THE P1-billion People’s Survival Fund remained undisbursed because the Aquino administration still had to finalize the implementing rules and regulations for Republic Act No. 10174 which was enacted into law three years ago.
“They had to establish the IRR, the guidelines on what proposals are acceptable, because they have to set the criteria on what proposals can be accepted,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview on Saturday.
“We can’s just accept any climate change mitigation project and provide funds. So they wanted to make sure that it is very streamlined, it is very standard, that the systems are transparent to enable everyone to better access the fund,” she added.
“The reason why they wanted very clear guidelines on what proposals can and cannot be accepted was precisely because of the fact that it has to facilitate equal access for everyone regardless of political affiliation,” she said.
“I think we can all, even in past calamity situations, that the national government is not selective on who it will help,” Valte said.
The IRR has already been created, Valte said, and the government will start accepting proposals for access to the fund on Oct. 28, three years after RA 10174 was signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III on Aug. 16, 2012.
Valte made the clarification after vice presidential candidate Senator Francis Escudero asked the administration to explain why the P1-billion PSF remains unreleased despite the number of climate-related disasters that have visited the country.
Escudero, who chairs the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, lamented that many LGUs remained unaware that they could access the PSF to boost their long-term mitigation and adaptation programs on climate change.
Escudero questioned on Friday why there has been no releases from the PSF since June 30.
“Why is that money still there? What is the point of having this special fund if nobody uses it? “ asked Escudero who resigned as Senate finance committee chairman due to his plan to seek higher office.
“It’s been three years since we passed the law. Has the PSF even been useful to anybody? What is stopping the government from releasing the money?” Escudero further questioned.
As local government units continue to grapple with the unmitigated impacts of extreme weather events, he called on the government to immediately release the special fund.
“You cannot just go from storm to storm, flood to flood. Climate change is behind these frequent and extreme weather events; LGUs should be more proactive in addressing the problems at the root, instead of being merely reactionary,” he said.
Escudero pointed out that the government is mandated to earmark at least P1 billion for the PSF annually; any portion of the fund that is unused will not revert to the national treasury.
Unlike in last year’s National Expenditure Program when there was no such stipulation, he said the 2016 NEP provides that the P1 billion allocated as PSF “may likewise be used to cover any deficiency in the implementation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Program, and Yolanda Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program, subject to the approval of the President of the Philippines.”
The PSF may finance local adaptation initiatives such as water resources and land management; risk insurance for farmers, agricultural workers and other stakeholders; infrastructure development and protection of natural ecosystems; monitoring of vector-borne diseases triggered by climate change; forecasting and early warning systems; contingency planning for droughts and floods; establishing and strengthening information networks to support adaptation initiatives;; and other community support programs by organizations accredited by the Climate Change Commission.
He noted local governments contend with the impacts of climate change year-round—from prolonged droughts to heavy floods.