President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday assured the victims of Taal Volcano’s eruption
that the national government would provide funds to help them recover after the explosion destroyed P3.2 billion worth of agricultural products and livestock.
READ: Ashfall destroys P578 million in coffee, other cash crops, livestock and infra
Saying that funds will be given up to the “last centavo,” the President said he would also ask Congress, dominated by his allies, to allocate a supplemental budget worth P30 billion to help Taal’s victims, since the fund for them was not included in the 2020 national appropriations.
“I’d like to assure [the people] the Department of Agriculture will provide agricultural assistance since we understand and acknowledge that this is one of your main sources of restoration,” Duterte said in his speech.
“The government has money to help. It’s just a question of distribution of assistance, particularly money. We will plan that,” he added in his visit in Batangas
on Monday afternoon.
He also vowed that his administration will provide housing programs to thousands of displaced families, noting that government workers are willing to help since it has been professionalized.
The President also said he will ask the National Treasury to release funds if the government budget would not be sufficient.
Meanwhile, a government official said local government units in the CALABARZON region are running short of calamity funds to address the problems caused by Taal‘s eruption on Jan. 12.
READ: Duterte assures funds enough to help victims
Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III of the Department of the Interior and Local Government said House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is set to discuss the possible allocation of additional funding for Batangas province, which has nearly “depleted” its calamity budget.
“We have received information on the ground that many of the local government units have now a depleted risk reduction and management fund,” Densing said.
Duterte earlier instructed Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado to fast-track the release of funds for the relief and rehabilitation efforts especially in Batangas, which has been hardest hit by Taal’s eruption.
Avisado told the President that as a standard operating procedure, the towns of Batangas should first utilize their respective calamity budgets before the national government can provide additional funding.
Densing expressed confidence that funds from the Office of the President will be processed quickly if needed.
“They can process it within 24 hours, especially in times where there is a calamity,” he said.
Since additional allocation from Congress and Office of the President has yet to be released, Densing encouraged local officials to go to the provincial government for funding.
The 2020 General Appropriations Act allocates a total of P16 billion for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund.
Of this amount, P3.3 billion goes to aid and relief and rehabilitation services to communities affected by calamities, and P4.2 billion is earmarked for repair and reconstruction of permanent structures including capital expenditures.
In his speech, Duterte also urged the Congress to allocate funds for the construction of rehabilitation centers in disaster-prone areas.
Among the provinces where massive evacuation centers are needed are Samar, Isabela, Cagayan, and Batangas, he said.
READ: Taal in mind, Duterte wants calamity-proof evac centers
Duterte also distributed relief goods to evacuees, similar to what he did during his first meeting with “bakwits” in Batangas City last week.
Earlier in the day, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go said the President distributed P5 million each in financial aid to Lipa City, Sto. Tomas City, Mabini, Agoncillo, Tanauan, San Luis, San Jose, and Batangas City.
An additional P10 million was also given to the Batangas provincial government, Go said.
The government is more than ready to help evacuees who might be affected by the prolonged unrest of Taal Volcano in Batangas, an official said Monday.
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council spokesman Mark Cashean Timbal made the statement when asked if the government had more than enough resources to provide evacuees with aid should Taal Volcano’s unrest drag on.
“The NDRRMC is ready for the possibility of a protracted displacement... so far the LGU stockpiles are sufficient, the regional DRRM council, as well as the NDRRMC’s relief stocks, are still sufficient,” he told the Philippine News Agency.
In related developments:
• Government agencies and the private sector have provided portalets that can be used by displaced families affected by Taal Volcano eruption, but an official admitted that more toilets are still needed by the evacuees.
“Considering the sheer number of the affected population, more portalets are needed to ensure sanitation,” Office of Civil Defense Assistant Secretary Casiano Monilla said.
• All military engineering units are ready to build latrines to prevent a possible health disaster in various evacuation centers housing thousands of families severely affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano on Jan. 12, an official said.
Newly-appointed Southern Luzon Command chief Major General Antonio Parlade Jr. made the statement in an interview at Fernando Air Base, Lipa City, Batangas, on Sunday.
“All engineering units in SOLCOM are ready to construct latrines and comfort rooms, and they are just waiting for the details and the decision of the Department of Health on where these facilities will be constructed,” he said.
• Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has warned the public against unscrupulous people who are using the generosity of others to steal donations intended for the victims of Taal Volcano’s eruption.
“It is very heartwarming to learn that people are volunteering for rescue and relief operations,” she said.
But let us also exercise some due diligence to avoid sending our donations to fly-by-night organizations and shadowy individuals.”
Timbal said they do not see any scenario like the government running out of stocks of relief goods and aid materials.
“We do not see the possibility of a shortage happening. We would still be able to provide the needs of our evacuees even if the situation in Taal Volcano drags on,” he added.
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