Legarda: Spend Disaster Funds Now for Lando VictimsNovember 2, 2015
Senator Loren Legarda, Chairperson of the Senate Committees on Finance and Climate Change, today slammed the slow utilization of the calamity fund and quick response funds (QRF) by particular agencies of government tasked to preposition goods and services in preparation for an impending typhoon and to provide speedy assistance to victims.
“Release funds lying in government coffers to Lando victims immediately,” said Legarda.
“Based on the status report of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on the releases of fund, balance of the 2015 National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Fund or calamity fund is Php10.280 Billion as of September 30, 2015. On top of that, we still have so much left QRF amounting to Php5.458 Billion. We have 81% of the QRF unutilized. Does this mean that these agencies have been able to provide for relief and other post-disaster needs of those who were affected by the 11 typhoons that entered the country before Lando? How much have been released to Lando victims? How much have been released to victims of other typhoons?” Legarda asked.
The following agencies have been allotted QRF for 2015:
- Department of Education (DepEd) – Php1 Billion (utilized Php224.281 Million)
- Department of Health (DOH) – Php500 Million (utilized Php13.292 Million)
- Department of National Defense – Office of Civil Defense (DND-OCD) – Php530 Million (utilized Php138.730 Million)
- DND – Office of the Secretary – Php352.5 Million (utilized Php15.914 Million)
- Department of Agriculture – National Irrigation Authority (DA-NIA) – Php500 Million (utilized Php76.894 Million)
- DA – Office of the Secretary – Php500 Million (utilized Php10.912 Million)
- Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) – Php1.325 Billion (utilized Php311.603 Million)
- Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) – Php1 Billion unutilized
- Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) – Php1 Billion (utilized Php457.260 Million)
“Why not use these unutilized funds already earmarked in the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA) for temporary shelter, food, and other basic needs of the typhoon victims? If we have Php10 Billion NDRRM Fund plus Php5 Billion remaining QRF, we have more than Php15 Billion worth of government funds that we can use for Lando victims. Yet many survivors of calamities in recent years are still suffering and have yet to rebuild their homes and regain their sources of livelihood,” Legarda pointed out.
“This compels me to look into how efficiently these funds are allocated and released to member agencies of the NDRRM Council. Before we approve the budget of these agencies comprising the NDRRMC, they need to explain how they utilize the QRF and also the NDRRM Fund,” she said.
The Senator added that with such huge unused funds, there should no longer be homeless Yolanda survivors and victims of 2015 disasters, including of the recent Typhoon Lando, who should have been served with post-disaster basic needs, at the very least.
“There is no reason that relief and rehabilitation programs would be delayed. We cannot allow the approval of funds only to remain idle while many disaster victims and climate refugees live in deplorable conditions. We allocate resources to aid the most needy of our people,” Legarda lamented.
The Commission on Audit (COA) made the same observation in its 2014 report of the QRF and donations received by the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), where the amount of Php923 Million “was not utilized as envisioned and became idle.”
“I am urging all agencies with QRF to spend it now when survivors of Typhoon Lando most need it. We do not approve funds just to go stale in banks. That is why it is called ‘quick’ response fund; otherwise it defeats the purpose of Congress for creating such allocation. It is also an injustice to allow disaster victims to suffer more when the government actually has the resources to alleviate their suffering now,” said Legarda.
“Do not make them victims twice over—victims of natural calamity and man-made calamity, which is government inaction. The latter is the worst. Billions of available funds are not being used judiciously and expeditiously. We need to have compassion and urgent action. The people are asking for help. Let us not be insensitive to their needs; let us act fast, for the help they need is not today, it was yesterday,” Legarda concluded.