Press Release
October 26, 2015


Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero wants the inclusion of rehabilitation and reconstruction fund for areas ravaged by Typhoon "Lando" in the 2016 national budget to help Luzon get back on its feet after the onslaught of the strongest tropical cyclone to hit the region in five years.

The proposed funding is similar to the Yolanda Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Fund, which became part of 2014 General Appropriations Act on the proposal of Escudero when he was chairman of the powerful Senate Committee on Finance.

"We can have a separate Lando Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Fund in the 2016 budget or, at the very least, we should itemize Lando-related rehabilitation activities in the Calamity Fund, which is officially called National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management or NDRRM Fund" Escudero said.

According to the veteran lawmaker, the large-scale devastation that Lando left in Northern and Central Luzon regions underscores the need for a separate rehabilitation fund in the budget.

"Lando did not only alter the landscape of north Luzon, but also that of the national budget. It has created a big gash across the island," said Escudero, the leading vice presidential candidate in the 2016 polls.

Based on official government estimates, Lando's destruction footprint is large with a total of P7 billion in damages to farm and public works, and over 1.2 million persons affected.

"This destructive typhoon has punched a hole in our food and rice basket. Hindi pwedeng dedmahin ang pinsala ng Lando at sabihin sa tamang panahon na lang ang rehabilitasyon," Escudero pointed out.

He added that allocations for rehabilitation efforts in next year's spending plan may fall short considering the extent of the damage caused by Lando.

"It is better to have a dedicated Lando fund, whether stand alone--if it will be a Lando Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Fund--or itemized spending under the Calamity Fund so that projects, budget, location and implementation agencies are pinpointed," Escudero explained.

It will be recalled that in the aftermath of Supertyphoon "Yolanda" in 2013, Escudero, then Senate finance chief, raised the Calamity Fund in the 2014 budget to P13 billion from P7.5 billion; created a separate Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Fund of P20 billion; and included P80 billion for Yolanda, Bohol earthquake and the Zamboanga seige reconstruction in the Unprogrammed Fund of what would become Republic Act No. 10633, or the General Appropriations Act of 2014.

"Ginawa ng Senado iyon noong Nobyembre 2013. Hindi na namin hinintay kung may panukala mula sa Malacanang," Escudero said.

Escudero's "Yolanda rescue fund" was later augmented by Republic Act 10652, or the Supplemental Budget Act of 2013. Out of the P22.4 billion it authorized, P8 billion was set aside for Yolanda housing under the National Housing Authority (NHA) and another P2 billion for emergency housing of victims of calamities for that year under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Escudero said that funding requirements for Lando rehabilitation could be itemized in the P38.9-billion Calamity Fund for 2016, of which P18.9 billion will go to Yolanda Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program.

"And agencies that will implement the segregated amounts are enumerated in the Special Provisions attached to the use of the Calamity Fund. Another approach is to add another section but this time for Lando reconstruction, so that we would still be prepared to address calamities and contingencies that may arise in 2016," he added.

Escudero said that one potential source of funding could be the proposed capital infusion for the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) under the budget of the Department of Finance (DOF).

"As to sources of funding, there are many in the proposed national budget. In one agency alone, the DOF, we can do away with the P30 billion intended to boost the capital of LBP and DBP. We can cut the fat or postpone non-urgent expenditures and re-channel them to the Lando rehabilitation fund," Escudero said.

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