ANTIPOLO City, Sept. 28, 2011—The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has no right to “hostage” the P12 billion (US$275,735,291.22 or €203,228,229.54) unused “Ondoy Funds” as there are more than a hundred thousand victims of the typhoon “Pedring” who need immediate help.
This was the statement of the militant fisherfolks’ group, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) as the DBM seems to be hesitant to release the funds to help the provinces devastated by the outgoing typhoon Pedring.
“Secretary Abad should let the unspent P 12-B Ondoy funds go to urgent and strategic plans for economic relief and rehabilitation. The DBM should not hostage these funds intended for such purpose,” said Pamalakaya chair Fernando Hicap in a statement.
It was in 2009 that the Philippine Congress has approved the appropriation of around P12 billion to help Ondoy (international code Ketsana) victims to get on their feet again.
However, out of the P12 billion, only P339 million ($7,119,000/€4,915,500 based on the prevailing October 1, 2009 FOREX) was released to help the Ondoy victims.
“To be specific, a total of P11.6 billion is still intact and the DBM has no option but to release the funds so it could immediately address the wholesale need for economic relief of affected victims of typhoon Pedring,” said Hicap.
The fisherfolk leader also ‘dared’ President Benigno C. Aquino III to release his remaining “pork barrel” to help the Pedring victims, especially those who are in the countryside.
Based on Pamalakaya’s calculation, the Office of the President still has P68 billion ($1,561,746,386.90/€1,151,769,370.06) unaccounted funds.
“We challenge President Aquino to declare an aboveboard status of his P68-B pork barrel given by the Liberal Party dominated Congress last year. And such declaration shall be followed with another policy statement that says the remaining funds will be allocated to help farmers and fishermen, the main economic casualties of typhoon Pedring,” said the Pamalakaya leader.
Hicap also said that the release of the funds is just “a phone call” away from Japan where President Aquino is on official visit.
“Why not [the President] call budget Secretary Florencio Abad and instruct him to release the funds for farmers and fisherfolk and make sure these funds will not go to farm to pocket roads which is the current trend today even under this administration? Besides, he (Aquino) has the sole discretion for the release of the said unliquidated funds,” Hicap said. (Noel Sales Barcelona/CBCPNews)