By Sammy F. Martin
MANILA, Nov. 19 (PNA) — House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said on Tuesday President Benigno S. Aquino III now needs to ask Congress to approve a supplemental budget to augment the draining fund to fast-track rehabilitation of provinces heavily hit by typhoon “Yolanda.”
Belmonte said this after he noticed the wordings “return to the coffers of the government,” referring to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) which was subject of the temporary restraining order of the Supreme Court.
“If the SC is claiming that the P12 billion 2nd tranche of 2013 PDAF must go to the National Treasury, then it means that the President needs to ask for supplemental budget,” Belmonte told House reporters in a press conference.
Belmonte reminded that the House of Representatives had already decided to forego PDAF and realign it to the rehabilitation fund for the Yolanda-affected provinces in the Visayas before the SC handed its decision.
He said they are eyeing to file a supplemental budget to address the needed funding even as he admitted that they still need to have the copy of the SC decision to assess the grounds imposed by the highest court in declaring PDAF as unconstitutional.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone expressed his disappointment on the decision of the High Tribunal.
He said that the news would greatly affect the “Yolanda” victims,” adding that the SC should have delayed its decision amid the relief and rehabilitation efforts in the Visayas.
“So kailangan pa ng supplemental budget para magamit sa relief operations,” Evardone said in a chance interview.
Cebu Rep. Gabriel Luis Quisumbing said he respects the decision of the Supreme Court declaring the unconstitutionality of PDAF.
“We are confident that the national agencies can continue to address the needs of our respective constituencies, particularly with infrastructure and social services. It is more important than ever to ensure that we pass a national budget that serves the needs of every Filipino and as vice chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, I can assure our nation that our President and our Speaker have issued marching orders to guarantee that transparency and equity are our ultimate goals in the budgeting process” declared Quisumbing.
He further expressed support for the passage of a supplemental budget that will focus on the recent calamities that have affected the nation.
“As a Cebu legislator and vice-chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, we shall ensure that the needs of central and northern Cebu, which have also been heavily hit by typhoon Yolanda, will be addressed by this supplemental budget,” he added. (PNA)