Senator Christopher “Bong” Go co-authored a resolution passed in the Senate urging the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to release some P83-billion in its coffers to aid typhoon victims and other Filipinos still reeling from the effects of Covid-19.
Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate Resolution No. 574 urges the DSWD to fast-track the disbursement of the said funds as Filipinos “need it now more than ever,” he said in the plenary.
“Imagine, P83 billion just lying unspent in the government coffers,” Zubiri added.
What can P83 billion do?
Bong Go said “It can provide urgent financial assistance to affected farmers,” he said, referring to agriculture workers whose crops were ravaged by a series of typhoons in the last quarter of 2020.
Senator Go added that he, himself, has visited typhoon victims and personally witnessed their struggles to recover from the recent calamities. “Sa katunayan ay patuloy pa rin po ang pagbibigay natin ng tulong sa mga lugar na nasalanta ng bagyo,” he added.
Go acknowledged the efforts of DSWD for its continuing public service to Filipinos amid the recent typhoons and ongoing pandemic. He, however, asked them to closely monitor and expedite the release of the much-needed funds and services to help Filipinos recover from these challenges.
“To the DSWD, ang paalala ko lang po, mas paigtingin pa po natin ito at tutukan. Siguraduhing maibigay agad ang serbisyo sa taumbayan,” he urged.
Other senators also showed their support for the resolution.
About 75 percent of the unreleased P83 billion is earmarked for the Pantawid Pamilya Program, said Sen. Imee Marcos who sponsored the DSWD’s 2021 budget in plenary.
“DSWD wanted to clarify this was the last tranche to be paid out. The remaining 25 percent of the P83 billion was allocated for the agency’s supplemental feeding program, livelihood projects and social pension,” she said.
“They have been so far delayed or unable to distribute it… That’s their explanation,” Marcos said.
Sen. Richard Gordon saw no need to hold the passage of the resolution, noting that “most probably, the victims of these disasters are also recipients” of the Pantawid Pamilya Program.
“I don’t mind sharing this [fund],” he said.
“But we want to check first which areas we are going to use it for. You may have money but if you spent it in a very haphazard manner, we are not helping anybody. The Senate should ask executive agencies first “what is their plan? So that those who need it more get get to it first,” Gordon added.
In a press release, the DSWD explained that the unspent PhP83- billion balance from its 2020 budget that was raised during a Senate budget hearing have been programmed for the implementation of various programs, activities, and projects for the remaining months of this year.
These include the PhP40 billion allotted for Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps); PhP2.1 billion for its Supplementary Feeding Program for Children; PhP2.6 billion for its Sustainable Livelihood Program; PhP3.9 billion for Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens; and PhP13.7 billion for Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation Program.
Meanwhile, Go has appealed again to the national government to assist local government units also affected by Typhoon Ulysses by augmenting their calamity funds equivalent to 1% of their respective Internal Revenue Allotment.
“I reiterate my appeal, tulungan po natin ‘yung mga typhoon-affected LGUs na wala na pong calamity fund para po magamit nila pambili ng pagkain, pambili po ng gamot, at pangtulong sa ating mga kababayan na nasalanta nitong mga nakaraang bagyo. Lalo na po ‘yung mga LGUs na tinamaan ng bagyong Rolly at Ulysses,” he added.
According to the Senator, most of the calamity funds of LGUs have been depleted due to the unexpected pandemic caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that continues to affect the lives of Filipinos.