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‘No need for foreign aid, gov’t has funds’

Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo MARC JAYSON CAYABYAB/INQUIRER.net

Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo MARC JAYSON CAYABYAB/INQUIRER.net

Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo on Monday said the government was not asking for foreign aid for the victims of Typhoon “Karen” (international name Sarika) and Supertyphoon “Lawin” (Haima) because it had the funds to cover relief operations in the stricken provinces in northern and Central Luzon.

Taguiwalo was addressing concerns of possible repercussions to President Duterte’s assertions the country could do without aid from the United States, European Union and the United Nations, all of which he had assailed for criticizing his bloody war against illegal drugs.

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“We are not asking for foreign assistance or donations from other countries for [victims of] Karen or Lawin because we have identified enough government funds to help the affected families,” Taguiwalo said.

She said the government was open to aid and donations, including foreign assistance from “friends.” But she noted that “true friends” gave freely—not as loans—without asking for anything in return.

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Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto agreed with Taguiwalo, saying that with P37 billion in unspent calamity funds, there was no need for the government to solicit foreign aid for victims of Lawin.

“The challenge is to open the floodgates of domestic aid funds and not ask help from abroad,” Recto said in a statement.

He said the available calamity fund, officially known as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF), came from last year’s unused and the current year’s 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 in appropriations in 2016, raising the “spendable amount” for this year to almost P44 billion.

“Availments as of the 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 said.

Instead of seeking foreign help, Recto prodded the Duterte administration “to hack away” at the red tape, which he said was slowing the flow of rehabilitation funds for Lawin and other disaster-hit victims.

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“If we want to turbocharge the release of aid money, then we must first change the rules,” Recto said in calling for a review of the procedures on accessing the calamity fund.

To request funding, the senator said a local government unit must submit documentary requirements, which would be checked by the Office of Civil Defense.

After verification, the request is sent to the Office of the President for approval. Once approved, the request is forwarded to the Department of Budget and Management for another round of vetting. The DBM then issues a Special Allotment Release Order and Notice of Cash Allocation directly to the LGU.

“This process is for releasing of funds only. It’s not yet for bidding, where another set of rules awaits under the Government Procurement Reform Act,” Recto said.

Meanwhile, at least eight Caritas Internationalis Member Organizations have pledged their support to the Philippine Catholic Church’s response to Lawin, according to the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines.

Those that have expressed their support are CAFOD (Caritas England and Wales), Caritas Belgium, Caritas New Zealand, and Development and Peace (Caritas Canada).

Caritas Española and Caritas Luxembourg also helped in finalizing the response plans with NASSA/Caritas Philippines.

Initially, the Philippine Catholic Church through NASSA/Caritas Philippines allocated P2-million from its emergency funds called “Alay Kapwa” to support the ongoing relief operations in Northern Luzon.

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TAGS: Calamity funds, Foreign aid, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, Philippine news update, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, typhoon Karen, United Nations
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