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Legarda decries huge unused calamity funds

The Senate finance committee yesterday slammed the government for spending only a pittance from the R15.73 billion Quick Response Fund (QRF) and calamity funds that Congress approved for 2015.

Sen. Loren Legarda, also the chairwoman of the Senate climate change committee, said this sad fact makes life more difficult for calamity victims and does not speak well of the management styles of government agencies.

“With such huge unused funds, there should no longer be homeless typhoon “Yolanda’’ (in November two years ago) survivors and victims of 2015 disasters, including the recent typhoon “Lando’’ who should have been served with post-disaster basic needs, at the very least,’’ she said.

“There is no reason that relief and rehabilitation programs would be delayed. We cannot allow the approval (by Congress) of funds only to remain idle while many disaster victims and climate change refugees live in deplorable conditions. We allocate resources to aid the most needy of our people,’’ she added.

Legarda’s committee is scheduled to submit for floor debate the Senate version of the Malacañang-drafted proposed 2016 R3.002 trillion national budget when it resumes regular session today after a three-week recess.

The lady senator said it is “an injustice to allow disaster victims to suffer more when the government actually has the resources to alleviate their suffering now.’’

The calamity funds and QRFs are remitted to specific government agencies tasked to preposition good and services in preparation for an impending typhoon and to provide speedy assistance to victims.

“Based on the status report of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on the releases of fund, balance of the 2015 NDRRM Fund or calamity fund is R10.280 billion as of September 30, 2015. On top of that, we still have so much left QRF amounting to R5.458 Billion. We have 81 percent of the QRF unutilized. Does this mean that these agencies have been able to provide for relief and other post-disaster needs of those who were affected by the 11 typhoons that entered the country before “Lando?” Legarda asked. (MARIO CASAYURAN)