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House sets as priority P50-billion supplemental budget

The House of Representatives is ready to approve a P50-billion supplemental budget for areas affected by the Taal Volcano eruption.

READ: Congress needs to okay P10 billion more for Taal victims—Win

House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said the chamber will give “highest priority” to the approval of the supplemental budget that was increased from the P30 billion requested by the administration to augment the government’s calamity fund for the eruption.

“If need be, the House leadership is even willing to increase the amount of the supplemental budget to as much as P50 billion,” he said.

The House will await the proposal of the Department of Budget and Management regarding the supplemental budget proposed by the President and vowed to support its swift passage.

“The House is committed to provide families displaced by the explosion of Taal Volcano long-term and permanent solutions to their woes,” Romualdez said.

The chamber has decided to hold a session at Batangas City Convention Center today (Wednesday) to gain first-hand knowledge of the situation and listen to the complaints of affected residents.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, in a privilege speech Monday, urged fellow legislators to come up with “long-lasting, reliable solutions, programs, mechanisms, to address disaster and calamity.”

“We are coordinating with the concerned agencies and consult with the local government officials in the affected towns and provinces,” Cayetano said. He added the supplemental budget can help alleviate the conditions of those affected by the volcano’s eruption and enable them to recover from their economic losses.

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto echoed the proposal of his husband, Senator Ralph Recto, for the creation of Taal Commission for the relief and rehabilitation efforts in areas affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano.

Citing data from the Batangas Provincial Risk Reduction and Management Office, Santos-Recto said about 41,000 families or about 180,000 individuals are currently staying in 448 evacuation centers within and outside Batangas as of Jan. 19, 11 p.m.

“These evacuation centers must be equipped with capabilities and facilities to respond and serve the needs of our people who would be affected by disasters and calamities. This is what we call a one-stop-shop evacuation center,” she said.

Initial estimates from the National Economic and Development Authority indicate that the economic losses as a result of Taal’s eruption have reached P7.63 billion. The Department of Agriculture in Calabarzon reported that the total agricultural damage in Batangas, Cavite and some parts of Laguna has reached P3.06 billion.

READ: Ashfall destroys P578 million in coffee, other cash crops, livestock and infra

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte promised to expedite the release of all forms of help to those who suffered from the recent volcanic eruption with the immediate passage of a P30-billion supplemental budget.

As this developed, Senator Panfilo Lacson said they will have to find out how much is readily available in calamity funds (NDRRMF) of the national government and the local government units (LGU’s) affected.

LGU’s are mandated to allocate at least 5 percent of their regular sources of income including their IRA for their LDRRMF.

If unexpended since there are no calamities, the cumulative LDRRMF are kept in a special fund to be used in situations like the Taal eruption. Having said that, Batangas province, in this case, had allocated P183 million in their 2019 annual budget alone for their PDRRMF although it appears that 70 percent has been allocated for overhead expenses and only P55 million is available to deal with the calamity.

The same is true for the different municipalities and barangays within the province, Lacson said.

The President, accompanied by Senator Christopher Lawrence Go, led the distribution of relief assistance to victims of the Taal Volcano eruption in Sto. Tomas, Batangas on Monday.

The Office of the President also gave financial assistance to disaster-stricken local government units to help in their recovery and rehabilitation efforts.

Go distributed dust masks to affected LGUs for distribution to residents to protect them from the effects of the ashfall.

In his speech, Duterte said that he would ask Congress to pass a supplemental budget to reinforce the government’s efforts in response to the volcanic eruption.

READ: Rody assures victims P30-billion will be made available to them

The President also called for the construction of permanent evacuation centers in disaster-prone areas across the country.

Go filed Senate Bill No. 1228 in December last year which provides for the establishment of an evacuation center in every city, province and municipality throughout the country.

Go said it is necessary to build permanent evacuation centers nationwide to ensure the safety of Filipinos in times of natural calamities and other disasters given the geographic location of the country.

In related developments:

• The Agriculture Credit Policy Council of the Department of Agriculture has allocated P10 million to allow farmers affected by the Taal eruption to “pawn” their animals until conditions return to normal. Their animals could be pawned at 50 percent of their market value, the ACPC said, 

• Senator Sherwin Gatchalian called for a one-year moratorium on loan amortizations for residents affected by Taal’s eruption. His proposal is addressed to the Government Service Insurance System, the Social Security System and the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG Fund).

• The Anakpawis Party-list on Tuesday urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to give Taal fishers reparation as well as unconditional financial aid to small fishers affected by the eruption of the Taal Volcano. “The Department of Health’s early findings that fish products from the Taal Lake were not safe to eat added further suffering mostly to small fishers dependent on the lakes’ resources,” Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao said in a statement. ““We understand the DOH as it only run after the safety of consumers, but since the fish products from Taal Lake were declared safe to consume, the Health Department should immediately lift its advisory so that Taal Lake fishers can sell their products under the existing market price.”

• San Miguel Corp. on Tuesday said it offering free toll at the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) for both government and private vehicles involved in ongoing relief efforts, following the eruption of Taal Volcano. “This is part of our wide-ranging efforts across the San Miguel Group to help our countrymen, through our own relief operations, and by supporting and enabling others who also want to help,” said SMC president Ramon S. Ang. Last week, SMC’s tollways unit announced it was waiving toll fees for southbound government vehicles carrying volunteers, equipment, and relief goods. Private vehicles being used to deliver relief goods were also allowed to pass for free, with proper advance coordination with tollway management.

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Topics: House of Representatives , Taal Volcano , eruption , Martin Romualdez
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