Newspaper’s figure on unspent calamity fund ‘bloated’: Palace

Newspaper’s figure on unspent calamity fund ‘bloated’: Palace

MANILA – Malacañang on Monday described as “bloated” a newspaper’s report that PHP25.14 billion in the 2020 and 2021 National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Funds (NDRRMF) or calamity funds remain unutilized as of March.

“Parang bloated po iyong nasa pahayagan na hindi po ginagastos na national calamity funds (It looks like the figure on unspent calamity funds is bloated),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

Citing Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Roque said calamity funds may only be released “as the need arises” with endorsement from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the go signal of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Iyong natural calamities daw po ay hindi nangyayari sa isang beses lamang so kinakailangan i-release po iyan kapag humingi po in response to a particular disaster or natural calamity (Natural calamities don’t happen one time so we need to release it in response to a particular disaster or natural calamity),” he said.

He said it is too early to spend all the calamity funds since there are seven more months remaining in the year.

“Nasa Mayo pa lang po tayo, so iyong budget sa 2021, siyempre po nandiyan pa iyan dahil hindi naman dapat gastusin lahat ‘no dahil baka mamaya iyong ibang aberyang mangyayari sa 2021 ay wala na po tayong pondo ‘no (We are still in May, so the budget for 2021, of course it is still there because we don’t have to spend everything because, maybe later, there would be other problem in 2021, we won’t have the funds),” he said.

Based on data from the NDRRMC, Roque said the total calamity funds for 2020 reached PHP22,794,698,000, including PHP16 billion for NDRRMC. The Office of the President (OP) approved PHP20,771,925,000 while the balance is around PHP2 billion.

On the other hand, he said the 2021 calamity funds amounted to PHP20 billion inclusive of PHP13 billion for the NDRRMC; PHP5 billion for the rehabilitation of Marawi City; and PHP2 billion insurance premium for government assets against calamities. The OP approved PHP2,818,792,000 while its currently balance is PHP15,181,027,000.

“Iyong mga figures na binasa ko po, nagpapakita na wala naman pong delay na masyado ‘no. Siyempre po may paperwork, alam ninyo naman talaga iyan, ganiyan talaga sa gobyerno, hindi ka puwedeng gumastos-gastos nang walang compliance with [Commission on Audit] requirements (The figures I read show that there is not much delay. Of course there’s paperwork, you know it, it’s really like that in government, you can’t just spend and spend without compliance with COA requirements),” he added

Roque, meanwhile, assured that the calamity funds will not remain untouched forever.

“Siyempre po hindi gagastusin lahat dahil kinakailangang mag-save ng pondo para sa darating na calamity funds at iyon nga po ‘no, marami ring mga kinakailangan pa para sa Quinta, Rolly at Ulysses. So huwag po kayong mag-alala, magagastos po lahat iyan (Of course, not everything will be spent because it is necessary to save funds for the coming calamity funds and that’s it, there are also many requirements for [typhoon] Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses. So don’t worry, it will get spent),” he added.

He also shrugged off the remark made by former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia that the Duterte government lacked a “sense of urgency in responding to and managing the pandemic.”

“Sa tingin ko naman po dahil lahat po tayo ay mayroong mga kamag-anak na pupuwedeng magkasakit, ako nagkasakit na, hindi po naman tama na may lack of sense of urgency dahil lahat tayo nais natin is to spare as many of our family and friends from this vicious virus (I think because we all have relatives who can get sick, I’m already sick, it’s not right to have a lack of sense of urgency because we all want to spare as many of our family and friends from this vicious virus),” he said.

In a radio interview on Monday, NDRRMC Spokesperson Mark Timbal clarified that only PHP6 billion remained out of the entire PHP20 billion set under this year’s calamity fund.

“May remaining na lang tayo na PHP6 billion for activities of 2021. Kapag medyo naging aktibo naman ang ating disaster situation, it’s possible we will be seeking for augmentation funding para tuloy ang suporta natin for affected communities (We only have PHP6 billion remaining for activities of 2021. When the disaster situation becomes active, it’s possible we will be seeking for augmentation funding so that we can continue to support affected communities),” he said. (PNA)

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