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Senators back Velasco’s proposal to hike calamity funds

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Senators on Monday agreed with House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s suggestion to increase calamity funds under the 2021 General Appropriations Bill containing the P4.5 trillion national budget following the series of typhoons that devastated several provinces in the country.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sonny Angara said hiking the calamity funds would not be a contentious issue in terms of the 2021 national budget.

“[It] Shouldn’t be a problem to agree on that or maybe even higher given recent events,” Angara said in a text message.

Earlier, Angara said increasing the calamity funds to at most P21 billion is one of the priorities in the 2021 national budget.

Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson also reiterated the need to assist the local government units that were greatly affected by the recent typhoons.

“On top of the P5 billion to augment the calamity fund or [National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund, the LGUs hardest hit by typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses must directly be given an additional budget to allow them to get back on their feet the soonest possible time,” he said in a text message.

To recall, Lacson, during the plenary deliberations of the 2021 GAB, manifested that he would submit amendments to the Senate Finance Committee to realign P20 billion for the Special Purpose Fund (ALGU-LGSF).

The lawmaker said this ALGU-LGSF is specifically for “post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts to be undertaken by the concerned LGUs, including but not limited to the construction of evacuation and quarantine facilities.”

“[The Department of Interior and Local Government] has been required to provide my office a list of the itemized [Programs/Activities/Projects] to be funded by the P20 billion as a requirement for the utilization of the said amount,” he said.

On Sunday, Velasco said he would seek at least P5 billion increase in the calamity fund under the 2021 budget at the bicameral conference to help the hardly-hit provinces recover as soon as possible.

Marinduque, Velasco’s congressional district, is one of the provinces devastated by the recent typhoons.

“Given the tremendous damage caused by these successive strong typhoons, it is imperative that we augment the calamity fund in next year’s spending plan. We have to help our people rebuild their lives and their communities,” he said in a statement.

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