A BICOLANO lawmaker has called on the Congress to consider setting aside a far bigger amount of calamity funds in the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA), with a significant part earmarked for relief and rehabilitation work in Bicol and other areas devastated by the weekend onslaught of what is now considered to be the world’s most potent tropical cyclone this year.
“The Senate and the House of Representatives could look into realigning non-priority outlays in the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) with an eye to augmenting calamity funds for the hardest hit areas of super typhoon Rolly, which is regarded as the strongest land-falling tropical depression ever to hit the Philippines,” said Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte.
“I am appealing to my fellow lawmakers to look into possibly realigning for calamity funds a portion of proposed GAB allocations for programs and projects other than those intended for coronavirus (COVID-19) response, given the great damage wrought by super typhoon Rolly on infrastructure, agriculture and business in CamSur and other provinces in Bicol and Southern Luzon,” added Villafuerte.
The former governor said local government units (LGUs) badly hit by the super typhoon are most likely in need of calamity funds this early as their allocations for such purpose have probably been depleted already because of the COVID-19-related initiatives in their respective localities.
Villafuerte said that Camarines Sur, for instance, “needs all the aid and other resources it can get from both the government and the private sector as it is reeling from the triple whammy of super typhoons Rolly and Quinta, which struck the province in the previous weekend, and the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The executive and legislative branches need to work together in getting the cyclone-battered provinces back on their feet at the soonest time possible,” he said, “as the absence of such a recovery plan would be a drag on the national government’s efforts for the domestic economy to bounce back from the fallout of the coronavirus-induced global health and economic crises.”
Both chambers of the 18th Congress are due to reopen on November 16, but the Senate has committed to start its session a week ahead on November 9 so senators could start working on the House-transmitted 2021 GAB for 2021.
Villafuerte welcomed reports that the Senate finance committee chaired by Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara is considering increasing the calamity funds for 2021, and expressed the hope that other senators would agree to Angara’s proposal.
“We are currently studying the possibility of supplementing the calamity funds for 2021,” Angara was quoted as saying in a media report this week. “We are looking for fund sources for realignment at the moment.”
He said that Camarines Sur’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan has passed Resolution No. 235 declaring a state calamity so the provincial LGU could use available public funds for relief and other forms of assistance to typhoon-struck families.
Although Catanduanes and Albay have been reported as the worst hit provinces, Villafuerte said CamSur actually bore the brunt of the super typhoon as it battered the province last weekend for 13 hours straight, with winds reaching 225 kilometers per hour (kph) and gustiness up to 310 kph at its height.
Preliminary damage report released by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) secretariat bared that super typhoon Rolly affected 251,000 families, 24,458 farmers and 34,350 fisherfolk in the province’s 1,036 barangays; destroyed P752 million-worth of crops; and damaged P1.9 billion-worth of infrastructure like roads, bridges, dams, irrigation systems, school buildings and government facilities.
Villafuerte earlier proposed to President Duterte the creation of a special task force to take charge of rehabilitating Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Albay and other areas following the ravages of the one-week-apart onslaught of super typhoons Quinta and Rolly.