Press Release
November 4, 2019

From scared to CARED, Recto bats for 'Comprehensive Aid to Repair Earthquake Damage' in '20 budget

The Senate should conduct its own post-earthquake assessment - to find out if the Calamity Fund in this year's budget and the one for next year is enough to help the people and places hit by the recent Southern Mindanao earthquakes.

We should conduct an inventory of funds. There may still be money left in this year's Calamity Fund for relief operations, to sustain the day-to-day needs of victims, but reconstruction would require bigger funding.

Financing-wise, there is a big difference between buying grocery items and rebuilding damaged roads.

The truth is that typhoons and earthquakes do not only rearrange the lay of the land, but also reconfigure budget numbers.

A movement in oil prices and inflation rate may, for example, alter the budget but not in an intensity that a big calamity, like the earthquake which rocked Mindanao, can trigger spending adjustments.

This year's Calamity Fund - officially the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund - is P25.1 billion, consisting of P20 billion in new appropriations and P5.1 billion left over from the 2018 national budget. Full tank pa rin ba o running empty na?

For next year, the proposed appropriations is P20 billion, of which, P3.5 billion is for Marawi, the same amount earmarked this year.

What is needed now is a fact-based, ground-validated damage assessment checked against available and proposed appropriations. If funding does not match the needs, then Congress has no choice but to augment.

We have seven weeks to carve budget space for the reconstruction of the quake-damaged areas.

Accommodating this would not require tectonic changes in the 2020 budget. It would only entail some tweaking, which will not lead to the weakening of the other parts.

Maaaring tumaas ng katiting ang budget deficit. Pero ang mahalaga ay maiwasan natin ang deficit of aid.

I propose that whatever amount Congress and the Executive will earmark for rehabilitation and reconstruction be clearly tagged as such, to create a firewall that will prevent it from being used for other purposes. It can be called Comprehensive Aid to Repair Earthquake Damage or CARED.

Having CARED in the 2020 budget will send the message of hope to the intrepid people whose homes are destroyed but whose spirit is not that help is on the way.

That there is nothing to be scared of because of CARED.

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