Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto is proposing that Malacañang be given a standby fund of P15 billion for Marawi reconstruction, on top of the P10 billion that is already in the 2018 national budget bill.
Recto said the additional P15 billion for the rehabilitation of the war-destroyed city can be included in the Unprogrammed Appropriations portion of the P3.76 trillion spending measure.
Recto said that parking that amount in the Unprogrammed Appropriations would cancel the need for the passage of a supplemental appropriation bill in the event that the P10 billion for Marawi is not enough, or has been fully spent before the end of next year.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had announced that “at least P50 billion” will be needed to rebuild Marawi, which Recto described “as more damaged than Mosul,” the northern city in Iraq recently liberated from ISIS.
The senator explained that under budget laws, amounts authorized under Unprogrammed Appropriations can only be released when tax and non-tax revenues exceed collection goals, or if loans for a particular activity are secured.
Recto believes that these “two triggers” will be satisfied as “there is a high interest from donors of official development aid, or ODA, and our economic managers are gung-ho in meeting revenue targets.“
“Thus, in anticipation of any of these, what Congress can do is provide the spending authority in the General Appropriations Act, which the executive branch can later use,” Recto said.
He explained that Unprogrammed Appropriations, which is pegged at P75.34 billion for 2018, “is a regular, important, but not so prominent feature of the budget. It is the hidden big ticket item.”
For next year, P5 billion for AFP modernization is charged to this fund, and so is P18.9 billion in “support for infrastructure and social programs.”
But the biggest item in the Unprogrammed Appropriations, Recto pointed out, is for the so-called “risk management”, for which P30 billion is authorized to cover maturing obligations and other government commitments under various Public Private Partnership projects.
“Kung mayroon tayong inilalaan na P30 billion for the change orders, cost overruns, contingent liabilities sa PPP, bakit hindi rin natin gawin ito para sa Marawi?” Recto said.
“We can rearrange, revise the components of the unprogrammed fund to accomodate the needs of Marawi, which must be prioritized,” Recto said.
In batting for a bigger “Bangon Marawi Fund,” Recto said Marawi has given Mindanao “knowledge and power” worth hundreds of billions of pesos over the years.
“Let us always keep in mind that Marawi is the capital of the province where Lanao Lake is, which is the source of about 40 percent of Mindanao’s power supply,” Recto said.
It is also where the main campus of the Mindanao State University is located, Recto added, referring to the “UP of the South” which has produced thousands of graduates since its founding in 1961.
“Marawi is both a source of light and enlightenment. Thus any aid package should be viewed within that context. To a large extent, the aid we will be giving is some sort of a payback,” Recto said.