent strong typhoons.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the House will propose the increase during the bicameral conference on the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021.

The two chambers of Congress will convene the conference after the Senate approves its own version of the budget.

Velasco noted that the House passed the 2021 spending bill before typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses wreaked havoc in many parts of the country.

“Given the tremendous damage caused by these successive strong typhoons, it is imperative that we augment the calamity fund in next year’s spending plan. We have to help our people rebuild their lives and their communities,” he said.

He noted that based on the reports of the concerned agencies, the total damage caused by Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses to infrastructure and agriculture is now at P35 billion.

Under the budget submitted by President Rodrigo Duterte to Congress in August, the calamity fund amounts to P20 billion, up by P4 billion from this year’s P16 billion.

However, of the P20 billion, P5 billion will go to Marawi reconstruction while P6.25 billion would augment the quick response funds of six agencies.

Of the P6.25 billion, P2 billion will go to the Department of Education, P1.25 billion to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, P1 billion to the Department of Agriculture, P1 billion to the Department of Public Works and Highways, P500 million to the Department of Health, and P500 million to the Department of National Defense-Office of Civil Defense.

“That’s a total of P11.25 billion that is specifically appropriated, leaving a balance of P8.75 billion President Duterte could use to help victims of calamities and other disasters. That balance is not even enough to rebuild Bicol, which was hardly hit by Typhoon Rolly,” Velasco said.

Clearly, he said next year’s calamity fund has to be increased to provide additional funds for the reconstruction of typhoon-damaged communities.

“Alternatively, we can allocate the additional money in the budgets of the agencies involved in reconstruction and helping typhoon victims,” Velasco said.

He added that there are enough appropriations in the proposed budget from which the needed funds could be taken. (PR)


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