PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — FORMER Senate President and Liberal Party (LP) Chairman Frank Drilon urged Congress to immediately set up a P10-billion “Bangon Panay Rehabilitation Fund” to rebuild Panay, whose economy was devastated by Typhoon Frank last month.
Drilon, a native of Iloilo City, also urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to certify as urgent the bill to enact a supplemental budget for 2008 that will create the Panay rehabilitation fund when Congress reopens on July 28.
“It would be tragic if Panay Island suffers a food crisis since it has been traditionally the food basket of the Visayas,” Drilon said. “We should now look beyond relief operations that are only criticized for obvious political gimmickry. We should now rehabilitate Panay Island to avert hunger and starvation and put Panay back on its feet.”
Drilon said his proposed “Bangon Panay Rehabilitation Fund” was similar to the establishment of the P10-billion Bicol Calamity Assistance and Rehabilitation Effort (CARE) which Congress enacted as part of the 2007 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and the P1.75-billion Guimaras oil spill rehab fund in 2006.
Drilon explained that the national government has enough funds, noting that it was currently enjoying huge increases in the collection of the Expanded Value Added-Tax (VAT) because of the recent spiraling increases in the prices of petroleum products.
“We need this Bangon Panay Rehabilitation Fund badly.” Drilon said. “We had resorted to the same initiative several times in the past, like in the case of Bicol when it was hit hard by typhoons.
We also did the same for the Guimaras folks when they were hit by an oil spill in 2006, crippling their economic life for quite a long time.”
Drilon said the P10-billion Bangon Panay Rehabilitation Fund would create employment opportunities, stimulate economic activities and repair basic infrastructure in the region. “Right now, Panay Island needs more than just dole outs. We need a comprehensive rehabilitation program,” Drilon said.
Even before Typhoon Frank hit the region in June 21 and 22, Drilon recalled, Panay Island was already suffering from “a double whammy” due to the sudden increases in the prices of food and oil products. “These means there will be more hungry families. We need a concrete rehab plan to put Panay Island back on its feet,” he said.
Earlier, officials warned that food will be in short supply on Panay Island over the next few weeks after massive floods brought by Typhoon Frank devastated farm lands and wiped out livestock in the region. Drilon noted that of the 14 regions ravaged by Typhoon Frank, the two worst hit were Aklan and Iloilo.