Use P37B calamity fund to help victims of ‘Lawin’—Recto
With P37-billion unspent calamity fund, there is no need for the government to solicit foreign aid for victims of supertyphoon “Lawin,” Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said on Monday.
“The challenge is to open the floodgates of domestic aid funds and not to ask help from abroad,” Recto said in a statement.
He said the available amount in the calamity fund, officially known as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF), came from last year’s unused and current year appropriations.
For 2015, Recto said, P14.06 billion was appropriated for the fund, of which P5.09 billion remained unused as of December 31, 2015. He said the amount was added to the P38.9-billion appropriations in 2016, raising the “spendable amount” for this year to almost P44 billion.
“Availments as of end of August, however, totaled P6.9 billion, leaving a balance of P37 billion,” the senator said.
“Even if fund withdrawal accelerated since then, easily there is at least P30 billion still available,” he added.
Instead of seeking foreign help, Recto prodded the Duterte administration “to hack away” at the red tape, which he said was slowing down the flow of rehabilitation funds for Lawin victims and other disaster-hit areas.
The senator said “complicated rules” governing the request, release and use of national calamity funds result in the trickle down of aid to areas which need rapid restoration.
“The war against red tape must also be fought in the disaster aid front. Red tape itself is a man-made calamity,” he said.
“If we want to turbocharge the release of aid money, then we must first change the rules,” Recto said in calling for the review of the procedures on how disaster-hit areas could access the calamity fund.
To request for funding, the senator said a local government unit (LGU) has to submit documentary requirements, which will be checked by the Office of Civil Defense.
After verification, the request will be sent to the Office of the President for approval. Once approved, the request is forwarded directly to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for another round of vetting. The DBM then issues the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) directly to the LGU.
“At ito ay sa pag-release pa lang ng pondo (This process is for releasing of funds only). Hindi pa pumapasok sa (It’s not yet for) bidding, where another set of rules await under the Government Procurement Reform Act,” Recto said.
The procurement law, he said, must be revisited “insofar as the relaxation of rules for emergency relief purchases [is] concerned.” RAM/rga
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