Pimentel: Realign confidential, intel funds for disaster response

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Pimentel: Realign confidential, intel funds for disaster response
Relatives grieve at a mass burial site where the Sapi family buried seven of their members, victims of the landslide in the nearby village at the height of Typhoon Nalgae, in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, southern Philippines on October 31, 2022.
AFP / Ferdinandh Cabrera

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III on Thursday called on his fellow lawmakers to slash confidential and intelligence funds and rechannel them to disaster response and recovery programs in the wake of the devastation wrought by Severe Tropical Storm “Paeng.”

“Let us cut confidential and intelligence funds and rechannel this much-needed allocation to strengthen our disaster response capabilities,” Pimentel said in a statement.

The proposed budget for 2023 contains P9.29 billion in confidential and intelligence funds, around half or P4.5 billion of which would go to the Office of the President. Due to the confidential nature of these allocations, they are notoriously hard to audit.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Confidential, intel funds in the national budget

“These funds can be used instead to beef up the weather forecasting capabilities of PAGASA, build houses damaged by typhoons and earthquakes and repair damaged roads and bridges,” Pimentel said.

According to Senate finance panel chair Juan Edgardo Angara, there is roughly P30 billion earmarked for the calamity fund, which he said is “larger than in the past years.” Pimentel, however, said this “could easily be proven insufficient” given the frequency of calamities in the country. 

But with the onslaught of Paeng, which has so far left an estimated damage of P5.27 billion in agriculture and infrastructure, top congressional leaders are toying with the idea of increasing the allocation for disaster response.

“Certainly, the committee will always be open to changes, which may help our people during these difficult times and which will improve the government’s response to these calamities,” Angara said in a statement on Wednesday.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez (Leyte, 1st District) said Sunday that he has asked House appropriations panel chair Rep. Zaldy Co (Ako Bicol party-list) to compile damage assessments that may aid them “in reviewing possible adjustments in budget allocation for repair and rehabilitation of affected areas.”

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has placed the regions of Calabarzon, Bicol, Western Visayas and BARMM under a state of calamity for a period of six months, unless he lifts it ahead of time.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council earlier recommended placing the entire country under a state of calamity for a period of one year, but the chief executive rejected this.

A state of calamity declaration allows local governments to use calamity funds "for rescue, recovery, relief and rehabilitation and for the continuous provision of basic services to the affected populations."

It will also put price controls on basic necessities and prime commodities.

An average of 20 tropical cyclones pass through the Philippines annually. Scientists have warned that storms are becoming more powerful as the world continues to heat up because of climate change. — with a report from Gaea Katreena Cabico


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