Press Release
November 19, 2016

'Fire-hit villages which look like mini-Hiroshimas must get Calamity Fund'

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto is urging Malacañang to extend Calamity Fund assistance to thousands of homeless families in fire-razed communities in Metro Manila.

"When an entire community is burned to the ground, then it should qualify for national assistance," Recto said, adding that unlike in other calamities which "leave something to rebuild on, a fire destroys everything."

"Mabuti pa bagyo, kadalasan bubong lang ang natatangay. Sa sunog, pati pundasyon, pati septic tank, naaabo," Recto said.

"In charred villages, even communal water pipes have to be dug up, and all electrical wires have been melted," Recto said.

Recto made the observation as he appealed for national assistance to victims of two recent massive fires in Metro Manila.

About 1,400 families were left homeless in the eight-hour blaze which gutted several blocks in Addition Hills, Mandaluyong City last Nov. 13, the fifth to hit that densely-populated barangay this year.

In Las Piñas City, homes of 2,000 families in Barangay Talon 2 went up in smoke before dawn last Nov. 3.

Assisting the victims, Recto said, requires resources beyond the capacity of the city governments to provide, he said.

"Kung nawala ang mga bahay sa bagyo, siguro nagkandarapa na ang buong national government na tumulong, meron pang televised command conference ang NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council). Kaya lang, kapag sunog tila wala sa radar," Recto said.

In extending financial aid to fire-razed communities, Recto said "funding is not a problem based on the current status of National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF), which has billions left in it."

The authority to grant assistance is also there because large-scale fire falls under "catastrophes" which, under the special provisions on its use, the NDRRMF can be applied to.

"If the gutted community needs to be relocated, especially if the victims are informal dwellers, the NDRRMF will be a big help in in-city rebuilding, or near-city relocation, Recto said.

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.

But of this amount, P18.9 billion is earmarked for the reconstruction of Yolanda-hit areas and P1 billion for the 2016 People's Survival Fund.

"So kung meron pang mga P19 billion para sa mga bagong kalamidad, eh di kuhanan natin ito para sa mga lugar na nasunog," he said.

Recto clarified though that his proposal to use the Calamity Fund covers only "massive conflagrations, in which hundreds of homes are lost, and victims are in the thousands. Hindi kasama yung isang bahay lang ang nasunog. O kung garahe mo lang ang na-abo. Hindi kasama 'yan."

"Kung ang isang malaking lugar ay nagmistulang mini-Hiroshima, 'yan dapat nating tulungan," he stressed.

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