Senator Panfilo Lacson said Friday it was hard to trace the whereabouts of the P4 billion slashed from the Senate-proposed P20-billion calamity funds for this year.
“What was indicated in the Senate version was P20B. After the bicam, it became P16B and P4B was cut,” Lacson said.
“I am still tracing it now. Where did the P4B go? Why was it reduced in the bicam?.”
Lacson made his statement even as the Gabriela Women's Party slammed the Duterte regime's alleged measly calamity assistance to those affected by the Taal volcano eruption”•even as the President threw cash at his visit to the Philippine Marines earlier.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said the Health department would only spend P1.5 million for face masks and medicines, while Interior Secretary Eduardo Año even asked for donations from the public despite the billions in quick-response funds for agencies.
“Bakit kailangang tipirin ng gobyerno ang pagsaklolo sa ating mga kababayang apektado ng pagsabog ng bulkan? It is callous for the administration, which recently signed a P4.1-trillion budget, to scrimp on state resources when ordinary people are sharing whatever they have to the families displaced in Batangas and nearby provinces,” Brosas said.
Lacson said it was hard to determine where the cut went since only the two heads of the finance committees of both Houses talked.
“Tapos mag-pool sila, magbabawas kung saan–saan, tapos ito ngayon kung saan–saan napunta,” he said.
He also said there was a provision that the lifespan of the calamity fund would be five years.
The unspent amount, he said, would go to the special fund that will also be used for calamities and disasters.
"After five years, if not used, it will be returned to the National Treasury," Lacson said.
As of Nov. 30 last year, Senator Sonny Angara said there was still P700 billion of unused funds because of the late passage of the 2019 budget.
Of the calamity fund, he said, almost P7 billion were also unused.
"Billions lodged in various agencies were not used, so that was a consideration in setting 2020 levels," said Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee.
Incidentally, he said, much of those funds were still available and if declared by the executive as savings, could be spent to help the victims of the eruption and other calamities.
Meanwhile, Lacson said the Office of the President should open an office that would manage disaster resilience and crisis management instead of creating a separate department for the government’s response to calamities.
Lacson, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, led a hearing on the proposed measure to create a disaster response department in Nov. 11 last year.
The proposal to create an agency on disaster response was pushed following the displacement of residents in Cavite and Batangas after Taal Volcano’s unrest.
“I think a permanent office that is under the OP but not necessarily a department so as not to further bloat the bureaucracy,Lacson said.
He said establishing new departments might create lapses in “policy decisions” despite the proposal to fix government’s rightsizing.
While we have rightsizing, we always create a new department. Then that would not synchronize the policy decisions… I think an office under the OP should do the job,” he said.
Lacson was reacting to the proposal of Senator Grace Poe for the creation of a new department that will focus on disaster resilience and emergency management.
In his proposal, Lacson said the agency would “mobilize personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Public Works and Highways” to address reconstruction and rehabilitation during calamities. With Willie Casas