House to seek ₱5-B increase in calamity funds under 2021 budget

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 22)— The House of Representatives will push for an increase of at least ₱5 billion in calamity funds under the 2021 budget to aid in the recovery and rehabilitation of typhoon-struck areas, its leadership said Sunday.

In a statement, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the House will propose the allocation hike during the bicameral conference on the proposed ₱4.506-trillion national budget which will take place once the Senate approves its own version of the spending bill.

Velasco noted that the budget passage at the lower chamber preceded the onslaught of typhoons Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses which left dozens of fatalities and billions worth of damage.

"Given the tremendous damage caused by these successive strong typhoons, it is imperative that we augment the calamity fund in next year's spending plan. We have to help our people rebuild their lives and their communities," Velasco said.

The calamity fund under the proposed 2021 budget amounts to ₱20 billion. Of the number, ₱5 billion would be allocated for the reconstruction of war-torn Marawi City, while ₱6.25 billion would augment the quick response funds of some government agencies, Velasco said.

"That's a total of ₱11.25 billion that is specifically appropriated, leaving a balance of ₱8.75 billion President Duterte could use to help victims of calamities and other disasters. That balance is not even enough to rebuild Bicol, which was hit hard by Typhoon Rolly," the Speaker argued, adding that there are enough appropriations in the proposed budget that could help supply the needed calamity funds.

Duterte earlier placed the entire island of Luzon under a state of calamity, in a bid to fast-track rescue, relief, and rehabilitation efforts after the typhoons. An inter-agency task force co-headed by the Environment and Public Works and Highways departments was also created to streamline the government's post-typhoon response.