MANILA — Sen. Chiz Escudero has asked the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) to simplify their process in order to expedite the release of the calamity funds to local government units (LGUs) needing immediate relief following natural and man-made disasters.
Attending the hearing of the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change on March 14 that tackled the oil spill caused by the ill-fated MT Empress Princess tanker which sank off the coast of Mindoro Island recently, Escudero stressed the need for the speedy release of financial assistance to affected LGUs to help them cope with the situation.
Per the report of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) at the hearing, a total of 23,005 families or 108,162 persons residing in 118 barangays in Oriental Mindoro and Palawan have been affected by the oil spill to date.
Meanwhile, some 8,387 families or 30,226 individuals living in four barangays in Caluya in Antique also bear the brunt of the disaster.
The PCG further reported that more than 55 kilometers of coastline have been affected in the provinces of Mindoro, Palawan, and Antique.
“Something must be done on the part of the OCD-NDRRMC. You must be able to find a way to hasten your procedures insofar as giving assistance is concerned. Ang laki-laki ng pondo ninyo sa calamity fund, hindi naman nakakarating agad sa mga apektado dahil sa dami at hirap mag-comply sa mga requirements ninyo,” Escudero told the NDRRMC representatives at the hearing.
Responding to Escudero, OCD Deputy Administrator Bernardo Alejandro IV said the NDRRMC is actually in the process of reviewing Memorandum Circular 45 s. 2017 containing the guidelines for the request and release of calamity funds.
The veteran legislator then asked Alejandro for a definite timeline as to the release of the streamlined process and the latter committed to releasing the revised guidelines by end of April.
Escudero said the bureaucratic red tape cannot go on and the LGUs affected by the oil spill should not have the same experience as Sorsogon had when it was devastated by Typhoon Tisoy back in December 2019 when he was still governor.
Sorsogon received financial assistance from the calamity fund only in 2022 — three years after the typhoon struck.
The senator also asked the NDRRMC to include in the revised memorandum circular a retroactive clause stating that the new and streamlined procedures will also apply to previous and past calamities.
“This is a corrective memorandum circular, anyway. And legally, you can apply it retroactively, too, to previous and other claims filed or made by affected citizens and all local government units” Escudero pointed out.