By: Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon.com November 25, 2013 6:12 PM
MANILA, Philippines -- Both houses of Congress have agreed to rush the passage of two measures, a supplemental budget sourced from unused pork barrel funds and a joint resolution authorizing government to use all savings from this year’s budget, for the rehabilitation of areas stricken by calamities this year.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. vowed on Monday to see the measures passed by the House of Representatives before Congress breaks on December 21.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, in a separate statement, said government could draw on some P20.8 billion in "unused disaster-related funds."
The joint resolution seeks to amend Section 63 of the 2013 General Appropriations Act to extend mandates the validity of appropriations "under the Calamity Fund and Quick Response Fund, including those sourced from savings realigned in the current year, as well as all unobligated allotments covering appropriations for maintenance and other operating expenses and capital outlays under Republic Act 10352 or the 2013 General Appropriations Act until December 31, 2014."
Normally, unobligated funds from a fiscal year revert to the National Treasury and can no longer be used in the succeeding year.
The resolution justified the use of the savings by pointing out that the series of calamities that have struck the country this year have not only affected many areas but also affected government functions, especially those directly involved with relief and rescue.
"Given the overwhelming effects of these calamities (on) the country, the national and local governments may not be able to obligate funds necessary to fully implement the programs and projects specified in the Fiscal Year 2013 General Appropriations Act before the end of the fiscal year," the joint resolution said.
"The unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) and Capital Outlays (CO) for FY 2013 are urgently needed for the implementation of priority programs and projects, such as the maintenance, reconstruction, repair and rehabilitation of schools, hospitals, roads and bridges, and other buildings and essential facilities as well as other expenditures required for the operations of the national and local governments," it added.
The P14.6-billion supplemental budget bill filed in the House is intended to augment the calamity fund and will be drawn from the balance of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, or congressional pork barrel, which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional.
The supplemental budget will cover the "rehabilitation services to communities/areas affected by man-made and natural calamities, and repair, reconstruction of permanent structures, including other capital expenditures for disaster operations and rehabilitation activities."
The bill mandates the Department of Budget and Management to release funds directly to the implementing agencies with the approval of the President, who will consider the recommendations of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.