Lacson puzzled where did P4B slashed from calamity funds go

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Sen. Panfilo Lacson

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo Lacson on Friday  admitted it is hard to trace the whereabouts of the P4 billion slashed from the Senate-proposed P20 billion calamity funds for  this year.

“What was indicated in the Senate version was P20B. After the Bicam, it became P16B  and P4B was cut,” related Lacson.

“I am still tracing it now.  Where did the P4B go? Why was it reduced in the Bicam? ” Lacson said.

Lacson  said it is difficult to determine where the cut go since only the two chairpersons of the finance committees of both Houses talked.

“Tapos mag-pool sila, magbabawas kung saan-saan, tapos ito ngayon kung saan-saan napunta,” he said adding “there’s a provision that the lifespan ng calamity fund will be until 5 years.”

The unspent funds, he said, will go to the special fund that will also be used calamities and disasters.

He said that after 5 years, if not used, it will be returned to the National Treasury.

As of November 30 last year, Senator  Sonny Angara said there was still 700 billion of unutilized funds because of the late passage of the 2019 budget.

Of the calamity fund, he said almost P7 billion  funds are unutilized also.

“Billions lodged in various agencies were not used so that was a consideration in setting 2020 levels,” said Angara, chair of the Senate finance committee chaiperson.

Incidentally, he said much of those funds are still available and if declared by the executive as savings, can be spent to help the victims of the eruption and other calamities.

Meanwhile, Lacson said the Office of the President (OP) should open an office that would manage disaster resilience and crisis management instead of creating a separate department for government’s response for calamities.

Lacson, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, led a hearing on the proposed measure to create a disaster response department in November 11 last year.

The proposal to create an agency on disaster response was pushed following the displacement of residents in Cavite and Batangas after Taal Volcano’s unrest. 

“I  think a permanent office that is under the OP, not necessarily a department so as not to further bloat the bureaucracy),” Lacson said.

He said establishing new departments might create lapses in “policy decisions” despite the proposal to fix government’s rightsizing.

“While we have rightsizing, we always create a new department. Then that would not synchronize the policy decisions)… I think an office under the OP should do the job,”  he said.

Lacson was reacting to the proposal of Senator Grace Poe for the creation of a new department that will focus on disaster resilience and emergency management.

In his proposal, Lacson said the agency will “mobilize personnel from Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Public Works and Highways” to address reconstruction and rehabilitation during calamities.

The senator also noted that a “dedicated office” under the presidential office should be put up to improve response to disasters, citing lapses in response when Supertyphoon Yolanda struck the country in 2013, five-month siege in Marawi in 2017 and recent earthquakes in Mindanao. (STACY ANG/IAMIGO/Currentph.com)

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