Senate passes own version of 2014 national budget worth P2.26 T

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INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–The Senate on Tuesday passed on second and third reading its version of the 2014 national budget worth P2.26 trillion that includes a P100-billion fund for the reconstruction of areas recently hit by calamities particularly super typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ and the central Visayas earthquake.

Sen. Francis Escudero, chair of the Senate committee on finance, said P20 billion was carved out of the miscellaneous personnel benefits fund in the programmed funds while P80 billion came from the items on infrastructure, debt management and risk management in the un-programmed funds.

The Senate version is also P3.2-billion less than that transmitted by the House of Representatives as it deleted the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations of Vice President Jejomar Binay and 15 senators.

The pork barrel funds of the other senators were realigned to programs of their choice but they will no longer have any control over how they will be disbursed in accordance with the Supreme Court decision finding the PDAF unconstitutional.

The budget was passed quickly after the senators voted to just submit to the Senate committee on finance their respective individual amendments to the proposed general appropriations act instead of making their proposals on the floor.

The 2014 budget also increased the P7.5-billion calamity fund proposed by the executive branch to P13 billion, or an increase of P5.5 billion.

In a statement, Escudero said “there is no telling yet of the amount needed to rehabilitate and reconstruct the areas wiped out not only by typhoon Yolanda but other past disasters as well but initial cost estimates are already staggering.”

Escudero said the latest estimates from the National Disaster Risk Management Council pegs  Yolanda’s damage alone at P22.6 billion, with infrastructure’s damage at P11.9 billion and agriculture’s at P10.7 billion, respectively.

“The cataclysmic force that hit our country requires serious response to influence significant rehabilitation and reconstruction of the communities barrelled by catastrophes. We need to infuse major financial foundation to recoup and retain the physical, economic and social viability of these communities,” Escudero said.

Escudero said the finance committee will begin hearing on Thursday proposed measures on the proposed P14.6-billion supplemental budget to augment the 2013 disaster relief fund.

The supplemental budget will be funded by the unused PDAF of lawmakers for 2013.

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