Defensor: Panay rehab must be included in P10-B supplemental fund

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

HOUSE Majority Floor Leader Arthur D. Defensor Sr. said he will insist that Panay will be included in the resolution allowing President Gloria Arroyo to look for funds for the rehabilitation of areas devastated by the series of typhoons.

Defensor said he will push for the allocation of funds for the post-Typhoon Frank rehabilitation of Panay, particularly his home province of Iloilo.

The House of Representatives is planning to pass a P10-billion supplemental budget to be used for the rehabilitation of areas devastated by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had declared the national government’s calamity fund has been depleted and there are no available funds for the P10-billion additional allocation.

The House is pushing for the approval of a joint resolution with the Senate to allow President Arroyo to realign unprogrammed government funds for the supplemental budget.

Defensor said he will block the joint resolution and P10-billion supplemental budget if Panay is not included in the measures.

“We have suffered for more than 1 year since Typhoon Frank hit (Panay) and many damaged bridges, roads and other infrastructure have yet to be replaced or repaired. If Panay is included, I will work hard to pass the resolution and supplemental budget in the House,” Defensor said.

Congress is working to pass the resolution and supplemental budget before it goes on recess October 16. There were also proposals to hold special sessions to fast track the passage of the said measures. 

Right after Typhoon Frank hit Panay, Congress passed the P8-billion supplemental budget, dubbed as Paglaum Fund, for the island’s rehabilitation. But the budget’s accompanying revenue measure, the Simplified Net Income Taxation System (SNITS), is still pending in the Senate reason why the national government has yet to release the funds.

The SNITS is seen to raise some P11 billion, most of which will be set aside for the Paglaum Fund.

So far, the national government has released P481 million for the dredging of the Iloilo and Aklan Rivers and repair of 13 destroyed bridges, roads and other government infrastructures in Panay.

Ilonggo leaders last July asked for another P900 million from Malacañang for Panay.

The DBM Secretary Rolando Andaya had said that out of the P2 billion allocated this year, the calamity fund is now down to P100 million.

The national government now plans to increase the budget of agencies that deal with calamities.

The DBM is also considering a proposal to use collections from the Road User’s Tax to fund relief and rehabilitation efforts.

The Philippines usually racks up P15 billion in calamity costs every year from its average of 20 tropical storms yearly.

Andaya said the government can easily replenish the calamity fund of the various agencies involved in disaster relief and management.

In 2007 and 2008, the government spent more than the money allocated for calamities. In 2008, for instance, it spent around P4 billion.