Saying that disaster relief funds in the proposed 2014 national budget are not enough to finance the reconstruction of areas hit by the string of man-made and natural calamities, Sen. Recto today called for adjustments in next year’s budget to accommodate rebuilding work.
“There’s certainly a need for bigger DAP – or Disaster Aid Projects – funds,” the Senate President Pro Tempore said. “This is the kind of DAP that we need.”
Recto said the proposed P7.5 billion 2014 allocation of the Calamity Fund might not be enough to underwrite reconstruction work in a “country which seems to be hit recently by every tragedy in the catalogue of calamities.”
“In the past 30 days alone, this country was hit by a 7.2 magnitude quake, a typhoon that left P3.2 billion in damages, and a failed insurgent takeover of a major city which razed 10,160 homes to the ground,” Recto said.
Recto was referring to Tuesday’s tremor which toppled churches and buildings in Central Visayas, Typhoon “Santi” which displaced a million people in 76 towns and 9 cities in Luzon, and last month’s attempt by rebel leader Nur Misuari to wrest control of Zamboaga City from the government.
“The result is that we need to help towns from Argao (Cebu) to Zamboanga to get back on their feet fast,” Recto said.
He said the proposed Calamity Fund allocation in the 2014 national budget is not enough to bankroll the repair or replacement of damaged public infrastructure.
“If we count the help which owners of burned houses in Zamboanga, or Santi-hit farmers in Pampanga, or small Bol-anon businessmen whose stores were destroyed will be needing, the total bill is way above the resources at hand,” Recto said.
He said disasters have become a “major macroeconomic assumption of the budget” and “it will be unwise to ignore their impact in crafting the national budget.”
“If the budget is ballyhooed to be based on needs, then the earthquake in the Visayas and other expenditure-causing calamities must be factored in. We cannot be faithful to the bottom-up budgeting concept if we ignore the tragedies on the ground,” he said.
Recto said Malacanang and Congress should start “tweaking” the proposed 2014 budget to create “budget space” for calamity relief work.
He said the total DPWH budget for 2014 for Central Visayas, to which Cebu and Bohol belong, is a measly P5.1 billion and “any two-bit carpenter would tell you that this is not enough to repair the public works the earthquake has damaged.”
As to the reconstruction of heritage church buildings, the total budget of the National Commission on Culture and Arts for 2014 at P360 million might not be enough to repair “even the facades of the collapsed Baclayon, Loboc and Dauis churches in Bohol,” Recto said.
He said Malacanang and Congress should jointly study the option of earmarking funds for the reconstruction of areas placed this year under a state of calamity.
“We can increase the Calamity Fund, or create a fund in the DPWH dedicated exclusively for disaster relief, or even introduce a section in the Unprogrammed Fund which would qualify disaster relief as among the activities which can be funded by excess revenues, new loans or savings,” Recto said.
“We can even rechannel the dismantled PDAF to disaster work. If we do this, then pork barrel will end up as rebuilding material,” Recto said.