Press Release
October 23, 2016

Recto: Cut red tape in the request, release, use of calamity funds

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto is urging the Duterte administration "to hack away" at the red tape slowing down the flow of rehabilitation funds to disaster-hit areas.

Recto 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.

He described the "cumbersome requirements" as "inherited and institutional regulations which must be overhauled if we want to send aid to people and places which need them the most as fast as possible."

"The war against red tape must also be fought in the disaster aid front," Recto said. "Red tape itself is a man-made calamity."

"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 can access the Calamity Fund, or what is officially called National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund.

"Kung i-diagram mo yung proseso, parang wiring ng kuryente. From request to release to procurement to delivery of reconstruction materials, easily one hundred steps. Kawawa talaga ang mga local governments," Recto lamented.

"Walang problema doon sa pagpapadala ng relief ng DWSD. Kasi nakita naman natin na mabilis at nasa frontline si Secretary Taguiwalo. Ang mabagal yung sa rehabilitation portion, yung pagtatayo ng bagong gusali, o pagpapalit nang naanod na tulay, na kailangan ng calamity funds," he said.

For this year, P39 billion has been allocated as National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund in the national budget.

A lump sum fund, the Calamity Fund covers aid, relief, and rehabilitation services to areas hit by man-made and natural calamities. It also funds pre-disaster projects and operations.

The release involves "the interplay and layers of approval" of many agencies including the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the Office of the President, and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Recto said.

He said a local government unit (LGU) flattened by a typhoon will have to submit documentary requirements "through a gauntlet of agencies."

Citing an official workflow, Recto said the documents an LGU must submit include the following:

Complete description and justification of the project; Local DRRMC damage report and calamity Impact Assessment report and Work and Financial Plan, including pictures; Sanggunian Resolution declaring the area under a State of Calamity or Imminent Danger and appropriating local counterpart for the project; Certification by the Local Chief Executive (LCE) through a Sanggunian Resolution assuring that whatever amount will be provided by the Office of the President, the project will be completed; Endorsement of the RDRRMC Chairperson (Office of Civil Defense Regional Director); Certification and justification by the LCE concerned that funding requests chargeable against the Calamity Fund are emergency in character; Certification by the Local Accountant that their Local Calamity Fund is already depleted or exhausted; Certification of non-availability of funding source other than the Calamity Fund; Certification that the infrastructure being requested for funding support are not covered by insurance

"Kung naanod na computer mo, nawawala ang encoder, at wala kang kuryente, magagawa mo pa ba ito?" Recto said.

The request is then checked by the Office of Civil Defense, which is the operating arm and secretariat of the NDRRMC.

After verification, it is sent to the Office of the President for approval. Once approved, the request is forwarded directly to the 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.

LGUs, however, receive only 50% of the cash requirement with the balance to be released based on progress and reports to be submitted.

"At ito ay sa pagrelease pa lang ng pondo. Hindi pa pumapasok sa bidding, where another set of rules await under the Government Procurement Reform Act," Recto said.

Recto said the procurement law "must be revisited insofar as the relaxation of rules for emergency relief purchases are concerned."

"Kung parating na ang bagyo, may leeway ka dapat ibigay sa mga nandoon sa frontlines, sa pagbili nang mga pagkain, halimbawa. Yung iba tuloy ayaw bumili kasi takot sa COA (Commission on Audit)," Recto said.

One way of expediting the procurement of relief goods and rehabilitation materials is for the government to open credit lines "to big commercial establishments in the area, like a branch of a supermarket chain, like SM, and have this arrangement covered by a Memorandum of Agreement."

Recto said government should also preposition "packed foodstuff, clothing, personal hygiene materials in identified regional warehouses."

"Forward deployed na dapat. Para ready na at hindi yung magrerepack pa at ililipad mo pa mula Maynila," he said.

Aside from these regional depots, government should also designate certain military camps as "area rallying points" where a composite brigade-size of military and civilian security, health, social welfare, engineering personnel can be assembled for rapid deployment to disaster zones.

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