The Senate on Tuesday suspended budget debates in plenary due to internet connectivity issues, as most of its members were participating through online video conferencing.
The livestream of the Senate budget debates was cut around 2:30 p.m., shortly after internet provider Converge announced a nationwide outage. The Senate's session resumed at 2:52 p.m.
"There was a sudden power surge in some areas. The internet connection was affected," Senate President Vicente Sotto III told ABS-CBN News in a text message.
In a Facebook post, Converge apologized to its subscribers, admitting that it was "experiencing issues" in its data center. It was unclear whether they were related to recent storms which damaged power and communication infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon raised concerns over the government’s inadequate funding for calamity response and the rehabilitation of Marawi under the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021.
He raised doubts on the government’s ability to rebuild and bring back normalcy in the Southern Mindanao city by December 2021.
Given the full extent of damage of typhoons Rolly, Quinta and Ulysses that hit the country in a span of two months, Drilon said the P21 billion allocation for the National Disaster and Risk Management Council (NDRRMC) is “grossly insufficient.” Macon Ramos-Araneta
During the Senate deliberation on the budget of the NDRRMC Monday, the Senate chief fiscalizer pointed out that the disaster management fund has been declining since 2017.
Also, two senators who previously served as chiefs of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Tuesday pushed to increase the police force's 2021 budget, saying the agency has no funding for disaster-related activities despite being "frontliners in rescue and relief operations."
Senators Panfilo Lacson and Ronald Dela Rosa issued similar sentiments after Senate Committee on Finance chair Sonny Angara said the PNP has been asking other agencies for funds to conduct rescue efforts in calamity-hit areas.
"They continuously respond to calamities," Lacson said. "In Taal for example, I heard at least 6 of their personnel got afflicted with some disease sa lungs because of the sulfur."
Dela Rosa appealed to other senators to support calls to increase the PNP's budget next year to boost the country's disaster response programs.
Prior to Converge's November 17 nationwide outage, senators have already been complaining about connectivity issues in the chamber after several hearings had to be suspended.
In March, the Senate began allowing its members to participate in hearings and plenary sessions remotely to curb the spread of COVID-19.