Government was told to dip into its “bag of unspent funds” to help the flooded “food basket” of the country recover from damages wrought by Typhoon Lando.
“If we have problem with underspending, then the mess Lando left presents us with an opportunity to step up disbursement,” said Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto.
“Government aid should not come in trickles but in torrents just like the rain Lando dumped into Central and Northern Luzon,” Recto said.
Recto explained that the Calamity Fund has a balance of P9.6 billion, citing the latest posting by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
According to DBM data, withdrawal from what is officially called the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund—which has an allocation of P13 billion this year—has so far reached P3.9 billion.
Recto said offices involved in the release of the Calamity Fund should “quickly submit and approve the requests needed.”
The Calamity Fund is a lump sum in the budget for aid, relief, and rehabilitation of areas hit by man-made and natural calamities.
The multi-agency National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) endorses Calamity Fund requests to the Office of the President for approval, which then forwards them to the DBM, which releases the funds.
Recto said other agencies with “low absorptive capacity” of funds should study shifting these to Lando-hit areas, “to the extent that budget laws would allow it.”
“And all the more that unreleased funds intended within the calamity arc should be released now. Government construction can provide jobs or cash-for-work opportunities,” Recto stressed.
“It will be tragedy if agencies will not be able to spend their allocated funds when there are disaster-hit areas which has a need for them,” he added.
Recto cited the DBM Statement of Allotment and Obligation for FY 2014, which reported that the Department of Agriculture (DA) had P14.58 billion in unobligated balances last year. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) meanwhile, had failed to utilize P79.22 billion of its allotment during the same period.
While catch-up measures had led to a 25 percent year-on-year increase in public spending in July, when disbursements reached P210 billion,” the overall scorecard shows the need to accelerate fund utilization,” Recto said.
For the current year until July, government expenditures totaled P1.26 trillion, 15 percent higher than the P1.1 trillion a year ago.
But still, the P1.26 trillion spent in the first seven months was still P190 billion short of the P1.47 trillion program, Recto said.
“So mayroon talagang pondo, kailangan lang pabilisin ang pag-release,” Recto said.
He said the areas hit by Lando are known rice granaries and food baskets.
Regions II and III account for about 31% of the rice and corn production, 12% of livestock production, and 40% of poultry production in the country for 2014.