Mindanao areas battling both natural and man-made calamities of flooding and bombings should receive national aid in the form of releases from the P7.5 billion Calamity Fund, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said today.
While popularly known as the source of aid in times of natural calamities, the Calamity Fund also finances relief and rehabilitation activities in places hit by armed conflict, insurgency and terrorism, Recto said.
“In fact, the Calamity Fund can be used for disaster prevention activities,” Recto explained. “So if provinces would like to buttress their security as a reaction to a clear and present danger against them, then they can qualify for Calamity Fund assistance.”
“Kasi kung magdadagdag ng patrolya, kailangan ng gasolina. Kung maglalagay ng dagdag na pwersa, kailangan siguro ng suporta, tulad ng pagkain,” he said.
Recto made the explanation as he called for the urgent release of calamity funds to Mindanao provinces grappling with the problem of terror and rising waters.
Quoting official reports, Recto said 500,000 people have been affected by flooding in at least six provinces and one city in Mindanao.
In Maguindanao, 300,000 residents have been displaced as rivers overflowed from weeks of torrential rain while 26 submerged barangays in Cotabato City have forced 100,000 people out their homes.
Nearby North Cotabato is also reeling from floods, with the town of Tulunan the hardest hit. Davao Norte, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggani and Zamobanga Norte have also reported flood damage.
To compound matters, Recto said Cotabato City and Midsayap, North Cotabato were hit by bombings recently. “Hit by flood, bathed with blood. They are fighting there in two fronts and they need all the help they can get and all that we can give.”
Recto said the national government should speed up the release of the funds that will help these provinces fight two calamities at the same time.
He doubts whether the affected towns, cities and provinces have reserve or contingent funds that can be tapped to respond to the emergency. “The gravity of the problem requires national help.”
He said a great chunk of the Calamity Fund has been “forward deployed” to agencies identified as “first responders to crisis.”
He said that under the General Appropriations Act for 2013, funds have been advanced to six agencies with the instructions that these be used as a Quick Reaction Fund.
These agencies are the Department of Social Welfare and Development (P662. 5 M), Office of Civil Defense (P530 M), Department of National Defense (P352.5 M), Department of Public Works and Highways (P600 M), Department of Education (P550 M), Department of Agriculture (P500 M), and the National Irrigation Administration (P500 M).
“Kung stand-by fund ang mga ito, pwede na ipadala,” Recto said.
He said Cagayan de Oro should also be given calamity funds.