Zarate says calamity fund in 2020 budget should have not been slashed
MANILA, Philippines – The request for additional funds to aid victims of the Taal Volcano eruption should be a hard lesson in the way the government handles the annual national budget, a Makabayan bloc solon in the House of Representatives said Tuesday.
According to Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, the request of President Rodrigo Duterte for an additional P30 billion fund is proof that slashing the calamity fund in the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) was a mistake.
“As of now may pinalulutang na hihingi ng P30 billion supplemental budget dahil hindi naman daw na-anticipate na sasabog ang Bulkang Taal,” Zarate said in a press briefing at the House complex.
“Totoo ‘yan, habang pinagdedebatehan ang budget for 2020 hindi naman talaga ito na-anticipate.”
(They are floating the idea of asking for a P30 billion supplemental budget because the eruption of the Taal Volcano was not anticipated. That is true, it was never anticipated when we were debating on the 2020 budget.)
“But ang sinasabi namin, this will be a lesson now doon sa prioritization ng ating budget, tinapyasan natin ang calamity fund sa 2020, at binigyan ng malaking pondo ‘yong pondo para sa giyera, ngayon naghahanap tayo ng supplemental budget,” he added.
(But what we are saying is that this will be a lesson on the prioritization of our budget. They slashed the calamity fund in 2020 and allocated a bigger fund for war. Now we are trying to find sources for the supplemental budget.)
Zarate was referring to the government’s campaign to end the local insurgency. According to Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, P36 billion of the P4.1 trillion 2020 GAA was allocated to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
President Duterte on Monday asked Congress to expedite the passage of a P30 billion supplemental budget — despite the Department of Budget and Management saying that there were enough calamity funds to cover expenses caused by the Taal Volcano eruption.
On social media, people have criticized the Duterte administration for providing Taal Volcano eruption victims with a small amount of financial assistance — which most have attributed to slashed calamity funds.
In the 2020 GAA, the budget for calamity response was slashed to just P16 billion — or P4 billion short of the original proposal. Senator Panfilo Lacson, vice-chair of the Senate finance committee, questioned where the funds went, as it was slashed during discussions between the finance chairpersons.
Taal Volcano erupted on January 12, sending heavy ashfall to nearby towns, forcing hundreds of thousands in nearby cities to evacuate. More than a week after the eruption displaced residents found themselves in evacuation centers as the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology hoisted Alert Level 4 in the affected areas.
Brosas meanwhile urged the administration to instead source the additional funds from the NTF-ELCAC’s budget.
“Kaya sinasabi po namin na kung itong budget na ito inilagay para sa mga operations at comprehensive response plan mas makakabuti po ito para sa eating mga kababayan,” Brosas said.
(That’s why we are saying that if this budget was placed in relief operations and comprehensive response plans, it would be better for our countrymen.)
“Dapat po sana ‘yong prayoridad ng gobyerno, ayusin niya. ‘Yong budget na ito na sinasabi ng National Security Adviser, Germogenes Esperon, maigi po at mas makakatulong pa kung ilalagay na lang natin sa relief operations,” she added.
(Government should address the prioritization of the budget. The budget that was being mentioned by the National Security Adviser, Germogenes Esperon would have been better off allocated to relief operations.)
Edited by MUF
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