Senator Bam Aquino expressed support behind a Senate resolution urging Malacañang to declare unused Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for 2013 as savings and to use it for relief and rehabilitation of areas devastated by several calamities.
The Senate on Tuesday passed Resolution No. 14, formally abandoning their PDAF for 2013, thereby creating savings which the government can use as calamity fund.
Aquino, one of the first to suspend the use of the PDAF of his office, said that the unused PDAF could augment the government’s depleting calamity fund, which now stands at P1.37 billion.
“Right now, the government needs all the help it can get. This resolution is the Senate’s way of doing its share to help ease the public’s burden,” Aquino added.
“With the government already neck-deep in problems regarding calamities, the remaining unused PDAF, which amounts to more or less P3.18 billion, could go a long way to help the victims of the earthquake in Bohol and Cebu and recent typhoons Labuyo and Santi,” Sen. Aquino said.
Aquino earlier had called for the creation of a P15-billion calamity fund to support rehabilitation of areas that were heavily damaged by the magnitude-7.2 earthquake that hit Central Visayas on October 15. Later, Malacanang announced that it would earmark P20 billion for rehabilitation.
“I laud Malacanang’s efforts to set aside the necessary funds for the rehabilitation and repair of the affected areas. In any case, calamity funds are a better place for the people’s money than the PDAF,” Sen. Aquino stressed.
Aside from the recent earthquake, several areas in the country had been devastated by typhoons “Labuyo” and “Santi” in recent weeks, while Zamboanga City was left in tatters after an assault by a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Senator Bam Aquino urges Cebu and Bohol traders to consider the welfare of those affected by the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that hit Central Visayas on Tuesday, and to strictly follow the price freeze that is currently imposed on those areas.
“We should not be taking advantage of the victims who have already suffered enough due to the earthquake,” the lawmaker said after receiving reports that some traders are selling basic goods at a higher price despite the existing price freeze.
“In fact, businessmen who are financially capable should even help the government’s relief efforts,” added Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce, and Entrepreneurship.
At the same time, Aquino also called on the public to immediately report violators of the price freeze to authorities.
“We ask the public to help us monitor and report unscrupulous businessmen who are taking advantage of the situation and thinking only of profit,” Sen. Aquino emphasized.
Aquino said the public can contact the Department of Trade and Industry’s local offices in Bohol (038-501-8260),Cebu (032-253-2631 and 412-1863) and Region 7 (032-255-0036/255-0037) for their complaints.
The DTI recently implemented a price freeze in quake-damaged areas in Bohol and Cebu, under Republic Act No. 7581 or the Price Act.
With this, the prices of basic goods in an area placed under a state of calamity must remain at prevailing levels for no more than 60 days.
Price control covers the following basic products: rice; corn; bread; fresh, dried and canned fish and other marine products; fresh pork, beef and poultry meat; fresh eggs; fresh and processed milk.
Also included in the price freeze are fresh vegetables; roots crops; coffee; sugar; cooking oil; salt; laundry soap; detergents; firewood; charcoal; candles; and drugs classified as essential by the Department of Health.
A fine of up to P1,000,000 and a maximum 10-year jail sentence await violators of the Price Act.
Recently, President Aquino signed Republic Act 10623, expanding the coverage of the Price Act to include bottled water, fruits, instant noodles, kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) but DTI has yet to draft the implementing guidelines.
Due to the urgency of the situation, Senator Bam Aquino said that part of the country’s calamity fund for 2013 could be used to cover part of his proposed P15 billion rehabilitation fund, so that recovery of provinces devastated by the magnitude 7.2 earthquake can start immediately.
“Dahil sa pangangailangan, ngayon pa lang ay puwede nanghugutin ang bahagi ng rehabilitation mula sa kasalukuyang calamity fund upang hindi na mag-antay pa ng susunod na taon para sa rehab fund,” Sen. Aquino explained.
The senator said the remainder of the P15-B rehabilitation fund could be included and sourced from next year’s budget.
Aquino is batting for the inclusion of a P15-billion fund in the 2014 national budget, which will be used to rehabilitate Bohol, Cebu, and other nearby provinces from the devastation brought by Tuesday’s strong tremor.
“Ang nasabing pondo ay ilalaan sa rehabilitasyon ng maraming imprastruktura na nasira sa Bohol at Cebu, kabilang ang 18 tulay, mgapampublikong ospital, malalaking kalsada; farm-to-market roads; at iba pang imprastruktuka na nasira ng lindol,” Aquino emphasized.
In addition, Aquino said that part of the funds will be used to repair and rehabilitate public schools destroyed by the earthquake.
The funds will also be utilized to repair centuries-old churches in Cebu and Bohol, including three national heritage sites in Loboc,Dauis, and Baclayon
“Maliban pa rito, ilalaan din ang ilang bahagi ng pondopara suportahan ang mga livelihood at mga negosyo na naapektuhan ng pagyanigupang muli silang makatayo sa sariling paa,” the senator added.
This way, Aquino said, the provinces affected by the earthquake can more quickly get up on their feet through the help of a revitalized economy.
If approved, this is not the first time that a special fund will be included in the national budget for the rehabilitation of provinces destroyed by natural calamities.
In 2007, then-senator Joker Arroyo moved for the inclusion of a P10 billion fund in the national budget under the Calamity Assistance and Rehabilitation Effort (Care) to victims of typhoons “Milenyo,”“Reming”, and “Seniang” that hit the country in late 2006.
Photo by Robert Michael Poole via Twitter (sourced from GMA Network)