Bohol legislator seeks realignment of pork barrel, other funds for rehab
MANILA, Philippines—Citing the devastation of his home province, Bohol Representative Rene Relampagos has appealed for more funds for the quake-ravaged area, asking both houses of Congress to realign unused funds remaining in the 2013 budget, including their pork barrel, for the victims.
Relampagos proposed that the unused pork barrel of senators for this year, as well as other unused or available amounts in the 2013 budget, be allotted instead to help Bohol as well as other provinces ravaged by natural calamities.
The amount from the 2013 budget could serve as the initial fund for the province’s rehabilitation, he added, and implored his colleagues in Congress to pass a joint resolution to authorize the realignment of the funds this year.
“We seek a Joint Resolution from this Chamber and the Senate to allow the realignment of available or unused funds in the 2013 GAA. Further, we seek the approval of the Senate in allocating its remaining P2 billion Priority Development Assistance Fund for 2013 to Bohol and other provinces affected by natural disasters,” he said in a privilege speech late Monday afternoon.
For 2014, Relampagos said, a Bohol Rehabilitation Fund could be included in the budget to help the province’s recovery. The Senate could provide for this since it is just about to start deliberating on the 2014 proposal, he added.
He noted that government agencies had estimated that the damage to Bohol stood at P3.1 billion pesos, but this was only an initial estimate. The cost of rehabilitation, restoration, and other estimates had yet to be included in the figure.
Earlier, Buhay partylist Rep. Lito Atienza filed a resolution to authorize the President to release P1 billion to Bohol, and P500 million to Cebu, to rehabilitate damaged infrastructure in the two provinces.
Relampagos, mourning the loss of centuries-old churches in Bohol, also called for the mandatory restoration and retrofitting of all historical and cultural sites in the country.
Also much needed in the country is a strong Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, especially since an update of the geo-hazard maps needs to be done, he said. There is also a need for more modern equipment, as well as fresh guidelines and programs to highlight prevention and risk reduction, he added.
“Bohol, under the geohazard map of Phivolcs, has only one fault—the East Bohol fault. Yet the earthquake last Tuesday affected the west side of Bohol,” he said.
He noted that Phivolcs suspected the existence of the faultline several years back and had predicted it would cause devastation, but added that local government units had not been informed about this.
He also proposed that free freight services for relief goods and medical supplies be institutionalized.
Relampagos also sought a review of the guidelines on the use of calamity funds, especially when it comes to disaster preparedness.
The aftermath of the earthquake in Bohol showed that transportation and mobility could be a big problem following a major disaster, partly due to the lack of trucks and vehicles to move rescuers, relief goods, medicines and other essentials to affected areas, he said.
He said local government officials must be given a chance to improve their disaster preparedness programs through calamity funds that would allow the procurement of essential vehicles and other necessary equipment, which cannot be purchased under current guidelines.
He said the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office guidelines that ban the grant of another ambulance to local governments within five years from the last donation has to be reviewed as well.
He cited the case of Loon, whose ambulance figured in an accident. Since the vehicle was less than five years old, the PCSO declined to replace it. Because of this, no ambulance was available in the area when it was badly affected by the recent earthquake.