Lacson: What happened to unspent local disaster funds?
MANILA, Philippines — What happened to the unspent local disaster funds?
Senator Panfilo Lacson posed this question Wednesday during a Senate hearing on the proposed creation of a separate department to oversee disaster resilience and management.
The senator was asking about the unspent disaster funds, which were allocated to provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays for the local government units’ local disaster risk reduction and management fund (LDRRMF) or provincial disaster risk reduction and management fund (PDRRMF).
“Ano nangyari dun sa pondo?” Lacson, who led the hearing as chair of the Senate national defense committee, asked.
Before this, he explained that under Republic Act No. 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, LGUs are mandated to allocate at least 5 percent of their regular sources of income, including their internal revenue allotment (IRA), for their LDRRMF or PDRRMF.
He noted that IRA allotments to LGUs amounted to around P575 billion in 2019.
Breaking down the figure, Lacson said P132 billion were given to 82 provinces; P132 billion to 145 cities; P195 billion to 1,478 municipalities; and P115 billion were distributed to barangays.
“Kunin niyo yung five percent ng P575 billion, that’s a cool P28.7 billion or P29 billion distributed among all LGUs in different amounts, kasi ang IRA naman hindi pare-pareho e,” he said.
“But hindi naman taun-taon tinatamaan tayo ng calamities, ang tanong, papano ginagastos,” he added.
Citing R.A. 10121. he noted that unused local disaster funds will “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.”
But for funds not spent after 5 years, the law states that this should be reverted back to the general fund and may be realigned to social services.
However, Lacson noted that some LGUs would use these unspent disaster allocations to fund flood control and road projects.
“We noticed some LGUs kapag walang calamity, napupunta sa flood control, concreting ng road, wala nang kinalaman sa disaster. Of course, flood control may kinalaman pero alam naman natin pag flood control ang pinaguusapan ang hirap i-audit yan, kasi kapag bumagyo ulit, matatabunan, wala na si auditor. Hindi na malaman kung talagang nag-flood control, especially dredging,” the senator pointed out.
“That’s the reason why in the 2018 budget we decided to scrap from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) lahat ng dredging kasi sayang ang pera, pinagkakakitaan lang ito,” he added.
Lacson then took note of Batangas’ case wherein he said only P55.106 million of its P183.688 million PDRRMF would go to actual calamities while the rest went to maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay.
“Napaka raming pera ng ating calamity fund, in Batangas P183 million in 2019 alone. Pumutok yung Taal (on) January 12, 2020. E ‘di nakaipon yan dahil wala naman kayong calamity nung 2019, nung 2018. Ito po kinuha ko sa website niyo, kaya these figures are accurate,” he asked.
In response, Joselito Castro, head of the Batangas PDRRMC, said that 70 percent of the PDRRMF is devoted to the establishment of evacuation centers.
He said eight centers have been constructed while three are still undergoing construction.
The said fund, he added, is also used for the purchase of response vehicles and disaster preparedness trainings.
“Yun po ang pinaggugugulan karaniwan ng ating 70 percent then yung natititira, I just want to inform the body na ito pong 2019, meron po kaming—tama po yung firgure—P55 million,” he said, referring to the amount Lacson earlier mentioned.
He said this amount was used to address the Taal Volcano eruption.
“Meron po kami 140 million (from the) 70 percent, pina-realign na po ni Governor para i-devote po sa needs sa Taal Volcano,” he added.
Lacson further asked Castro on how the unused funds from the past three years—2016, 2017, 2018—were spent.
“Yun pong 70 percent po namin, obligado po kami, through a council (na) pa-aprubahan, yung aming projects and activities na ang paggugulin po is yung 70 percent,” Castro said, responding to the senator’s question.
“Pagkatapos po kapag susunod pong taon, yun natira, yun pong QRF (quick response fund) sa mga taon na walang tumama samin (na kalamidad), nagiging trust fund sa susunod na taon at yun po ay ipinoprograma namin for other projects for prevention mitigation and activities related to disaster risk reduction,” he added.
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