THE government is not keen on spending this year’s P20-billion calamity funds, at least not at the moment, says presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who finds it prudent to spend it as the need arises.
Earlier reports hinted at the government’s failure to tap P25 billion in calamity funds under the 2020 and 2021 national budget, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic — because the Office of the President has not acted on it.
Roque, however, refuted such reports adding that of the P22 billion calamity funds under the 2020 budget, P20.77 billion had been approved for spending by the Office of the President. As for this year’s P20 billion calamity fund, the Palace mouthpiece said that it’s too early in the year to use it.
“Ang balance lang po nila sa 2020 calamity fund is P2 billion. At nasa Mayo 2021 pa lang po tayo. So iyong budget sa 2021, siyempre po nandiyan pa iyan dahil hindi naman dapat gastusin lahat ‘no dahil baka mamaya iyong ibang aberyang mangyayari sa 2021 ay wala na po tayong pondo ‘no,” Roque told reporters during the press briefing.
He declined to delve into details of the calamity-related projects approved by the President.
In defending the government’s move not to touch those funds, Roque said that the P20 billion calamity fund under the 2021 budget was not even enough to cover the P31-billion requirement for the projects designed to mitigate the effects the super typhoons that hit the country last year.
He, however, claimed that P8.23 billion of the calamity fund is already being processed for the use of these projects.
“P20 billion ang budget [for calamity fund in 2021] inclusive of P13 billion regular National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF); five billion Marawi Rehabilitation Fund; two billion insurance premium for government assets against calamities. Ang naaprubahan po ng OP ay P2,818,792,000 [so far, excluding insurance],” Roque said.
“So it appears that the figure reported was bloated; that the calamity funds are not being used. We are processing the P8.23 billion for the projects already in the pipeline, and the identified needs for typhoons Quinta, Rolly, Ulysses is at P31 billion. So huwag po kayong mag-alala, magagastos po lahat iyan,” he added.
“Releasing this has to be in response to a specific natural disaster and subject to OP approval. Of course, there is paperwork, but you cannot spend government funds without complying with Commission on Audit requirements,” Roque concluded.