Lawmaker pushes resolution realigning P12.5B in pork to Aquino’s calamity fund
MANILA, Philippines — Congress will issue a joint resolution seeking to realign the frozen P12.5 billion in pork barrel funds to augment the President’s calamity funds that have dwindled after a series of natural and man-made disasters, most recently typhoon “Yolanda,” in the last two months.
Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon was optimistic that lawmakers would approve, upon the resumption of Congress next Monday, the proposal to use the unreleased portion of this year’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for rehabilitation, reconstruction and economic recovery of affected provinces.
“Congress has a duty to provide additional funds to the President when ever there is a shortfall in funds to address crisis situations. We have this money (PDAF), which has not been used and can be realigned swiftly to address the mounting requirement of people who suffered from the typhoons in Luzon, the earthquake in Central Visayas, the rebel siege in Zamboanga City, and now the strongest typhoon,” said Biazon in a phone interview.
Biazon said that since the release of the remaining 2013 PDAF was suspended by a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court last August, “using these funds for other items such as calamity funds could be the subject of a legal challenge.” Following the public uproar over the P10 billion pork barrel scam allegedly fronted by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, Congress has been forced to stop its use of pork barrel funds pending the resolution of cases questioning the constitutionality of the PDAF in the high court.
“But we are ready to face the risk of a legal suit once the resolution becomes a law because we are doing this for a good cause. The money is there and the government needs money now. This is the best way Congress can help the people who suffered from the calamities. I don’t know if the remaining PDAF is sufficient by itself to fill up the shortfall but I believe this is substantial enough to make an impact in the post-calamity efforts,” said Biazon.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., said he would meet with party leaders on Tuesday (Nov. 12) to discuss the joint resolution on the realignment of PDAF and address their concerns this early to ensure its passage as early as next week. “Aside from the resolution, we will discuss how Congress could contribute to institutionalizing short- and long-term guidelines in preparing for disasters and ensuring quick responses. We are also looking to establish a bigger calamity fund considering the increasing frequency and damage of typhoons and other disasters faced by the country every year,” said Belmonte in a phone interview.
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