BATANGAS CITY, Philippines — All representatives of the six districts of Batangas province yesterday spearheaded the filing of a bill at the House of Representatives allocating P30 billion as supplemental budget for the rehabilitation of areas devastated by the Taal Volcano eruption.
Deputy Speakers Raneo Abu and Vilma Santos-Recto and Reps. Elenita Ermita-Buhain, Mario Marino, Lianda Bolilia and Theresa Collantes filed House Bill 5998 before the bills and index office here, where a special session was attended by 204 of 300 total House members.
The House plenary, presided over by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and supervised by Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, also adopted two resolutions: 655 for the immediate release of calamity funds and 662 for all agencies to help in the rehabilitation.
Marino, chairman of the committee on government reorganization, delivered his sponsorship speech of HB 5989 creating the Department of Disaster Resilience, which earlier in the day was taken up and approved by the panel of Davao Rep. Isidro Ungab.
Ungab, who sits as chairman of the appropriations committee, voted to endorse a consolidated bill creating the DDR, the agency that would be in charge of the nation’s disaster risk preparedness, mitigation, management and response.
“The eruption of Taal Volcano requires us to act on this measure now,” he told his colleagues.
At the same time, Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, chair of the committee on disaster management, assured victims of the volcanic eruption not just in this province but also in Cavite that help is on the way.
“We are here for you. We empathize with you. We assure you that the government is with you, working with you and for you,” Gomez said, as she recommended to Cayetano: “Congress can use its oversight powers to plan for long-term rehabilitation.”
Cayetano, in a historic session held at the Batangas City Convention Center, acknowledged the need for government to fine-tune its efforts in extending all kinds of assistance to those in need, like the case of the Taal Volcano eruption.
“We assure you that if something happens to your place, the leadership of the House is willing to go there to do something,” the Taguig congressman told local officials whose areas were severely affected by the latest disaster.
House leaders back Rody’s request
Leaders and allies of President Duterte at the House also expressed support yesterday for his proposal to allocate a P30-billion supplemental budget for purposes of helping victims of the Taal Volcano eruption recover from the disaster.
“Under the leadership of Speaker Cayetano, we assure that the House will give the highest priority to the request of President Duterte for Congress to fast-track the approval of the supplemental budget,” Romualdez said.
The Leyte congressman also assured the national government that “if need be, the House leadership is even willing to increase the amount of the supplemental budget to as much as P50 billion for the sake of our kababayans there.”
“The House is committed to show malasakit and provide families displaced by the explosion of Taal Volcano long-term and permanent solutions to their woes. We are going to coordinate with the Palace to get the full details of the supplemental budget,” he said.
Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero made a similar vow.
“We will support President Duterte’s request for the appropriation of an additional P30 billion for communities affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano,” Romero said.
“The P16-billion national disaster risk reduction and management fund, formerly the calamity fund, in the national budget for this year is hardly enough even for this one calamity that has visited our people in Cavite and Batangas,” the 1Pacman party-list representative said.
Out of the P16-billion allotment for disasters this year, Romero disclosed that P3.5 billion has been reserved for the rehabilitation of Marawi City, while P5 billion has been allocated for communities devastated by last year’s earthquakes in the Mindanao areas.
“The President can use P7.5 billion of this year’s calamity fund for disasters. Aside from approving whatever amount the President requests for Cavite and Batangas, Congress also has to augment the calamity fund,” he said.
“We have to give the Chief Executive enough money to respond to calamities,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto is pushing for the creation of the Taal Volcano Rehabilitation and Development Commission with P50 billion to be used for extending aid, relief, resettlement, rehabilitation, livelihood and development programs and services to communities adversely affected by the eruption.
Recto filed Senate Bill 1275, which seeks to create the commission, establishing the Taal Volcano Rehabilitation and Development Fund for the aforementioned purposes.
“This proposed measure seeks to strengthen the mechanisms of the government to address the needs of families and communities affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano. It seeks to establish a Taal Volcano Rehabilitation and Development Fund, which allocates P50 billion to provide immediate relief to affected individuals and families; establish resettlement centers, homesites and townsites for displaced families; provide livelihood and employment opportunities for local residents; construct, repair, rehabilitate or reconstruct public infrastructure needed in the affected communities; and adopt and implement other interventions that could expedite the return to normalcy in affected localities,” Recto said in his explanatory note.
The eruption of Taal Volcano that began on Jan. 12 and has persisted until now has impacted the lives and livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, particularly Batangueños, according to the senator.
Quoting the most recent situation report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Recto said the Taal Volcano eruption has affected 50,599 families or 203,763 Filipinos, with 26,767 families or 104,377 individuals taking temporary shelter in 408 evacuation centers in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), while another 17,391 families or 68,755 persons are being served outside evacuation centers.
He added that the enforcement of full and partial lockdowns in the municipalities of Agoncillo, Alitagtag, Balete, Cuenca, Laurel, Lemery, Malvar, San Nicolas, Santa Teresita, Taal, Talisay, parts of Mataasnakahoy, parts of Lipa City and parts of Tanauan City, however, is estimated to displace roughly half a million population.
Recto said the eruption has caused power interruptions in 20 cities and municipalities and has forced 264 local government units to declare the suspension of classes and had also paralyzed the operation of Ninoy Aquino International Airport and Diosdado Macapagal International Airport for about three days, forcing airlines to cancel 383 domestic and 260 scheduled international flights.
He added that the NDRRMC also reported that the eruption affected thousands of hectares of agricultural lands and fishing areas, primarily in the province of Batangas, which caused an estimated P3 billion worth of agricultural damage incurred by farmers, livestock raisers and fishermen. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez
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