THE SENATE will reevaluate the proposed 2023 national budget during next week’s floor debates to possibly divert more funds for rehabilitation projects in response to the destruction wrought by the most recent typhoon, the Senate leader said on Thursday.
“We will have to consult with the NDRRMC and local governments to assess our recovery roadmap,” Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri told reporters in a Viber message.
He was referring to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, a multi-agency group headed by the Department of National Defense.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Martin “Koko” L. Pimentel III suggested realigning confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) “to strengthen our disaster response capabilities.”
He cited the “record-breaking P9.29-billion CIFs” in next year’s proposed budget.
These are under the Office of the President with P4.5 billion; Philippine National Police, P806 million; Office of the Vice President, P500 million; and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, P500 million.
“These funds can be used instead to beef up the weather forecasting capabilities of PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration),” the minority leader said in a statement on Thursday, noting the importance of supporting the main agency responsible for monitoring typhoons in the country.
He said funds should also be allocated to rebuild houses damaged by typhoons and earthquakes, and repair damaged roads and bridges.”
Mr. Pimentel also expressed support for the P31 billion allocated as calamity fund in 2023, which is 55% higher than this year’s P20 billion.
“Given these 20 tropical cyclones a year and the fact that the Philippines is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, it is imperative to pump more funds into disaster and calamity response and recovery programs,” he said.
Mr. Zubiri also said the government needs to review and streamline the country’s disaster response system to give more emphasis on preparedness and mitigation.
“We also need to push for long-term solutions,” he said. “We cannot continue to be reactive when it comes to disaster management, especially since there are lives at stake.”
The death toll from Tropical Storm Nalgae, locally named Paeng, has hit 150, while 128 people were hurt, and at least 36 were still missing, based on the NDRRMC’s monitoring report as of Nov. 3.
The 16th typhoon to enter the country this year had affected close to four million people from 1.13 million families.
“We really need to streamline our response systems, and a strengthened national authority that will be able to effectively coordinate national and local actors — not only for disaster response, but especially preparedness and mitigation,” Mr. Zubiri said. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan