Press Release
November 11, 2016

Recto: Next year's P37-B Calamity Fund silent on unfinished Yolanda work

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto today called for the itemization of Yolanda reconstruction projects in next year's proposed P37.2 billion Calamity Fund "in order to complete all rehabilitation work by end of 2017."

"There is still much work to be done in Eastern Visayas but the Calamity Fund is silent on the rehabilitation deficit, which must be funded," Recto said.

Recto noted that next year's P37.2 billion National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, or NDRRMF, which is the Calamity Fund's official name, "does not earmark any amount for Yolanda rehabilitation despite the huge backlog in deliverables."

This is in contrast to the provision in this year's NDRRMF which specifically sets aside P18.9 billion for the rehabilitation of Yolanda-damaged public works, livelihood and farms.

The absence of a "Yolanda earmark' in next year's NDRRMF, Recto warned, "might be misinterpreted that government has ceased funding the repair of public properties" destroyed by the strongest typhoon in recorded history.

"If reconstruction is still a work in progress, then such must be reflected in the Calamity Fund to reassure Yolanda victims that what government had promised will be still be redeemed, " Recto said.

Recto said "even a general provision that this amount will be allocated for Yolanda work will be sufficient as long as the recipient agencies and the amounts they will get are specified."

"By listing these, work will be assigned and the public can easily monitor what responsibilities have been given to which agencies," Recto said.

The idea, he said, is to finish all work one year from now so that when Yolanda's fourth anniversary we be marked next November, "government can proudly proclaim 'Mission accomplished!'"

Among projects which have not yet been finished, or worse, started, are about 175,467 housing units, 7,233 classrooms, 95 communal irrigation systems, and 11 flood control structures, Recto said, citing an October 31 NEDA update.

This, as Recto called for a "last quarter rally" that will step up the utilization of the P18.9 billion earmarked for Yolanda-related projects in the P38.9 billion Calamity Fund for 2016.

Two weeks before Yolanda's third anniversary, Recto raised the alarm that reconstruction was proceeding at a crawl based on the low utilization of the P18.9 billion appropriated this year to repair damages wrought by the strongest typhoon in history.

As of end of August, only P6.9 billion out of the P44 billion gross Calamity Fund for 2016 had been spent, leaving a balance of P37 billion, with four months left in the year.

The Calamity Fund's spendable amount rose to P44 billion this year after the unspent P5.09 billion from the 2015 Calamity Fund was added to the current year's appropriations.

Recto said the low utilization rate "clearly indicated poor absorption by agencies, to the detriment of the people who are supposed to benefit from the prompt implementation of projects that it would fund."

"It also means that the rehabilitation of public works, shelter, livelihood and farms destroyed by Yolanda was proceeding slowly. That's the only conclusion you can draw from the anemic use of funds," Recto said.

"Agosto na, so dapat marami nang pera ang na-obligate. Hindi rin pwedeng isisi ang nakaraang eleksyon, kasi exempted sa election ban ang mga rehabilitation projects sa disaster areas," Recto said.

"This is more of the fault of the past administration for not ramping up the spending in the first half of the year when it had the funds and the authority to do so," Recto said.

Under the 2016 national budget, the P18.9 billion will be distributed among 14 agencies to undertake projects ranging from the repair of airports, tourism facilities, hospitals to shelter construction to replanting of destroyed coconut farms and emergency jobs to displaced workers.

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