De Lima questions consistent huge cuts in calamity fund since 2017

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Senator Leila M. de Lima today questioned the notable pattern in the yearly decreases of the calamity fund since the Duterte government took over, noting at the same time the huge increase  in the confidential and intelligence funds.

De Lima specifically lamented the P4-billion budget cut for this year’s calamity fund which greatly affects the pre-disaster operations and rehabilitation efforts to communities affected by calamities or disasters.

De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, said the massive reduction in the government’s calamity fund shows the administration’s failure to consider and prepare for the country’s vulnerability to disaster.

Sa kabila ng dinanas at patuloy na dinadanas na mga kalamidad ng ating bansa nitong mga nagdaang taon, pati na ng matinding pangangailangan para paghandaan ang sakuna, paano kaya naatim ng ilan na kaltasan ng apat na bilyong piso ang calamity fund ngayong taon?” she asked.

Ngayon ngang may panibagong delubyong dumating dulot ng pagsabog ng Bulkang Taal at sunod-sunod na paglindol, na naglagay sa buhay ng libo-libong Pilipino sa peligro, nagpaguho sa mga tahanan at sumira ng mga kabuhayan, hindi naman pupuwedeng umasa na lang tayo sa mga donasyon ng pribadong sektor at ng ibang bansa para sa rehabilitasyon ng mga komunidad,” she added.

          In the 2020 national budget, the administration only allocated P16 billion for the calamity fund, also called the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) fund, which is a P4-billion decline from the P20 billion in 2019.

The calamity fund was also slashed by P23 billion, or more than half, to just P15.7 billion in 2017 from P38.9 billion in 2016 under the Aquino administration. It also saw a decline in the 2019 budget as it was reduced further by P11 billion to P20 billion.

It may be recalled that Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año drew flaks from some quarters for appealing for public donations of essentials for Filipino families adversely affected by Taal Volcano’s eruption.

Amid the annual decrease in calamity fund under the present administration, the lady Senator from Bicol also lamented how the confidential and intelligence funds for the Office of the President (OP) increased almost yearly.

Sa pagbawas sa calamity fund at paglobo naman ng intel fund—na wala pa rin tayong malinaw na pruweba kung saan napupunta—malinaw kung ano ang mas pinahahalagahan ng gobyerno ni Duterte,” she said.

Mr. Duterte reportedly spent P2.5 billion in confidential and intelligence funds in 2017, compared to the P705 million that OP spent in 2016. He was allotted another P2.5 billion in confidential and intelligence funds for 2018 and 2019.

Meanwhile, the P4.5-billion budget allocated for confidential and intelligence funds for 2020 is almost double the budget it asked for in the previous three years.

De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, pointed out that the government should “set its priorities straight and prioritize its people over selfish interests.”

De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1284 seeking to grant disaster service volunteers up to an aggregate of 15 days of paid leave from work within a year to allow them to participate in specialized disaster-related operations.

She also reintroduced SB No. 1285 seeking to protect licensed and qualified volunteers from liability in the performance of their duties and functions in times of emergency situations, including disasters. (30)

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