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Senators support supplemental budget for Taal victims but say more should be done

Senators expressed support Tuesday to the call of President Rodrigo Duterte to pass a supplemental budget bill to augment funds needed to aid areas affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, who hails from Batangas, said they thank the President for allotting P30 billion for the province.

“My proposal to create a Taal commission is complimentary. It will serve as the institution in charge of rehabilitation effort,” he said in a text message.

He earlier said the proposed Taal commission will be like the Pinatubo commission

Senator Panfilo Lacson said he also supports the expeditious passage of the budget measure but he first wanted to find out if the amount mentioned by the President was enough or too much.

“We will have to find out how much is readily available in calamity funds of the national government (NDRRMF or National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund) and the LGUs affected (LDRRMF or Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund),” he said in a press statement.

He said as per the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 or Republic Act No. 10121, local government units are mandated to allocate at least 5% of their regular sources of income, including their Internal Revenue Allotment, for their LDRRMF.

“If unexpended, since there are no calamities, the cumulative LDRRMF are kept in a special fund to be used in situations like the Taal eruption. Batangas province in this instant case had allocated P183 million in their 2019 annual budget alone for their PDRRMF although it appears 70% has been allocated for overhead expenses like MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses), and only P55 million was for calamity. The same is true for the different municipalities and barangays within the province,” he said.

“Counting five years backwards from January 2020 when Taal erupted, as RA 10121 mandates that unexpended LDRRMF shall accrue to a special trust fund solely for the purpose of supporting disaster risk reduction and management activities of the LDRRMCs within the next five years, I can imagine they may still have sufficient funds,” he added.

Lacson said that amount, and to be augmented by the national government, should all be taken into account when they deliberate on the P30-billion supplemental budget being pushed by the President.

“There is no saying that I am not supporting the expeditious passage of the budget measure. I'm only saying we have to find out if P30 billion is a bit more or even not sufficient to help the LGUs affected by the Taal Volcano eruption,” he said.

Senator Joel Villanueva said he also supports the supplemental budget but more needs to be done.

“I will support any move in Congress to approve a supplemental budget for our kababayans in Cavite, Batangas, and other areas affected by the Taal Volcano eruption, but I think it's important to have a disaster czar with what's going on,” he said in an ANC interview.

He said the disaster czar would be the one on top of things and would, for example, manage the distribution of relief goods.

“Right now kasi when we talk about relief goods, there are some areas na marami nang relief goods, bumabaha na ng relief goods. May iba naman na kakaunti. Some are saying masyadong madami pero ang kulang ay drinking water, portalets. So kung may nagma-manage diyan, for example, 'yung bagsakan ng relief goods systematic, we already know kung saan 'yung nangangailangan,” he said.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, for her part, said families affected by the Taal eruption should receive P30,000 as cash assistance.

“Pantawid-upa at pantawid-sahod — ito ang tulong ng cash aid sa mga nawalan ng tirahan at hanapbuhay dahil sa pagsabog ng bulkang Taal,” she said, urging the Department of Social Welfare and Development [DSWD] to mobilize funds for the Emergency Cash Transfer and Emergency Shelter Assistance. 

“Hindi pautang kundi tulong mismo,” she added.

She said the cash aid can be spent on daily subsistence of families inside and outside of evacuation centers.

“May mga nasa evacuation centers na gustong sumilong sa mga kamag-anak nila na malapit. Puwede silang matulungan sa pamamagitan ng cash assistance na ito. May mga pamilya namang nasa labas ng evacuation centers pero nawalan ng income. Malaking tulong din sa kanila ito,” said Hontiveros.

“Mahalagang i-earmark na sa supplemental budget ang direct cash assistance na puwedeng ipamigay sa mga pamilyang apektado. Hindi ito sapat, pero paunang tulong habang hinihintay natin ang post-disaster assessment, planning at budgeting ng gobyerno," she added. —KG, GMA News