P10-B calamity fund bucked

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — PARTY-LIST lawmakers yesterday expressed opposition to the P10-billion calamity fund being proposed as supplemental budget for the relief and rehabilitation efforts for victims of “Ondoy” and “Pepeng.”

Instead, Anakpawis Rep. Joel Maglungsod and Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño proposed other available resources to fund the relief and rehabilitation efforts.

The solons said that approving a supplemental budget will only increase government’s deficit.

Maglungsod said the government, for the meantime, should impose a moratorium on debt servicing.

“Ang aking panukala ay moratorium muna sa pagbabayad ng utang. Ang perang pambayad ay maaaring gamitin na calamity fund. Naniniwala ako na papayag ang ibang bilateral institution,” he said.

The government has allotted P340.12 billion to service its $63 billion private and public debts for 2010.

But Speaker Prospero Nograles said that suspending the debt service to address the needs of calamity victims is not a good suggestion.

Casiño, on the other hand, proposed that the government use either the road user’s tax, savings of the government or the special purpose funds to help typhoon victims.

He noted that the P2 billion calamity budget allocated every year was not properly dispensed and accounted for.

“We share the concern na kailangan dagdagan ang budget para sa ‘‘Ondoy’’ victims. But I think the supplemental budget is not a proper way to do it. Hindi natin nalalaman kung paano ginagastos ang P2 billion calamity fund, ito pa kayang P10 billion,” Casiño stressed.

Meanwhile, the La Liga Policy Institute said Malacañang should use part of the P140 billion savings in 2008 for the relief and rehabilitation efforts.

Roland Cabigas, managing director of LLPI, said the easiest way to finance government’s disaster response is to simply release already available funds.

LLPI serves as the secretariat of the Environment Cluster of the Alternative Budget Initiative.