Escudero bats for ‘Lando’ reconstruction fund in the 2016 budget

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Oct. 26 (PNA) – Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero pushed on Monday for the inclusion of rehabilitation and reconstruction fund for areas ravaged by typhoon “Lando” in the 2016 national budget to help Luzon get back on its feet after the onslaught on the strongest typhoon to hit the region in five years.

The proposed funding is similar to the Yolanda Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Fund, which became part of the 2014 General Appropriations Act upon the proposal of Escudero when he was chairman of the powerful Senate Committee on Finance.

“We can have a separate Lando Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Fund in the 2016 budget or, at the very least, we should itemize Lando-related rehabilitation activities in the Calamity Fund, which is officially called National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management or NDRRM Fund,” Escudero said.

According to the veteran lawmaker, the large-scale devastation that “Lando” left in Northern and Central Luzon regions underscores the need for a separate rehabilitation fund in the budget.

“Lando did not only alter the landscape of north Luzon, but also that of the national budget. It has created a big gash across the island,” said Escudero, the leading vice presidential candidate in the 2016 polls.

Based on official government estimates, Lando’s destruction footprint is large with over PhP7 billion in damages to farm and public works, and over 1.2 million persons affected.

“This destructive typhoon has punched a hole in our food and rice basket. We cannot just ignore the damage of Lando,” he pointed out.

Escudero said the allocations for rehabilitation efforts in next year’s spending plan may fall short considering the extent of the damage caused by “Lando.”

“It is better to have a dedicated Lando fund, whether stand alone — if it will be a Lando Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Fund — or itemized spending under the Calamity Fund so that projects, budget, location and implementation agencies are pinpointed,” Escudero explained.

It will be recalled that in the aftermath of super typhoon “Yolanda” in 2013, Escudero, then Senate Finance Committee chief, raised the Calamity Fund in the 2014 budget to PhP13 billion from PhP7.5 billion; created a separate Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Fund of PhP20 billion; and included PhP80 billion for Yolanda, Bohol earthquake and the Zamboanga siege reconstruction in the Unprogrammed Fund of what would become Republic Act No. 10633, or the General Appropriations Act of 2014.

Escudero said that funding requirements for “Lando” rehabilitation could be itemized in the PhP38.9-billion Calamity Fund for 2016, of which PhP18.9 billion will go to Yolanda Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program.

Escudero said that one potential source of funding could be the proposed capital infusion for the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) under the budget of the Department of Finance (DOF).

“As to sources of funding, there are many in the proposed national budget. In one agency alone, the DOF, we can do away with the PhP30 billion intended to boost the capital of LBP and DBP. We can cut the fat or postpone non-urgent expenditures and re-channel them to the Lando rehabilitation fund,” Escudero said. (PNA)