Thursday, June 26, 2008

Release "Impounded" Funds To Help Calamity Areas, Senator Urges Arroyo

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 26, 2008) – A Filipino senator has urged President Gloria Arroyo to release billions of pesos in impounded government funds to help citizens and areas affected by typhoon Fengshen.

Sen. Francis Escudero said at least P6.6 billions worth of funds can be added to the P2 billions in calamity money to aid those worst hit by the typhoon.

“There is no reason why aid should come in trickles to flood-hit areas when there are certain segments in the national budget, other than the Calamity Fund, which can be tapped for disaster work,” Escudero said in a statement.

Escudero, a member of the opposition, said Arroyo can order the release of the funding from the so-called “Kilos Asenso Fund” and from the financial subsidy to local government units and the Kalayaan Barangay Fund.

“The release of these funds is contingent on the President's approval. She should dig into these funds so there will be more resources available for relief work.”

“This is bigger than the $100,000 aid the President got from the US State Department, one which was met with profuse thanks from her, as if she had won the lotto, when in fact she has at her easy disposal all the above-mentioned funds to use in times like this,” he said.

But Escudero was quick to say that he is calling for the “full diversion” of the P6.6 billions, but “only that the latter be prioritized in the allocation.’

"Or if there is formula being followed in the apportioning of these funds, then maybe Iloilo's share be given in advance, "Escudero said, referring to the province in central Philippines which was the hardest hit by the typhoon.

Rep. Ferjenel Biron, of Iloilo's 4th District and Iloilo Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico have criticized the government slow response to the devastation in the province.

The P2-billion Kilos Asenso Fund is included in the P228.2 -billion Allocations for Local Government Units (ALGU) item in Republic Act 9498, or the General Appropriations Act for 2008. The biggest component in this block is the P210.7 billion earmarked for Internal Revenue Allotment of LGUs.

Also included in the ALGU is some P3.6 billion in "Financial Subsidy to LGUs", which is designed to partly fund the premium contributions of local governments in the Phil Health enrollment of their indigent constituents.

"This can be used to address public health challenges which arose from the calamity , which include repair of hospitals, replenishment of medical stocks, and settlement of Phil Health claims, usage which meets the congressional intent about this particular expenditure", he said

The Kalayaan Barangay on the other hand, forms part of the P51 billion budget of the Department of National Defense. To be implemented by the Armed Forces, the P1-bilion fund is intended for the development of dissident-threatened villages.

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