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Senate finance panel mulls increasing calamity funds for 2021

The Senate committee on finance is looking into the possibility of increasing the government's calamity funds in the next fiscal year, its chairperson Sonny Angara said on Wednesday.

"We are currently studying the possibility of supplementing the calamity funds for 2021. We are looking for fund sources for realignment at the moment," Angara said in a text message to GMA News Online.

Some local government units in areas affected by Super Typhoon Rolly said they have already spent their calamity funds for COVID-19 pandemic response efforts in previous months.

The Palace said these LGUs can still tap the Quick Response Funds (QRF) of different line agencies for augmentation of resources.

“‘Yung mga lokal na pamahalaan bagamat hindi pwede na directly ma-replenish ng national government ‘yung kanilang naubos na calamity funds, pupwede silang humingi ng augmentation sa mga national agencies na meron pong quick response funds kagaya ng OCD (Office of Civil Defense), DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), DOH (Department of Health), at DA (Department of Agriculture),” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Under the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2021, P20 billion has been earmarked for the Calamity Fund to be lodged under the National Disaster and Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Aside from that, QRFs are also included in the budget proposals of various government agencies as follows:

  •     Department of Agriculture - P1 billion
  •     Department of Education - P2 billion
  •     Department of Health - P200 million
  •     Department of Public Works and Highways - P1 billion
  •     Department of Social Welfare and Development - P1.25 billion
  •     Office of Civil Defense - P500 million

The National Electrification Administration also has P200 million allocated for the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund in the NEP.

Angara has yet to confirm if the House-approved 2021 budget bill still endorsed the same amounts. The Senate is expected to take up the proposed national budget in plenary next week.

Opposition Senator Leila de Lima stressed that the calamity fund should be given prime importance than other priorities of the Duterte administration.

"Ang Calamity Fund o Disaster Response Fund, for both the national and local governments, and more so, the LGUs, ang dapat tinitiyak na malaki at sapat. Ganun din ang budget para sa DSWD at DOH. Not the President’s intelligence and confidential funds. Not the anti-insurgency fund," she said in a separate statement.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon previously said the intelligence and confidential funds in the entire national budget for 2021 amount to P9.5 billion. Another P19 billion is allocated for an anti-insurgency task force.

A  total of P3.622 billion is still available under the NDRRMC fund for relief and response operations this year, according to Malacanang.—AOL, GMA News