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‘Calamity funds used up’

But Palace claim junked by critics as ploy to tap DAP Malacañang on Friday  announced that the calamity and contingency funds are about to be depleted and the government will have to tap savings to augment these funds. However, the opposition claimed that Malacañang was only “exploiting” the situation of the quake victims to justify the use of the Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP. Several legal luminaries and constitutionalists had described the DAP as “illegal and unconstitutional.”
Before and after. The picture on top shows a portion of Bohol’s world-famous Chocolate Hills as it was before the Oct. 15 earthquake and what it became after at right. The 7.2-magnitude temblor killed 163 people and injured many more. The temblor also flattened many buildings and centuries-old churches. AFP, DOT Before and after. The picture on top shows a portion of Bohol’s world-famous Chocolate Hills as it was before the Oct. 15 earthquake and what it became after at right. The 7.2-magnitude temblor killed 163 people and injured many more. The temblor also flattened many buildings and centuries-old churches. AFP, DOT
The Palace declaration also came four days after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake wrought havoc to Bohol and Cebu and other provinces and cities in Visayas and Mindanao. The quake killed 172 people as of Friday, destroyed centuries-old churches and structures, roads and bridges and affected at least 3 million residents. Back then, Malacanang said it had enough funds to rehabilitate the affected areas and for provisions for the quake victims. The Palace, meanwhile, insisted on Friday that the augmentation will not come from the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program. “Our calamity and contingency funds are about to be depleted. For typhoon Pablo alone, we have to spend P11 billion while our calamity fund is only P7.5 billion,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said. “But we will not get the augmentation from the DAP which is not a funding facility but a mechanism. We will get the augmentation from our savings,” Abad added. But militant lawmakers said the Palace should stop exploiting the “misfortune of the quake victims in Bohol and Cebu as a justification for the use of the DAP to respond to disaster-related concerns.” Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said that the Palace’s announcement shows how desperately the Aquino administration clings to the pork barrel system. “It is a double jeopardy to use the victims as a convenient excuse for the DAP,” Ilagan said. She said that the executive department has more than enough lump sum funds, including a calamity fund, to respond to natural disasters. Rep. Neri Colmenares, meanwhile, said it was “insensitive” of President Aquino and his allies to use the sad plight of the quake victims in the Visayas in their drive to maintain the pork barrel system. Colmenares said the President could not use the DAP to fund the government efforts to help the victims of the earthquake and other disasters, saying his office under the 2013 budget, has huge funds, including his P 7.5 billion calamity fund, which he said are more than enough to meet the needs of the victims. For his part, Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said that the government—through the DSWD has enough resources to ably help the victims of calamities, and that there is no need to source funds from the so-called DAP. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, however, opined that it was about time to thaw the “frozen pork” and use it to help the victims of the earthquake, Santi typhoon and the Zambaonga City siege. Recto said he wants to convert the controversial Presidential Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), commonly called “pork barrel” into a “Priority Disaster Assistance Fund.” He said the ‘unreleased portion” of the lawmakers’ pork barrel  for this year can be used to help victims of the recent disasters that ravaged the country. Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano, an opposition, said he sees nothing wrong with the Palace’s wish to use the DAP funds for disaster and calamity response efforts. “There should be no any excuse when it comes to helping people.  As long as the help, or the money, would reach to them properly, political color does not matter,” said Albano, an opposition. In Seoul, President Benigno Aquino III welcomed the statement of Senate Committee on Finance chairman Francis Escudero that they will approve a resolution increasing this year’s calamity fund to cover the mas-sive rehabilitation that will be needed for the areas affected by the earthquake as well as for the victims of typhoon Santi. “We would like to thank the Senate if they’re gonna give us that elbow room. But the first step is total the expenses that we will require,” Aquino said. On the issue on the repair of the damaged centuries-old churches, Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, meanwhile, said the National Commission on Culture and the Arts will spearhead their restoration. “Now we just have to sift through which ones have been declared heritage sites,” Valte said. The HCS said at 10 churches were damaged by the killer earthquake, including the Church of San Pedro Apostol, Church of Our Lady of Light, Santissima Trinidad Parish, Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, San Nicolas Church, and Santa Cruz Parish Church in Bohol and Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral,  and the St. Catherine’s Church in Cebu. But Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma,  a prominent Catholic church leader, said that they do not expect any “significant help” from the government in restoring quake-damaged heritage churches and would rely mostly to the faithful and private sectors. Palma said the archdiocese would shoulder the bulk of the costs in rehabilitating the ruined  churches because they are only expecting a minimal help from the government. “In many repairs, if we really look at it, the government does not give much. In many of the repairs of the heritage churches, the government only gives minimally,”  Palma said. “For us, the people will find a way to rebuild the church. It may take a long time but still the people will find a way,” Palma added. With Macon R. Araneta and Maricel V. Cruz
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