Taal funding rushed

January 21, 2020

We could not put it simpler: Lives and livelihood cannot be put on hold.

There is no way of putting both on suspended animation indefinitely.

That much they all agreed on with hardly any opposition, equivocation or reservation.

They all came on board for the hapless people of Batangas, and once again the House leadership shined like a beacon of hope and deliverance for the victims of Taal’s eruption.

The leadership of the House of Representatives wasted no time in committing themselves to give the “highest priority” to President  Duterte’s request for Congress to fast-track the approval of aP30-billion supplemental budget for areas affected by Taal Volcano’s eruption.

Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said the House leadership is even willing to increase the amount of the supplemental budget to as much as P50 billion to help the affected residents due to the recent phreatic eruption.

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

“We are going to coordinate with the Palace to get the full details of the supplemental budget,” he added.

Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero also backed the President’s request for the appropriation of an additional P30 billion for communities affected by the Taal eruption.

“The P16-billion national disaster risk reduction and management fund, formerly calamity fund, in the national budget for this year is hardly enough even for this one calamity that has visited our people in Cavite and Batangas,” Romero said.

He noted that of the P16 billion, P3.5 billion is reserved for the rehabilitation of Marawi City, while P5 billion is allocated for communities devastated by last year’s earthquakes in Mindanao.

He said the President can only use P7.5 billion of this year’s calamity fund for disasters.

“Aside from approving whatever amount the President requests for Cavite and Batangas, Congress has to augment the calamity fund. We have to give the Chief Executive enough money to respond to calamities,” Romero said.

During his opening speech at the resumption of the session on Monday, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano proposed to hold the plenary session on today at the Batangas City Convention Center in a bid to listen “directly” to the victims of the Taal Volcano eruption.

“The proposal is that we move to become a Committee of the Whole and listen to different representatives from all over Laguna, Cavite, Batangas; listen to the first responders, listen to those who are directly affected,” Cayetano said.

Romualdez then formally raised the motion on the conduct of the session in Batangas City, which was subsequently approved by the plenary.

Cayetano said he has already tasked the House Committee on Disaster Management, chaired by Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, to consolidate all efforts for the recovery and rehabilitation of the affected people from Batangas, Laguna, and Cavite.

“We want to come up with a feasible, strategic and comprehensive rehabilitation plan and assign whether it is one person, one agency or one department that will be fully accountable,” he said.

Cayetano earlier promised that the House would fast-track the passage of a measure proposing the creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience.